Browne review: how Britain has reacted

Reactions to Lord Browne’s review of higher education funding and student finance are flooding in. Here we round up what different groups have been saying

October 13, 2010

THE UNIVERSITY REPRESENTATIVE GROUPS

“Browne is a double whammy hitting both universities and students. Whether they like it or not, universities could be forced to charge higher fees yet they will still be worse off than at present.”

Les Ebdon, chair, Million+ and vice-chancellor, University of Bedfordshire

“We think it is regrettable that the review has been inextricably linked to funding cuts rather than thinking about how we create a world-class higher education system for the UK. The formula is one that is going to create a sector that has differential ability to provide a quality experience for students.”

Ruth Farwell, chair, GuildHE and vice-chancellor, Buckinghamshire New University

“In a few years we could be back where we started – needing a further review to assess the impact on widening access and on the world standing of our higher education sector.”

Andy Westwood, chief executive, GuildHE

“It is critical that we maintain the academic quality of UK higher education and continue to enhance the student experience so that universities are able to meet students’ expectations and the nation’s needs.”

Paul Marshall, executive director, 1994 Group

“These recommendations could make or break our world-class universities. That’s because, bluntly, our leading institutions will not be able to compete with generously funded universities in other countries if they are not able to secure extra funding.”

Wendy Piatt, chief executive, Russell Group

“I urge politicians not to leave us with an insurmountable funding gap and, instead, work together to find a workable solution. If they don’t, they will starve our universities of the resources they need to teach the students of tomorrow and the chance to remain a leading player on the higher education world stage.”

Steve Smith, president, Universities UK and vice-chancellor, University of Exeter

THE POLITICIANS

“Everybody wants the same thing – not only sustainable funding for universities in the decades ahead but also a system where the teaching you receive at universities, there’s no upfront cost for it, it’s free at the point of use, [and] that we encourage more students from poorer backgrounds into university than is presently the case.”

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister

“The current system of funding for higher education is no longer fit for purpose. Any new funding settlement must promote world-class competitiveness in teaching and research, with better quality for students.”

David Willetts, universities and science minister

“We will judge [Lord Browne’s] recommendations against the impact on student debt, ensuring a properly funded university sector, improving the quality of teaching, increasing social mobility and attracting a higher proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Vince Cable, business secretary

“Lord Browne’s report deserves careful study, but his conclusions seem to reflect a belief that the coalition government will cut spending on higher education teaching by around two-thirds. This is a massive cut…higher education is a major driver of growth and innovation and needs sustainable financial support from both the public and private sources.”

John Denham, Labour shadow business secretary

“In an ideal world, fees would not need to go up. However, there is no other option but to increase them, something that the National Union of Students also recognises.”

Ben Howlett, chairman, Conservative Future

“This move has the potential to cripple students with unprecedented levels of debt that will act as a real deterrent to those from poorer backgrounds seeking a better life through the education system. Higher fees will not be acceptable to grassroots Lib Dems and, I imagine, most of the parliamentary party.”

Martin Shapland, chair, Liberal Youth

“Today will not be the last word on policy for funding higher education in England.”

Simon Hughes, deputy leader, Liberal Democrats

THE STUDENTS

“The lifting of the cap on tuition fees may plug a funding gap left over from 20 years of the expansion of higher education, but at what cost?”

The Aldwych Group

“The London School of Economics was founded on principles of equality, social justice and social progression; raising fees would fundamentally undermine these commitments by damaging progression on the very issues LSE’s creators wanted to address.”

Charlotte Gerada, general secretary, LSE Students’ Union

“This is a dark day for meritocracy in the UK. An open market will inevitably mean that students choose which university to attend based on their ability to pay rather than their academic ability.”

David Barclay, president, Oxford University Students’ Union

“All our efforts to increase participation in the university experience could be reversed as debt acts as a deterrent…This could be a disaster for an entire generation of students.”

Rahul Mansigani, president, Cambridge University Students’ Union

THE VICE-CHANCELLORS

“The current economic crisis and its impact on higher education has created a situation where higher tuition fees are unavoidable if we are to invest in our world-leading universities.”

Sir Robert Burgess, vice-chancellor, University of Leicester

“Lord Browne’s recommendations are comprehensive and fair…He has rightly ruled out a graduate tax as unworkable in both principle and practice.”

Sir Keith O’Nions, rector, Imperial College London

“This is a significant breakthrough. For too long part-time students have been known as the ‘Cinderellas’ of the higher education sector…Lord Browne has now proposed that this inequity be removed. This breaks down the biggest barrier between part-time and full-time study – making part-time study a genuine, viable alternative.”

David Latchman, master, Birkbeck, University of London

“I do not for one moment believe that anyone in the coalition intends to further reduce the life chances of black and minority ethnic communities, but that might well be the unintended consequence of wholesale adoption of a differential fees regime.”

Patrick McGhee, vice-chancellor, University of East London

“This is a landmark day for part-time higher education in England. The Browne review marks the end of a two-tier system that until now has disadvantaged part-time students. It signals the start of a new, modern era of higher education that promotes opportunity, flexibility, quality and the crucial role of part-time in delivering future economic growth and social mobility.”

Martin Bean, vice-chancellor, The Open University

ACADEMICS, LOBBY GROUPS AND OTHERS

“According to Browne, the government should only fund ‘courses that…provide skills and knowledge currently in shortage’ such as science, technology, medicine, nursing, healthcare and ‘strategically important’ languages. What does this say about how society values the arts, humanities and social sciences?”

Claire Callender, professor of higher education and co-director, Birkbeck Institute of Lifelong Learning

“A system where the poorest students choose courses based on the price tag risks social sorting and a worsening of inequality in university admissions.”

Wes Streeting, chief executive, Helena Kennedy Foundation

“The danger is that higher fees for the most prestigious university courses will make them the preserve of the most privileged.”

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman, the Sutton Trust

“There is speculation that [the cuts] could take out more money from the system than is being proposed by Lord Browne, and that the trajectory of cuts will not give universities the time to rebalance in the way that the review has proposed. That would be seriously short-sighted, and could cause lasting damage to higher education in England.”

Richard Lambert, director-general, CBI

“We’re now in the vulnerable situation where a single department is responsible for funding universities as well as overseeing the science and research budget. We cannot see money simply being transferred from research into teaching to make up any shortfall – it underlines why we need a ring-fence for the science budget.”

Imran Khan, director, Campaign for Science and Engineering

“Higher education institutions will need to focus more than ever on preserving and enhancing the quality of the student learning experience.”

Craig Mahoney, chief executive, Higher Education Academy

THE UNIONS

“This is a savage attack on what a university is and what it can offer to all students – not just those with deep pockets – as it effectively privatises the cost of higher education from state to family.”

Sally Hunt, general secretary, University and College Union

“Many students already struggle to make ends meet during their course. The knock-on effects could be disastrous, for example in 2013 the nursing profession turns all-graduate. The recommendations in this report will do nothing to help people from all walks of life becoming a nurse.”

Dave Prentis, general secretary, Unison

“Giving universities the green light to more than double tuition fees could set higher education back decades to an era when only the very rich could afford to send their children to university.”

Brendan Barber, general secretary, TUC

• For comment and analysis, pick up a copy of Times Higher Education on 14 October.

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