Unis Left To “Fly Blind” Over Tuition Fees, Say Oxbridge

Over 600 Oxbridge academics have signed an open letter to the Government calling for a public inquiry into tuition fees.

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Oxbridge Academics have written an open letter to the Government saying they are being asked to “fly blind” over tuition fees.

The letter, published in The Independent today, was signed by 681 academics from Oxford and Cambridge.

Academics aimed the letter at Business Secretary Vince Cable and Universities Minister David Willetts, who last week said Oxbridge and other elites could look silly if they charged £9,000 tuition fees.  The signees urged the pair to reconsider their overhaul of higher education and called for a public inquiry into tuition fee rises.

The plea comes after it emerged last week that Cambridge academic Richard Partington thought the Government’s policy was a “leap in the dark.” Partington wrote the comment at the end of his report of state school intake targets.


Read the academics’ full letter below:

“We write as 681 deeply concerned academics working in both Oxford and Cambridge. Both universities have in the last weeks held meetings of their respective senates (Congregation in Oxford and the Regents of the Senate in Cambridge) to discuss aspects of the changes currently under way in the funding of higher education in England.

We note with dismay and alarm that universities are being forced to take major decisions, with unknown consequences, at a breakneck speed. We are being asked to “fly blind” over matters of the utmost importance in respect of our ability to continue to deliver world-class education and research.

We, along, with all serious economic analysts, accept that the form and shape of an economically advanced nation’s HE system is crucial to its capacity for future growth. But we fear that the proposed new model by which “the money follows the student” will produce random effects in the HE sector, depriving some courses of income streams, and decimating the funding for teaching in some institutions, without any coherent and publicly announced policy in regard to which of these institutions and courses the Government believes should be left to fail. As has been publicly announced, this is to be left to the market to decide.

If, as David Willetts and Vince Cable have said, the HE sector needs to be more diverse, there needs to be an informed and open public debate on how that diversity is to be shaped, what it may consist of and the aims and objectives for wanting to introduce such diversity. Under the current proposals we see the Government’s preferred mechanism for delivering these outcomes – “student choice” – as an extremely risky and irresponsible experiment. It appears to rest on no more than an article of faith – a belief in the absolute wisdom of the market.

Given this we ask Mr Willetts and Dr Cable to halt the current plans for implementing this enormously risky legislation with undue haste and until such time as the possible outcomes and consequences of these proposed changes have been coherently and rigorously examined. We believe that a public commission of inquiry is urgently required, properly and fully consultative, and charged with the responsibility of examining these issues. We ask them to set in motion such an inquiry.”