This article traces the evolution of university finance in the United Kingdom, assessing the balance between student fees, state support, and endowment. Direct support by the state grew slowly in the nineteenth century, but by 1914 all universities except Oxford and Cambridge depended on it, and it was generally a larger share of their income than student fees. This balance did not change fundamentally before 1939, but in the early twentieth century public support for poorer students, and public and private funding for scientific research, added to universities incomes. After the Second World War, university expansion led to almost complete dependence on the state. From the 1980s, this trend was reversed, as the cost of mass higher education became difficult to sustain, and market solutions gained wide political support. In recent years, student fees have increased steeply, but the issue remains politically contentious.
Keywords: Universities, United Kingdom, student fees, university finance, University Grants Committee, scientific research