Trouble ahead after tuition fees vote


MPs have voted to lift the cap on university tuition fees from £3,290 to £9,000 a year by a majority of just 21, despite warnings that the overhaul will greatly increase the cost of higher education for those from middle-income families, and threaten the survival of some universities.

Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable, the minister responsible for driving the ­policy through, defended the tuition feee rise, saying: “We could have made a decision to drastically cut the number of university students, we could have cut student maintenance, we could have cut the funding to universities without replacing it.

“But instead we have opted for a set of policies that provides a strong base for university funding, which makes a major contribution to reducing the deficit and introducing a significantly more progressive ­system of graduate payments than we inherited.”

Shadow business secretary John Denham, said: “Fees are being trebled simply to reduce the 80 per cent cut in the funding of university teaching, not to raise extra money.

“Universities will have to charge £7,000 to £8,000 simply to replace the money they lose and many universities will lose 90 per cent of their public funding.”

Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, said: “We have lost in the House of Commons only because MPs have broken their promises.”

University and College Union (UCU) said that there were no winners in plans to lift the cap on fees to replace the money lost through an 80% cut to university teaching budgets.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "Allowing fees to rise to £9,000 paves the way for the government to brutally slash universities' teaching budgets. There will be no winners if we transfer the responsibility and cost for higher education from state to student.
"Students will see the cost of their degree rocket and universities will have to charge much higher fees just to recoup the money the government is taking away in budget cuts. This battle is not over and we will continue to fight the cuts institution by institution."
A new UCU report revealed that universities would have to charge an average fee of close to £7,000 just to maintain current funding levels.

The analysis makes a mockery of government claims that only in exceptional cases would universities charge more than £6,000 a year. The union's findings reveal that every single English institution with undergraduates would have to charge more than £6,000 a year to plug the funding gap created by huge cuts to teaching budgets. The average fee would need to be £6,863.

In draft guidance, the government said that any institution wishing to charge more than £6,000 a year would need to agree an 'access agreement' with the university access regulator OFFA. Any institution that breaches or fails to deliver its access agreement would face a fine of up to £500,000.

UCU said its analysis highlighted how the entire landscape of higher education would change if the government pushed ahead with its plans for university funding. The union warned that shifting the burden of paying for a university education from the state to the student would not generate the extra funds universities say they need, nor would it provide an enhanced experience for the individual student.

Some institutions will lose all their government funding and need to charge as much as £7,700 a year just to maintain their current funding and fee levels. The union said it expected most institutions would charge more than the minimum level they would need to just stand still.

December 2010

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