Universities UK's submission to the government's student-support review failed to reflect the views of many of its vice-chancellor members, it was claimed this week, writes Alan Thomson.
A number of vice-chancellors have complained that the final submission, which defended upfront tuition fees and argued that top-up fees should remain an option, was kept secret until its publication last Thursday.
The final submission was not approved by the UUK board or discussed with most vice-chancellors. A draft submission was discussed by the board in October, after which it was amended.
Writing in this week's THES , Peter Knight, vice-chancellor of the University of Central England, said: "The fact is that the overwhelming majority of vice-chancellors had no idea about the policies being advocated on their behalf by UUK as they did not see the submission until it arrived in the post on Friday."
Diana Green, vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, said: "I think it would have been helpful if the report had gone out to all vice-chancellors. I think they have tried to work out what is politically acceptable."
Michael Goldstein, vice-chancellor of Coventry University, said: "I am concerned that the submission still involves upfront payment of tuition feesI which I think are having a deterrent effect on non-traditional students."
The UUK submission tried to balance the needs of students with those of university teaching and research. UUK is afraid that the government might increase student support at the expense of teaching and research.
The result was that the submission urged the government to retain upfront tuition fees, while calling for improved student support. It said that means-tested tuition fees, introduced in 1998, were the most progressive element of the student-finance package.