Wiletts warns of further cuts if Universities charge £9,000

by Josh Cole

University Minister David Willetts has warned vice-chancellors that Universities will face further cuts to teaching and research budgets if more decide to raise fees to £9,000.

The Higher Education Policy Institute has predicted that almost all Universities will charge fees of £9,000, flying in the face of government models which claimed the average price would rise to no more than £7,500 per annum.

The extra costs the government now face in subsidising the upfront student loans threatens to eat further into higher education budgets, with the “overcharging” universities bearing the brunt of those reductions through additional penalty cuts in their teaching and research grants.

“I want to be frank with you: we will all face a problem if the sector tries to cluster at the maximum possible level,” cautioned Willetts in an address to vice-chancellors on Thursday the 24th of February.

However most Universities claim good reasons for wanting to charge the maximum prices, with many arguing that the £5,000 per student losses entailed by government cuts means that fees of above £8,000 will be required simply to ‘stand still’ financially.

The delay in the government White Paper which promised to provide full details of educational pricing reforms also means that Universities are being asked to set out their new fees without being fully informed of the consequences that might follow their decisions.

This and other concerns over a market-based higher educational system where “the money follows the student” has prompted over 600 Oxford and Cambridge academics to write an open letter to David Willets and Business Secretary Vince Cable, published in The Independent on Wednesday 2nd March.

In the letter, which boasts 681 signatories, the Oxbridge dons expressed grave doubts over plans to create a HE sector in which “student choice” alone is responsible for shaping and conditioning the nature of the degrees on offer. The academics cautioned that plans for implementing the new legislation should be halted until further reviews into the potential effects of the changes had been carried out.

They warned that the reforms could easily result in “depriving some courses of income streams, and decimating the funding for teaching in some institutions” adding that some institutions and courses could “be left to fail”.

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