Cutting tuition fees will turn universities into vassals of the state | Simon Jenkins

Lowering the cost of degrees will devastate university budgets. The state will bail them out – in exchange for more control

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – or in this case the campus – the mice are running riot. Ignored by Brexit, Britain’s universities are facing financial meltdown. I predict that within a decade they will become institutions wholly owned by the state, their academic autonomy unrecognisable.

A few weeks ago, three universities were reported to be on the brink of bankruptcy. University debt has soared by £12bn in the past decade. Cardiff has borrowed £300m over 40 years, with experts suggesting it would take 2,000 years to repay if its current surplus does not improve. The backing for these loans is supposedly the ballooning scale of student fees, which David Cameron almost tripled to £9,000 in 2012 in England, and the removal of the cap on student numbers. Fees, rather than grants, now comprise the vast bulk of all university income for teaching undergraduates.

Related: Struggling UK universities warn staff of possible job cuts

Why now?

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