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Vice-Chancellor applauded on Channel 4 debate last night

October 13, 2010

Peter ScottSir Peter Scott, VC of Kingston University was applauded last night during a channel 4 debate, hosted at the University of Leeds, when he spoke out against the recommendations of the Browne report. Browne recommended greatly increasing student debt by removing the cap on tuition fees.

Our own VC, Michael Arthur, chair of the Russell group, welcomed Browne’s recommendations as a “lifeline”.

A reporter, standing on the inner-ring-road bridge, subsequently compared our university with Leeds Met, stating – on the back of Michael Arthur’s statement – that we at the University of Leeds welcomed the removal of the cap, but that the Met was appalled by it. We believe that this significantly misrepresented the views of staff and students at the University of Leeds.

Contact us if you’d like us to publish your thoughts. Either leave a comment below or email us at leedsucu@me.com

Comments received via facebook already today:

 

Michael Arthur

Click to watch again on Channel 4 website

 

-> I watched the Vice-Chancellor last night and was absolutely appalled. I come into most of the categories discussed as I am a mature student from a deprived background.

At 41 years old I graduated with a 2:1 in English Literature and Language this year. I was never given the opportunity to study at university level when I was at school as I didn’t have the “right background or the money” to go to university. My headmaster, who incidentally is now the Liberal MP for Harrogate, implied that me and many of the female students at school should “get ourselves a boyfriend, get pregnant and get a council house”. Education wasn’t an option.

5 years ago I took the opportunity to do GCSE English and Maths at my local college as they were free and I wanted to help my eldest son through his GCSEs. This was a new initiative from the government to get everyone to have a C or above in English and Maths to help them get better jobs. I very nearly didn’t go as I was so afraid of being thought stupid by the tutor. However, once I got started, I absolutely loved it and came out with As. I decided to go further and paid to take A levels – English and Psychology and got As in them too. I applied to Leeds University simply because it was close to home and I didn’t apply anywhere else. I didn’t think I had any chance of getting in because Leeds University is still perceived as being the university for the rich. Shockingly, I got a place and have finished my degree and am now taking my Masters at the University of York.

While studying at Leeds, I became heavily involved with the Lifelong Learning Centre and was the WP intern for the English department. I went out to local colleges, spoke to abused women’s groups, arranged study days etc. The overriding issues that surrounded ALL of the people I spoke to, young students and mature students, was firstly a lack of confidence in their ability to study at university level and secondly, being able to finance their studies. We were able to tell them how they would be able to afford it due to how the system was set up to help them. This is no longer true. I am terrified at the prospect of paying my own student debt, I can not imagine how daunting it would be if the fees were no longer capped.

Without blowing my own trumpet, I have studied, held down a job and looked after a family as a single parent. I have won awards for adult student of the year, a citizenship award and various other awards throughout the 3 years at Leeds. I have realised throughout my journey that I have worth and just because I don’t have money this doesn’t mean I am stupid. EVERYONE has a right to a decent education and money should not be a barrier to that.

The Vice-Chancellor made sweeping statements about how Widening Participation had increased how many students from underprivileged backgrounds were attending university. To a certain extent this is true but it was because of the government promoting education for all. Over the last 3 years funding has been continually being stopped for the Communities and Partnership team in the LLC and this year any funding available from Aimhigher has gone to students in school. This is great but it does not promote higher education because the majority of parents who haven’t attended university do not necessarily realise how important it is to have a degree. I myself never encouraged my 20 year old son into studying at university because I didn’t realise the importance of doing so. Plus, how could I tell my son to do something I hadn’t done? However, my 10 year old son now talks about “when” he goes to university, not if, but when.

The recent changes in funding will affect the underprivileged more than anyone else but it will also affect those who would normally progress straight into university. We will go back to the times when university was only for the rich.

Yvonne Michelle Murray

-> As an 2005 arts graduate, working full-time in the arts industry, I anticipate that it will take many years for me to pay off my student loans – maybe never depending on my career path. I can’t imagine the burden that leaving university with triple the debt would put on my choices and my development. I also doubt whether, as eldest of a family of three, my parents would have been able to assist all, or indeed any of us, to meet this cost. This, however, is what my younger siblings and my students (I mentor and teach young performers and arts managers) are facing. Of the four that have begun university this year, all from working class backgrounds, and in one case the first member of her family to ever progress to higher education, only one thinks they could have attended their chosen course. Lauren, an architecture student and board member for the arts centre in which I work, is very clear that she would have had no option but to withdraw.

I am frightened for the future, despairing of the fallacy that education should be valued (or not) in purely economic terms and desperately disappointed in my University. I feel that I can no longer, in good conscience, recommend it as the best place to be a student. My students probably can’t afford to attend anyway.

Jo Wright

->I’m a third year PhD student here at Leeds. I did some maths based on what the VC said last night on the Channel 4 debate about £8000 per year tuition fees, and worked out how much my education would cost me, including living costs. If I was to get to where I am today paying the £8000 per year tuition, I’d so far have spent £56,000. But relate that to what Dr Davies(?) was saying last night about certain courses being in greater demand, and having more prestige then that figure could easily top £70,000. Factor in living costs of £9000 per year (http://www.ukstudentlife.com/Prepare/Cost.htm#RegularCosts) and that total gets to £133,000.

