London Met vows 'ethical' fee shift

Non-EU postgraduates to pay same price as home students in sweeping reforms. Jack Grove reports

February 9, 2012

Credit: Alamy
Flat fees for all: 'no ethical grounds' for differentiation, says London Met

Domestic and international students will pay the same postgraduate fees at London Metropolitan University under new reforms.

The fee of about £8,000 a year for full-time master's students was proposed in a draft review of postgraduate education made public last week as part of a staff consultation.

Other proposals include cutting loss-making courses, the abolition of cross-subsidy between faculties, and the introduction of cash incentives for staff who obtain lucrative consultancy work for the university.

Setting a flat fee for all students, excluding bursaries, was also important in helping to confirm London Met's reputation for "quality affordable education", said deputy vice-chancellor Peter McCaffery, who oversaw the review.

This academic year, fees for non-European Union students studying classroom-based subjects in the UK were £11,346 on average, roughly double the £6,184 charged to domestic and EU students.

But Professor McCaffery said there were "no longer ethical grounds for discriminating between home and international students".

"We are proud to be pioneers in this area. The only other provider who does this is BPP University College [a for-profit provider]. We believe this is the ethical way to go."

The report also outlines how the proposals will further a "transformation in the university's postgraduate portfolio", which will help it to expand provision by 30 per cent over the next three years.

It does not outline which courses will be cut, but "media, digital technology, fashion, forensics, creative industries, healthcare, security, welfare and financial services" are highlighted as potential areas of growth.

Loss-making clusters of courses should also be closed, added Professor McCaffery, while research should generally be self-supporting.

"Historically, surpluses have been generated by our business school," he said. "Faculties should be self-sustaining. We also do not believe there should be cross-subsidy of research - that should be self-sustaining, too."

However, Cliff Snaith, branch secretary of the University and College Union, said this policy would set London Met on the path to becoming a teaching-only university. "Moving to a total cost model, in which research must pay for itself entirely...would rule out most research done in the country," he said.

He also raised concerns over proposals to introduce different contracts for new appointees, who would focus on one of four areas: teaching, research, enterprise, or teaching-and-research.

"There is no reason to introduce new contracts," Dr Snaith said.

"It could be a subtle way of moving us to teaching-only contracts. And if you really are to re-energise postgraduate provision, then cutting vast swathes of academics is not the way to start."

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