Defiance grows in fees debate

November 22, 2002

Vice-chancellors throughout Wales and the Northeast of England have come out against the introduction of top-up fees.

In a statement this week, heads of member institutions of the University of Wales and Higher Education Wales described top-up fees as "an inappropriate means of bridging the funding gap".

The statement, sent to the Welsh Assembly, said that Welsh higher education institutions did not wish to introduce higher fees and had no plans to do so.

It followed an announcement by Cardiff University vice-chancellor David Grant that he was opposed to top-up fees.

As vice-chancellor of the only Russell Group university in Wales, his comments to Cardiff's governing council were seen as an indicator of the general mood in Welsh higher education.

He stressed that leading research universities needed more funding to remain internationally competitive but said: "Top-up fees are not the solution."

Derec Llwyd Morgan, vice-chancellor of the University of Wales Aberystwyth and senior vice-chancellor for the federal University of Wales, said:

"Top-up fees would be unattractive to students from disadvantaged backgrounds."

The vice-chancellors' statement came as Welsh Labour education minister Jane Davidson condemned proposals for higher fees. She told the assembly:

"I do not see them as benefiting our sector when one of our agendas is widening participation."

Five universities in the northeast of England have united against top-up fees. Vice-chancellors at the universities of Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside, together with the northern region of the Open University, agreed at a recent board meeting of Universities for the North East that the deregulation of fees could damage the region's efforts to improve educational attainment levels and boost the economy.

University of Sunderland vice-chancellor Peter Fidler, who chairs Universities for the North East, said: "We are concerned that an increase in fees could undermine the government's aim of widening participation, particularly in this region, where fear of debt is already deterring students whose families cannot afford to provide financial support."

WHO IS FOR AND AGAINST HIGHER TUITION FEES?

  • According to a THES poll of vice-chancellors, those universities on record as supporting higher tuition fees are: Central England, Middlesex, Bournemouth, Birmingham, Sussex, Leeds Metropolitan, Aston, Sheffield Hallam, Loughborough, King's College London, Brunel and Nottingham.

  • Those universities that told The THES they opposed higher tuition fees were: Glasgow Caledonian, Brighton, Stirling, Glasgow, Huddersfield, West of England, Plymouth, Teesside, Exeter, Abertay, Central Lancashire, Northumbria, Ulster, Robert Gordon, Dundee and South Bank.

  • Those declaring themselves undecided or resigned to fees are: Napier, Coventry, Reading, Bath, Oxford and Paisley.

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