I wasn’t eligible for any grant or bursary as my parents were both teachers in state schools so I’d have had to bear the brunt of that on my own. Assuming these tuition fees were in place before I came to university I’d have thought long and hard about coming in the first place, let alone doing postgraduate study.

Anonymous

->Shouldn’t education be for the best qualified, not the best funded?

Kathryn Hiles

->There were two comments on last night’s channel 4 programme that stood out to me – the VC said we’d have to charge £7k “to stand still” then a student pointed out that they would be paying so much more, but not getting any more in return, and that was unfair. That seems wrong to me.

Anonymous

->When the principal of free education was taken away from us, it was only going be a matter of time before they tried to take affordable education away from us too.

That this is being done by an ex-oil baron millionaire, Lord Browne, adds insult to the injury. He excuses the review by saying that only graduates will have to pay the fees – ie. education is free – until we have to pay for it!

More insulting still is that the Liberal Democrats, who stole student votes by lying about their policy on free education will be the ones to push this through. It has no democratic legitimacy and we should fight it every step of the way – with protests, walkouts and occupations.

The removal of the cap on fees will create a market in education. It will mean that the only students to receive a high quality education will be the ones who can afford the price tag. Universities will become a playground for only the rich – public schoolers like David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

No-one who has been campaigning for the past year against the £35m cuts at Leeds Uni was surprised by VC Michael Arthur’s unseemly enthusiasm for the Browne recommendations live on Channel 4 last night.

After seeing the anger of ordinary students protesting against the fees outside the debate last night, I’ve no doubt that we can build a mass movement of students in Leeds, and across the UK to make sure the recommendations in the Browne review never see the light of day.

But this isn’t just a fight for students and lecturers any more, this is a fight to save universal education as we know it.

Richard Berry
LUU Revolution Society

-> Here’s a copy of the email I sent to my local MP.

I would also add, that the Vice Chancellor’s extremely disappointing decision to support the Browne Report’s suggested cuts shows a wilful disregard for the students he is meant to support.

Dear Mr Raab,

As my local MP, I am writing to you to express deep concern for the attitude of the current government towards students, and at its root, Higher Education.

A recent graduate myself, studying for my BA and MA at University of Leeds from 2006-2010, the news today that the coalition government is supporting the Browne report’s suggestion to remove the tuition fee cap is worrying. Even an increase in the cap to £6000 or £7000 is an alarming prospect.

I am strongly opposed to removing the tuition fee cap, believing that one of the strengths of Britain, both as a nation and as a democracy, is rooted in equality. Higher Education that is affordable to all is a keystone in that principle of equality.

Beyond principles, I would note that the practicalities of a posited rise of tuition fees ignores the experience of those students who are in the Higher Education system, or about to enter it.

Those in the system are already burdened with huge levels of debt. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the tremors still felt today, it would be irresponsible of the government to perpetuate, and even increase, the level of debt that younger members of society must face.

Despite arguments which suggest high fees will not deter students, if costs are allowed to total £36,000 as is reported in The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian, such levels in fee are bound to place a barrier between poorer students and a life-enhancing, fair education.

I cannot emphasise strongly enough how I and the majority of students will be opposed to this affront to fairness in education.

As my local MP, I would beg you to represent my views in the House of Commons, as a matter of urgency.

Yours,

Vicky Ellis

 

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Potentially Unpopular permalink
    October 14, 2010 1:46 PM

    Can someone please answer me this question?

    When the government cuts university funding by more than 50%, where will the money come from to keep the university going? Spending cuts will happen and will happen quickly (in political terms). If we don’t respond just as quickly to find a replacement source of funds, jobs will be slashed and so will student numbers.

    Free education for all is a fabulous ideal, but is it really practical in the current economic climate? It may be the ultimate objective for the long-term war, but it just doesn’t work for the current battle.

  2. October 14, 2010 1:56 PM

    Your question only needs answering if we assume the premises to be true. Nothing has yet gone through parliament, so the arguments for education funding can still be made. In the most recent independent analysis (Price Waterhouse Coopers) it was made clear that ‘it currently costs the state approximately £21000 to provide education to degree level for the average graduate. However the value to the state in terms of the tax and national insurance associated with earning following qualification is approximately £93000.’

    This morning in the news we see that a new test for prostate cancer is being developed – everybody benefits from these innovations that come from Universities, and from people who have University educations. It is simply false to argue that the student is the only person to benefit from their education. Browne and Cameron cannot argue on one hand that a HE education is more likely to create greater salary income for the individual and not recognise the increased tax that individual will pay to the system that supported them over time.

    We lose the argument if we assume that HE has to pay its own way, as you are doing. There is every argument for continued state funding of HE. The country’s deficit has numerous solutions. As academics we should know that there are always multiple narratives to events and dilemmas – let’s not adopt the single narrative one government wishes us to believe.

    Yes, free education for all is practical in the current economic climate. You just have to decide how to deal with that climate, and question the modes in which it is narrated. Let’s not stop questioning.

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