Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

'Fee Rise Linked to TEF Is a Contentious Issue'

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

'Fee Rise Linked to TEF Is a Contentious Issue'

Article excerpt

Cambridge v-c Sir Leszek Borysiewicz's stance on tuition fee levels contrasts with that of his Oxford counterpart. He tells John Morgan about his concerns

The University of Cambridge can fund its undergraduate education under the £9,000 fee system thanks to the performance of its investments and would be "concerned about increases in fees" as a threat to student access, according to its vice-chancellor, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz.

In an interview with Times Higher Education, Sir Leszek also said that the government's decision to grant universities permission to raise fees in line with inflation from 2017-18 if they perform well in the teaching excellence framework was "a contentious issue". Asked if he was concerned about the spending review - in which the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has been asked to model cuts of 25 per cent and 40 per cent to its £13.1 billion budget - Sir Leszek said: "Cuts of this sort cannot be of benefit to the sector. We have to think of the whole higher education sector as one of Britain's best and most important export industries."

The Cambridge vice-chancellor's position on fees stands in contrast to that of his University of Oxford counterpart, Andrew Hamilton. In 2013, Professor Hamilton called for a future government to allow "significantly" variable fees more closely reflecting the "real cost" of undergraduate education - which he put at £16,000 at Oxford.

£9K or £16,700?

Sir Leszek said that Cambridge's most recent calculation of the real cost of educating its undergraduates was £16,700 per year, on average. Asked if he would want to see fees rise closer to that figure, he said: "From my point of view, we are able to sustain that on the current fee, based on the performance of our investments. Many other institutions would not be in a position to be able to do so." So Cambridge is not lobbying the government for variable fees?

"We're not lobbying the government in relationship to fees at all," Sir Leszek said. "Other than making the same statement that we have always made, that we are always concerned about increases in fees because of the problems that it would cause to individual students or their desire to access higher education, which is an essential part of a forward-looking economy for the future."

On the TEF, Sir Leszek said that a greater emphasis on teaching was "something to be welcomed". …

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