Public unis vs. private unis: the top 5 differences
A lot of associations come with the word “private” in relation to education; some may be positive, and some not so, depending on your take on things. When we talk about private universities though, we fortunately (or unfortunately…?) aren’t talking St. Trinian’s repp stripe ties and knee high socks. Nor boater hats marking you as the lost member of a barbershop quartet, a love of lacrosse on pain of death, or any other stereotype you can come up with.
You might be surprised to hear, but private universities aren’t all that different to the state funded ones. Maybe didn’t even know private universities were a thing – it’s not like the public ones are free, right? And if you did know about them, you may not have considered researching or applying for them.
That’s where we come in. Push is here to give you a head start on your research by providing you with the key differences between these two types of institution. The more you know, the more informed your final uni choices will be. And hey, a boater hat might suit you.
Public: Largely subsidised by government funding, public universities are deemed as being state run. This means that these institutions run on a combination of public sector funding and student tuition fees. They also rely on the donations of private local, national and international benefactors, who dedicate funds to world-class (and world changing) research.
Private: Unlike public universities, private means entirely self-funded. They don’t rely on government funding at all, and use tuition fees to cover all running costs. The two aren’t entirely different species though – like public universities they are degree awarding and must comply to the same regulations and standards, but they’re run by charities or companies instead of the state.
Public: Public universities are often on the larger side, with cohorts of 15-20,000 students at any time. You may thrive in such a large, diverse community, but there's the risk of feeling lost in the crowd.
Private: Private schools on the other hand are much more – at risk of making you cringe with word choice – intimate. Because group sizes are far smaller, it’s feasible to have higher levels of personalised pastoral care and engagement throughout the course of degree. No need to dim the lights and play Careless Whisper for your lecturers though.
3. Student experience
Public: Because of the size of public universities, teaching can be largely impersonal. It’s a bit hard to learn the name of the guy two seats from the far left, eight rows up, when there’s a hundred other students in the room to engage with, too. These universities are also highly research driven, and while it's exciting to be at the forefront of new developments in your subject area, there may be less time and resources available to provide individuals with tailored careers preparation because of this.
Private: Tuition fees are the financial backbone of these institutions, so they focus a lot of time and effort into improving student experience. Classes are often run in smaller groups, favouring Oxbridge style seminars over large impersonal lectures. They are also far less research-oriented, so focus is more directly on quality of teaching. These factors allow private universities to be vocationally oriented as well, giving you much more in depth careers guidance. This boosts the employability of private uni grads, which is what we all want to hear.
Public: As we all know, public university fees are currently capped at a grand total of £9,250 a year. This has changed drastically over the last ten years, and is likely to change again in future, but it’s where we stand now.
Private: Prices can vary between institutions, but unlike the stereotype, private doesn’t always mean pricey. Some universities offer accelerated degree programmes, such as BPP University College, which you can walk away from after two years with a degree that cost you only £12,000. However, the cap on fees doesn’t apply to private universities in the same way as public, and in some institutions, you can be paying up to £18,000 a year for tuition.
5. Financial support
Public: As of 2017, tuition fees for courses at any public university can be covered by Student Finance England. Cut and dried, simple as that.
Private: Tuition loans for private universities are currently capped at £6,000 a year (which would be great if the fees were too…) but it’s looking like this will increase to £9,000 soon. While some private universities qualify for this government tuition loan, others, such as Regent’s University and the New College of the Humanities, don’t, so it’s definitely worth researching.
No matter which one you choose, make sure you feel good about what it will give you. Ensure you pick a course and assessment structure that will keep your passion and curiosity for the subject growing every day. And if you still really want to wear the knee socks? Well, we're not judging.