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Tuition fee cut spells bad news for students without pledge to fill the gap

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Universities will be forced to make tough choices unless the Government fully plugs any proposed cut in tuition fees.

That’s the warning Brunel’s Vice Chancellor Professor Julia Buckingham gave at The Foundation for Science and Technology’s review at The Royal Society on Monday.

“In the current political and fiscal climate – this is a big ask from Government and a very significant risk,” she told policy makers and university leaders.

Banker Philip Augar, whose report on education funding for over 18s published last week, was also at the education charity’s review of university education and funding.

Augar’s delayed report recommends lowering the cap on tuition fees from £9,250 to £7,500 from 2021-22. Figures suggest the cap will shrink UK university funding by £1.8bn per year unless the Government replaces this fee income.

Without a cast iron long-term guarantee to do so, there will be a harmful domino effect on both teaching and research, said Professor Buckingham.

“The student experience would suffer,” she said, “as universities would need, for example, to increase class sizes, pare back learning resources and reduce investment in staff, new teaching methods and support services such as for mental health.”

Bringing back student maintenance grants and extending loan repayments from 30 to 40 years are other key Augar proposals.

The report comes when the sector is facing many significant issues, said Prof Buckingham, listing Brexit, a challenging pensions environment and changes to immigration policy.

“Universities must be at the heart of efforts to boost productivity and growth to bring prosperity to all regions of the UK, drive innovation and deliver high quality research that changes lives.”

funding JuliaProf Buckingham talking at the House of Lords

The House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee examining research funding in universities was next to hear Professor Buckingham talk about university funding in light of Augar’s report. Speaking on Tuesday as President-Elect of Universities UK she said that funding cuts would inevitably impact on research,  damaging UK higher education’s global reputation and limiting the capacity to develop the pipeline of talented researchers needed for the planned increased investment in R and D to 2.4% GDP.

“It is essential that the Augur review doesn’t affect the critical interface between research and education.”

Turning to Brexit, she said being cut off from EU research schemes would not only threaten research income but also damage networks developed over many years which are critical to the research ecosystem. 

The Lords Science and Technology Committee is expected to publish its recommendations for the government in the coming weeks.'

Reported by:

Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268176
hayley.jarvis@brunel.ac.uk