Challenges Facing HE 2: What does the VC think?

My last blog on HE gave a bit of a catch up on the past year, and talked about a key step for the Academic Community in speaking out against the damage currently being done to Higher Education.

A few weeks ago the Southampton campaign group, Southampton Students For Education, were successful in having an open letter published by the Guardian. In this letter they ask the following:

“The coalition’s higher education policy ensures that undergraduate students will commonly leave university with debts of over £40,000 (Report, 20 September). This debt is being imposed on graduates without a democratic mandate and by politicians who have typically benefited from free higher education. As such, it represents an indefensible intergenerational unfairness. The privatisation of university funding risks transforming the vital relationship between students and educators into a cold commercial transaction between consumers and service providers. We find it inconceivable that academic principles of collaboration, critical thinking and pastoral care could survive this process intact.

We believe the response from vice-chancellors to these damaging reforms has thus far lacked co-ordination and purpose. Given that these reforms fundamentally alter the character of higher education, we feel it is incumbent on vice-chancellors to definitively communicate their position to their staff and students. We call upon all university vice-chancellors to issue a statement publicly clarifying their support for, or objection to: a) the imposition of debts of over £40,000 for new undergraduates; and b) the removal of public funding for undergraduate teaching. It is our hope that by providing a clear and unambiguous statement of their positions, university administrators, staff and students can engage in greater and more productive dialogue on the future of higher education.”

On their request, and in order to provide you with an idea the stance of our own Vice Chancellor I have now sent this to Prof. Don Nutbeam. Once I receive a response I will publish it below.

Note: At this time the Vice Chancellor is abroad, and so there is likely to be a delay in the response

Edit: The following is the response received from the Office of the Vice Chancellor on the 18th of October

“The Vice-Chancellor is currently overseas on University business. He has made several public statements on a range of issues relating to the government reforms of higher education over the past two years. These include articles in the Guardian and Times Higher Education Supplement, as well as press interviews.

As Chair of Senate, he actively participated in the preparation of three motions on behalf of the University community that were adopted following debate by Senate at its meeting in June 2012. This meeting of Senate was attended by the student representatives on Senate who participated fully in the debate and all are recorded as voting in favour of their adoption. The Vice-Chancellor voted for the three motions, which are reproduced below.

  • 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 is the position that he continues to represent on behalf of the University community. “

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2 Comments on "Challenges Facing HE 2: What does the VC think?"

  1. Hi Sam,

    Thanks for posting this. We see why you want to be fair to the VC (in the note at the end), but we understood that he received the letter from you 15 days ago. Has he really been away the whole time?

    Look forward to hearing his response!

    Southampton Students for Education

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