Having given my own personal views on University tuition fees in the last posting on this blog, I turn my attention to the perspective of Universities themselves on this issue.
As our own Vice-Chancellor has pointed out, the cuts in the grant from HEFCE that cover teaching will definitely be made, whatever happens. And even if fees are set at a maximum value of £9k, this will not fully compensate for these cuts, especially as some ‘non-tuition’ elements are also to be cut, which Universities will have to compensate for if they can. Added to that, there will be a period of 3 years or so before any income comes in from the new fees, if they are introduced (although I understand the government will cover this; how will it be calculated is another question).
I have sympathised with student occupations, but the issues involved are much wider than those that affect students alone. Certainly students will suffer from the increased fees, but Universities are also going to take a serious hit. Inevitably there will be major cuts in staff and facilities. Universities campaigning for the fees increase are missing the point if they think that the new fee levels will lead them into a new age of prosperity! They just have to do the sums …
I am sorry that Universities themselves (in addition to students) haven’t taken a stronger stance on the issue of tuition fees and funding in general. I understand that Universities UK were unable to persuade every Vice-Chancellor to sign a letter in favour of the increased fees, to be published in the press on Wednesday; we will see how may signatures they get, if the letter appears.
The inevitable consequence is that Universities are also in a no-win situation, as even the increased fees will not compensate for cuts elsewhere. Those of us who are ideologically against tuition fees have to recognise that if the new fees are voted down, an equally uncertain future awaits Universities, their staff and their students. These are difficult and uncertain days for Higher Education, and what is needed is a complete rethink of the whole system. There is little chance that will happen before serious damage is done.