Friday, February 25, 2011

Minister threatens 'overcharging' universities ....

David Willetts tells vice-chancellors very few universities would be justified in charging the maximum £9,000 tuition fees
Very few universities would be justified in charging tuition fees of £9,000 a year – the new maximum from next year – the higher education minister, David Willetts, has said in a speech to vice-chancellors.
The government wants a stratified system under which universities charge different amounts. Ministers expect the average to be £7,500. However, several universities have said they intend to charge the maximum.
The universities of Oxford and Cambridge and Imperial College London all plan to charge £9,000, while Liverpool Hope University has said it will charge less than this.
Willetts said that universities charging £9,000 tuition fees would gain an extra £2,600 in funding overall per student on top of their current fee levels. "Unless universities can prove that there will be a commensurate and very significant improvement in the education on offer, it is difficult to see how such an increase could ever be justified, let alone at a time of fiscal restraint. Institutions can clearly offer higher education at a price much less than £9,000," he said.
He warned that if universities insisted on charging the maximum, the government would be forced to make further cuts to their teaching and research budgets.
Universities must reveal far more information about the courses they offer, and will soon have to publish the number of hours that students spend in seminars and lectures for every degree course, Willetts said.
"There are few things that cost as much as higher education where the costs are so murky," he told the spring conference of Universities UK – the umbrella group for vice-chancellors – in London.
He said universities would have to publish 17 pieces of information, including data on how satisfied students are with their courses, the number of graduates out of work for each course and the hours students spend in seminars and lectures.
In return, students could be expected to sign a charter – or contract – promising to attend lectures and be a responsible part of their university's community.
The lecturers' union, the University and College Union, said universities were being told to do more with less money. Sally Hunt, the union's general secretary, said: "The situation around university fees is a complete debacle at the moment. Universities are essentially being told they cannot charge the fee they need to recoup money that the government has cut, but at the same time they must offer a better experience because students are paying higher fees.
"The government needs to review its plans to slash so much of the teaching budget. It is utterly ludicrous to expect universities to offer more for less and even more ridiculous to encourage students to complain at a time when it is clear they are getting a raw deal."
Willetts's comments came as details emerged of a new student occupation at University College London – the centre of last year's protests over the government's increase in tuition fees and cuts to post-16 education that saw tens of thousands of young people take to the streets. About 200 students are occupying the old refectory at the university's campus in Bloomsbury, central London.
"While the occupations last year were very much about the spectacle of contemporary youth rebellion, this new wave seeks to be more ambitious still," said Bernard Goyder, 19, one of those involved in this week's protest. "The occupiers aim to create an anti-cuts organising space in Bloomsbury, where representatives from the anti-cuts groups can co-ordinate their campaigning efforts in the run-up to [the national demonstration organised by the Trades Union Congress on] 26 March."
The UCL occupation last year became the focal point of the widespread anger at government plans to raise tuition fees and cut the education maintenance allowance. It was one of more than 30 student occupations across the country.


Post a Comment