University Fees

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It’s dangerous to talk about what my employer may do with regard to fees – no official statements no leaks, no news, no figure. I honestly don’t know and the decision will have nothing to do with me.

I come from the generation that did not pay fees and got a grant – not massive, but enough (mind you I still had an overdraught when I left university!). I have an ideal that education should be free and that students should only pay for accommodation and living costs through student loans. But I also know that this is unsustainable for the numbers in higher education. So we could reduce numbers in HE and fund their tuition – meaning that those who do not go to university pay for those who do (e.g. just as my parents did through their taxes). But surely this is not fair. We should, as graduate pay back – I guess that I claim that I do through taxation, but then my taxes don’t/can’t pay for everything that taxes could/should pay for. So I see the dilemma of the government. But I also see that HE is being squeezed.

Do I have an answer? Not really, I’m not paid that much to come up with the answer and I’m not clever enough to come up with a wheeze of an idea that would make my ideological standpoint of free education for all a reality.

There are some things that I think will happen though.

Universities in general, not just my employer, will require people like me – the academics – to do the research to write bids and pull in money from wherever and make sure that my ‘writing’ is high quality and brings plaudits on my department – otherwise I’m sure that my future appraisals and the appraisals of many academics up and down the country will not be very good. Teaching will, I predict take a back seat. The very thing that students will have to pay for will not be the top priority for the university. That sets up an interesting position. If a student is paying top fee for a university education will they demand that they are taught by the best (not teaching fellows, associate tutors and post grad students), will they demand more teaching, more one to one tutorials and help – after all they are paying through the nose for it (they may argue). Will they demand that as the consumer paying for the course that they achieve what they need from the course to get the job (could it mean the end of the third and pass degree)? What is, after spending 27K+ on their course they fail or only get a ‘third’ – how soon before we see a court action? I wonder which university will be the first to introduce a ‘customer service’ department for students and a ‘customer service charter’. Will universities start providing service contracts about the level of support they are entitled to for their £6-9K?

Again I don’t have answers. I merely throw out these random thoughts. At Sussex we have an excellent reputation for the level of student support we give. I hope it continues.

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