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Universities UK board highlights concerns with £6,000 tuition fees proposal

2 February 2015
Graduation ceremony from above

A letter from the board of Universities UK was published in The Times newspaper highlighting concerns with the proposal to reduce the cap on undergraduate tuition fees in England from £9,000 to £6,000.

The letter sets out the risks that such a policy would ‘damage the economy, affect the quality of students’ education, and set back work on widening access to higher education’.
 
The letter states that ‘Cutting the fee cap does not help poorer students’ and suggests that ‘a better way of supporting students, especially those from poorer backgrounds, would be for the Government to provide greater financial support for living costs’.

The letter highlights the strain such a policy would put on public finances: ‘at least £10bn of additional public funding would need to be found and ring-fenced over the course of the next parliament to close the gap. Given the many pressures on public finances, and with all political parties committed to further public spending cuts, it is implausible that any incoming government would be able to do this’.

The letter also warns against any moves to reduce costs by limiting the numbers of students attending universities, as this would both ‘remove opportunities for young people and those seeking to return to education’ and ‘act as a barrier to economic growth’.

Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Surrey said:

“This unfunded proposal to reduce the fee cap would damage the quality of experience our universities could deliver to students and remove opportunities for those seeking to benefit from a university education.”

“Any evolution of the current system in England must ensure value for money for students, prevent students from poorer backgrounds from being deterred from study, and be financially sustainable for both universities and government. A £6,000 fee cap meets none of these requirements.”

The letter which was published in the Times on Monday 2nd February 2015

Dear Sir,

There is speculation that the Labour Party may propose reducing university tuition fees in England from £9,000 to £6,000. Were this to happen, at least £10bn of additional public funding would need to be found and ring-fenced over the course of the next parliament to close the gap. Given the many pressures on public finances, and with all political parties committed to further public spending cuts, it is implausible that any incoming government would be able to do this. The result would be cuts to universities that would damage the economy, affect the quality of students’ education, and set back work on widening access to higher education.

Any move to limit the number of students attending universities as a way of reducing costs would remove opportunities for young people and those seeking to return to education, and act as a barrier to economic growth.

Applications to university are now at a record high and the proportion of applicants from lower socio-economic groups has risen. Given that fees are not paid until after a student graduates and is earning over £21,000, simply cutting the headline fee provides most benefit to higher-earning graduates. A better way of supporting students, especially those from poorer backgrounds, would be for the Government to provide greater financial support for living costs.

Universities UK has consistently argued that our student funding system must be sustainable and support affordable, high-quality higher education. Any evolution of the current system in England should ensure value for money for students, prevent students from poorer backgrounds from being deterred from study, and be financially sustainable for both universities and government. Cutting the fee cap does not help poorer students and risks the quality of education for all.

Yours faithfully,

Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Surrey

And the English members of the Universities UK board:

Professor Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool and Vice-President of Universities UK
Professor Simon Gaskell, Principal and President, Queen Mary, University of London
Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell DBE, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bath
Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor, University of Exeter
Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of Birmingham
Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of the West of England, Bristol
Professor Michael Gunn, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Staffordshire University
Professor Julian Crampton, Vice-Chancellor, University of Brighton
Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor, University of Reading
Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow DBE, Vice-Chancellor, University of Kent
Professor Sir Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bristol
Professor Paul O’Prey, Vice-Chancellor, University of Roehampton
Professor Graham Henderson CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Teesside University
Professor David Latchman CBE, Master, Birkbeck, University of London
Professor Barry Ife CBE, Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Professor Julia Buckingham, Vice-Chancellor, Brunel University
Professor Chris Brink, Vice-Chancellor, Newcastle University
Professor Dame Julia King DBE, Vice-Chancellor, Aston University

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/letters/article4341349.ece

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Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

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Universities UK

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Clara Plackett

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Universities UK

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