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11th November 2013

Fees should rise with inflation, says Universities UK President

Cap on fees is ‘not sustainable’ according to University of Surrey vice-chancellor

The vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey has called for tuition fees to rise in line with inflation.

Sir Christopher Snowden, vice-chancellor at Surrey and president of Universities UK, said a cap on fees cannot be maintained if higher education institutions are to prevent standards from slipping.

He pointed out that Surrey has “several subjects where we are losing substantial sums of money teaching UK and EU students”.

After a gradual rise in previous years, 2012 saw maximum tuition fees for new students raised from £3,375 per year to £9,000, where they have been frozen since and shall be for students beginning in the 2014-15 academic year. The University of Manchester currently charges the maximum amount possible.

The rate of inflation means that keeping a cap on tuition fees will lead to UK universities struggling increasingly with funding each year, said Snowden.

“In real terms by 2016, if you look at inflation rates, they will be worth about £8,250…The reality is, the money isn’t worth what it was,” he added.

The NUS said this rise meant fees have already significantly outstripped the rate of inflation.

Snowden is not the first vice-chancellor of an English university to have called for higher tuition fees. Professor Andrew Hamilton, vice-chancellor of Oxford University, last month said fees should rise in order to better reflect the cost of educating students.

He argued educating students at Oxford costs an average of £16,000 and so the £7,000 per student shortfall amounted to £70 million for the University last year.

Snowden believes the UK should consider other countries methods of approaching student loans systems and how our country’s system may be changed. He also believes the only alternative t0 adapting the funding system is more public funding being injected into higher education.

A report by Universities UK, focusing on the challenges in funding faced by universities, found that despite the rise in fees to £9,000, universities will still need more money in order to cope with the increasing demand from students.

The report, published on Thursday 7th November, acknowledges that any extra funding from the government would lead to cutbacks in other areas of public spending. It also considered the funding models in place in place in Hungary, the USA and South Korea but found that while private sourcing for student support may suggest large scale government funding is not necessary, such private sourcing can lead to higher debts for students.

While the report does not call for higher tuition fees, it does say, “Flexibility should be retained to vary the key aspects of the existing tuition fee system…to reflect investor and market needs.”

A spokesman for Universities UK said, “Not uprating the fee will certainly erode income for investment in the future, at a time of rising cost pressures and inflation, increasing student expectation, and the need to compete effectively in the global economy.”

Jamie Whitaker, a Spanish and Business student, felt it is unfair he has to pay three times the amount people studying at the same time as him have to pay.

“I started university in the first year where tuition fees were set at £9,000. I feel it’s unfair that I’m paying three times as much as those who began the year before me when I’m receiving the same course,” said the second-year. “I feel if tuition fees have to rise then raising them gradually with inflation would be fairer than having another significant rise later on where students in two different years are paying vastly different amounts.”

Sean Doherty

Sean Doherty

News Editor

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