‘Tuition fees and the need for a proper debate’

 

Times  letter  02/12/10

 The issues at stake for the future of higher education are not only to do with the proposed increase in student tuition fees. We believe that the public university is essential both for cultivating democratic public life and creating the means for individuals to find fulfilment in creative and intellectual pursuits. However, the UK government proposes both to cut higher education spending more severely than other areas of public spending and to do this at a time when other countries are increasing theirs. It also proposes to remove the public contribution to the teaching of the social sciences, arts and humanities, notwithstanding their demonstrable economic and public value.

 A recent poll, conducted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, shows overwhelming public support for spending on higher education, with 80% saying it should increase or stay the same. Yet, UK public funding of higher education is set to become the lowest among comparable OECD countries.  By trebling student tuition fees, the Government seeks to replace the income lost by the withdrawal of public funding. Not only is this deeply unfair, it will transform the very nature of higher education. If implemented the policy would: damage the teaching of social sciences, arts, and humanities in many UK universities; impoverish the diverse community of research and teaching that universities now  represent; encourage the  belief that a university degree is little more than a transaction through which individuals buy themselves a highly paid job; and, discourage a significant number of people from taking-up a place in higher education.

 We call for a proper and considered debate in which the public value of universities is a paramount concern beyond the simple requirement to decrease public spending.

PROFESSOR JOHN HOLMWOOD

University of Nottingham

DR CHRISTINE ACHINGER

University of Warwick

PROFESSOR PATRICK AINLEY

University of Greenwich

plus 165 more signatories

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