15 May 2014
A Vice-Chancellor from a modern university has called for politicians and Vice-Chancellors to support a ‘new vision for funding higher education and research’ and has criticised policymakers who look to the US and Australia in search of ‘some higher education funding nirvana’. In a speech to the Annual Meeting of the university think-tank million+, Professor Michael Gunn, Vice-Chancellor of Staffordshire University who is also chair of million+, describes it as ‘strange’ that the higher education funding systems in the Nordic countries and in Germany where fees have been abolished and where funding for high quality research is distributed throughout the university sector, are ignored in England.
Professor Michael Gunn, Vice-Chancellor of Staffordshire University and Chair of the university think-tank million+, said:
“There has been far too much talk about how to amend the student support regime to require graduates to repay more of the costs of higher education while the needs of part-time students and those who want to study at university later in life or for a postgraduate qualification are almost completely ignored”.
“Too many politicians and political advisers look to the US where many students do not complete or default on their loans and to Australia to provide answers to what they hope will be some higher education funding nirvana”.
“Strangely they never look to the Nordic countries where research funding is much less concentrated and funding regimes are more favourable to student participation and they overlook the German Lander which have now all abandoned polices to charge university fees. Politicians and university leaders also ignore at their peril Yougov’s recent poll in which 60% of parents said that they felt that university was no longer value for money”.
“The future of higher education rests on expanding opportunities, delivering equality of the unit of funding for students wherever they study and ensuring that all universities are well-resourced and that their excellent research receives its fair share of public funding”.
“In the run-up to the general election, we, the Vice-Chancellors, need to stand up and be counted”.
“We should argue for a new vision for higher education and the level of investment that the country needs to ensure that universities can deliver new opportunities for the next generation of students, work with businesses of all sizes and contribute to society and the economy”.
The speech is being made at a time when questions have been raised about the sustainability of the Coalition Government’s higher education reforms which saw fees lifted to £9000 per year. David Willetts, the Universities Minister, advised Parliament in April that 45p in every pound lent to students would never be repaid and would have to be written-off by taxpayers. Labour has yet to clarify its higher education policy.