Face it – there’s no going back on tuition fees

September 21, 2017

In his article “Is abolishing tuition fees regressive? It depends how it’s done” (Opinion, 17 August), Lord Adonis says: “My political sense is that if the universities and/or the government move swiftly to cut fee levels year-on-year – alongside some bloated overheads, notably the pay of vice-chancellors and other top staff – it might just be possible to continue with fees at around the pre-2012 level of £3,000.”

As someone who consistently opposed the tripling of tuition fees and the withdrawal of government grants, I am sad to see Adonis not only stooping so low as to accuse universities of forming a cartel on fees, but also losing his sense of numbers and, therefore, rational policy.

At this university, reducing all salaries to a maximum of £150,000, as suggested by Adonis, would “save” less than £20 per student a year. I daresay much the same is true in many sister universities.

Taking this £20 “saving” and then cutting fees by 5 per cent each year, year-on-year, it would take 23 years to get back to an annual tuition fee of £3,000, by which time every university in the country would have gone out of operation, unless government grants were restored at the same rate.

In practice, the policy advocated by Adonis would quickly leave the field free for private for-profit corporations such as the Apollo Education Group, which runs the University of Phoenix. This would be a quite dreadful development, which would really harm the futures of tomorrow’s students while doing nothing but increasing inequality. Incidentally, Gregory Cappelli, Apollo’s chief executive, received $2,671,038 compensation in 2016 (£2 million).

David Green
Vice-chancellor and chief executive
University of Worcester


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