student life

Should a University education cost £16,000?

Earlier this month, Andrew Hamilton, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, said the £9,000 limit on tuition fees at universities should be raised to £16,000. 

Earlier this month, Andrew Hamilton, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, said the £9,000 limit on tuition fees at universities should be raised to £16,000. Hamilton, according to a report of his remarks in The Independent, said the cost of a higher education should be more in line to the cost of an education at the university. Oxford currently charges £16,000 for students to attend the university.

Renewed criticism

There was a specific timing on the remarks Hamilton made at his oration on 8th October. The remarks came, the report noted, after university rankings indicated some universities, including Edinburgh, Newcastle, Manchester and Bristol could lose their statuses as being some of the best universities in the world. The report added Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London had remained the golden triangle of the university system.

Hamilton’s remarks now have come under renewed criticism from students at Oxford, and in a letter from 22nd October to Hamilton, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education, Dr Sally Mapstone, and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Resources, Professor William James, Tom Rutland, the president of Oxford’s student union, said the 23 presidents of the JCRs had passed motions of opposition and students, and the OUSU Council had condemned Hamilton’s remarks.

Support the idea of increased government funding

Rutland added that students would increasingly support the idea of increased government funding for higher education and would advocate against an increase in fees.

“We have grave concerns about the potential for the valuable access work currently undertaken by both the student body and the University to be undermined by a raising of fees,” Rutland said. “The proposal alone presents a challenge to the myth-busting that students and staff work in partnership to deliver to students from non-traditional backgrounds. It is clear that the message that Oxford is affordable to all is still not getting through, and talk of increasing fees risks jeopardising the slow but steady improvement in our access record over recent years.”

Rutland’s letter added that Mapstone and James had expressed statements of support for the increase in tuition fees.

Speech ‘very damaging’ in promoting Oxford

Speaking to Kettle, James Blythe, JCR President of Brasenose College and a Trustee of the student union, said he hoped the Vice Chancellor would listen to the student body.

“I hope the Vice Chancellor and his advisors will listen to the JCR Presidents of Oxford, who speak on behalf of students, and that he will see that his speech was very damaging for our work in promoting Oxford to the bright young people of Britain and the world,” Blythe said. “Oxford is actually the most affordable university in the UK for the poorest young people, and the Vice Chancellor’s oration certainly didn’t help get that message out.”

Blythe added that he hopes young people will read the statement and realize that anyone who is clever can come to Oxford, regardless of income or background.

University vice-chancellors ‘out of touch’

In a statement, Toni Pearce, president of the National Union of Students, said the suggestion of raising fees shows how out of touch some university vice-chancellors can be.

“Another hike in fees a year on from the last would stack up huge longer-term problems for both individuals and for the economy, leaving our higher education funding system less sustainable for the future,” Pearce said. “Outside of the ivory towers, this issue remains politically toxic with voters and there will quite rightly be widespread opposition to this proposal from students and their families.”

Pearce added there should be a balance between the government, graduates and business to take on the cost rather than an increase, instead of placing the burden on the next generation of graduates.

All students with potential to study to apply at Oxford

Jonathan Wood, a spokesman for Oxford University, said there was no suggestion that the university believed graduates should repay the whole cost of their education, and maintained that generous financial support packages would still be available.

“We want all students with the potential to study here to apply to Oxford, regardless of financial means, and for them to know and see that we are committed to ensuring that economic circumstances are no barrier to attending Oxford,” Wood said. “After all, we need to attract and admit the best students in order to safeguard our global reputation for excellence.”

Wood added that Oxford had the most generous financial support package for students with low income, and said Hamilton has insisted the funding shortfall should be addressed in a number of ways, including philanthropy.

“It is right that the University contributes towards the cost of teaching as it always has done,” Wood said. “Students will continue to receive an unsurpassed education whose real cost is subsidised from the University by thousands of pounds a year.”

While it is unclear at the writing whether tuition fees will actually rise, it has set a new debate on the future of higher education, one that has concern on if tuition fees do go up, if an education remains viable.

What do you think of Hamilton’s remarks? Should tuition fees be increased to £16,000? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Image: Franzfoto / Wikimedia Commons