£8000 fees necessary to “maintain status quo”


A meeting of the University’s Congregation this week saw representatives from across the University discuss the issue of undergraduate funding and tuition fees.
The 26 speakers expressed a number of different opinions with little consensus on what position the university should take, though many of the most senior University figures argued that the highest fees are inescapable.
In the first speech, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Planning and Resources Tony Monaco said: “We will have to charge around £8000 just to maintain the status quo” because of cuts both to teaching and capital budgets, and the need to provide fee waivers to the poorest students would require charging more.
Roger Boden, Chairman of the Estates Bursars’ Committee of the Conference of Colleges and Bursar of Keble College, outlined the “financial challenge” facing colleges, saying that last year colleges paid £116 million on undergraduate student support, but received only £75 million from fees and grants.
He said that many colleges “were just about breaking even”, but only by ignoring the extra money that should be spent on the upkeep of many college buildings.
Boden argued that there is no issue of whether Oxford should charge £9,000, and the debate should focus merely on how the extra income should be distributed.
Chairman of the Conference of Colleges and Principal of LMH Dr Frances Lannon said even at a fee of £9000 the University would be providing a “universal subsidy” on the cost of an undergraduate degree, and that “we cannot choose a lower fee income and at the same time support excellence and access in the way we passionately wish to”.
In contrast, OUSU President David Barclay said that at the “bare minimum” Oxford should increase bursaries and peg them to living costs at the most expensive college, phase in any fee rises and provide complete fee waivers for the poorest students.
Barclay warned those assembled of the danger of creating an atmosphere in which students and tutors become “consumers and producers” with a “transactional and confrontational” relationship.
OUSU Vice President for Access and Academic Affairs Alex Bulfin warned that this would constitute a “slippery slope to student consumerism”.
Vice President-Elect for Access and Academic Affairs Hannah Cusworth argued that fees of £9,000, leading to potential debt of £40,000, would, however they are paid for, create an atmosphere in which foregoing university becomes a “rational choice” for many potential applicants.
Barclay stated that he was “sickened to the core” by suggestions that the sort of people who would choose not to go to university because of the cost would not be good enough for Oxford. He said: “the day we give up on students who would never before have thought of coming to university coming here to Oxford is the day we abandon any pretence of seeking academic talent wherever it may be found.”
Student representatives were not the only people to speak against fee rises. Dr Rowan Tomlinson, fellow and tutor in French at New College, said that the government seemed to have accepted that university is only for “certain types of people”.
Professor Patrick McGuinness of St Anne’s College, said that the University should not be “so fatalistic, supine and meek” in resisting changes, and attacked the “crass and materialistic values” of the Browne Review, which he claimed is full of contradictions and written in “a species of English that can only be described as post-literate”.
Barclay said after the meeting that “It was absolutely crucial that myself and other OUSU representatives were able to tell the entire University how students felt on this issue which will affect us all so much” and was pleased that “academics have shown that they support generous bursary provision and fee waivers”.
The views expressed at Congregation are to be taken into account when the University Council makes a decision on funding in March. An audio recording of the entire meeting is available on the university’s website.