Fees, the market, and the future of HE
Two years ago after demonstrations, campaigns, and debate the government made the decision to increase the cost of University tuition in England to £9000.
This week we see the first students to come into HE at this new fee, and in the time between the landscape of higher education has radically changed.
What has happened:
The time in-between has seen an seen an attempt to, on the face of it, achieve two things. Firstly to produce a market in higher education, with the rather shallow aim of driving down to the cost of some institutions. Secondly to reduce the cost of higher education to the government, pushing the burden of payment to the students, and away from the government.
Sadly on both these fronts the changes have failed. Due to the substantial cost of the new more expensive loans the new system has proved more expensive for government in the short term. As for the market it just didn’t happen. In an attempt to rectify this a core an margin model was implemented. Students Universities were restricted on the number of students they could accept who achieved less than an AAB (this tariff is to be reduced in a year to ABB). However, those who were charging less than £6,000 would have this restriction removed.
The aim was to force a market, however the market still did not come. Instead we’ve found ourselves in the middle of a dangerous experiment in HE policy, with no clear vision for the future.
It is reasonably to recognise some of the improvements that have come about. Students who study part time are now eligible for a student loan, which has been one of the few positive outcomes of recent years. The increase of the repayment threshold from £15,000 to £21,000 has also reduced the burden of the staggering debt to the lowest earners after University.
What is the Union doing:
SUSU has clear policy stating that we are against the increasing burden placed on the student to pay a disproportionate contribution towards their studies. To years ago we too hundreds of students to play our part in a national demonstration against the increase in fees. We also put substantial pressure on our local MP’s around the time of the vote, and although we were unsuccessful the vote came close to not being passed, and may positive concessions were reached.
Over the past year we’ve launched our “I’m voting for Higher Education campaign” which has been working to demonstrate to local government, and our local MP’s that students views matter, and that issues surrounding higher education should be on their agenda.
This year we are working on developing a student manifesto by engaging with students across Southampton to give a clear message as to what are the key issues concerning students, and how the future should look.
We’re does the University Stand:
At a meeting of University senate (the representative body of the Universities academic community) the issue of the universities stance on the changes was debated, and the following motion was passed unanimously,
Resolved That Senate support the following statements in the debate on the Government’s higher education policies:
· The Senate of the University of Southampton reluctantly notes the introduction of higher fees for undergraduate degrees from September 2012.
· The Senate believes that these higher fees and associated student loans do not reflect a fair and reasonable balance between public and personal investment in higher education which the Senate believes will be detrimental not only to the University’s students but to higher education and society.
· The Senate expresses solidarity with the University’s students in peaceful and legal campaigning against the changes to student fees.
This has been the first strong statement from the university academic community ss a whole on this matter and was warmly welcomed (with the formation of the motion being supported by SUSU). The next step for this is to work to gain higher level backing from the University as a whole for this statement.
What you can do:
This changes have had, and will continue to have a huge impact on the very nature of higher education, and are threatening to undermine what has in the past been one of the finest higher education systems in the world. The complete absence of policy on supporting post graduate education, that unreasonable burden placed on students with the new fee’s regime, and the increase on the overall cost of the system in the short to mid term have demonstrated a complete failing in current HE policy, and as a student community we need to look to reshape our future, and campaign against this.
Southampton Students for Education – over the last year of campaigning a student led group, SSFE formed after a number of events, and have become the main student group campaigning against the tuition fee rise and cuts to higher education.
I would strongly recommend joining their Facebook group, and/or attending the introductory meeting on Friday to find out more.
I’m Voting for Higher Education – the union has been working to co-ordinate a range of actions aimed at making a real impact to local HE policy, and to create great influence on making change. Info on this years campaigns will be released in a blog soon.
National Demonstration – in November there will be a national demonstration against the changes to HE towards the end of November. Union policy states that we should support national demonstrations, and pending approval from Union council we will be looking for students keen to engage with this, and to facilitate attendance by students from Southampton.