Doubts Raised Over VC’s Claim Not to Have Sought Higher Student Fees


Doubts have been raised over the truth of the Vice Chancellor’s claim that “At Southampton we have not actively sought an increase in student fees”. Following an interview with deputy vice chancellor Debra Humphris, the accuracy of this claim can be called into question.

The Russell Group, which represents 20 leading UK universities, of which the University is a part, made submissions to the Browne Review arguing for the cap on fees to be removed completely. They have also campaigned publicly for a rise in fees, with Director General, Dr Wendy Piatt, last month stating that, “Rowing back from Browne and re-imposing a cap would be a real waste of an opportunity to allow our leading universities to provide the high-quality education that their students deserve”.

With this in mind it is difficult to see how the claim that “At Southampton we have not actively sought an increase in student fees” can be seen as accurate. The claims were made in two seperate statements, in the aftermath of the Browne Review and Comprehensive Spending Review, which have since been removed from the internet by the University. However a copy of one is still available here.

When posed with the question in an interview with the Wessex Scene, Debra Humphris responded: “What we have sought along with the rest of the Russell Group is the appropriate funding of UK Higher Education. The Government announced a significant reduction [around £3 billion]in funding for Higher Education in the recent Spending Review. In this context Browne’s proposals present a viable way of funding higher education while maintaining current levels of participation.”

She further added that the Russell Group, “is concerned with the pressures its research-intensive universities face and have taken an approach to help secure the strength and importance of research-intensive universities in the UK economy”.

When asked whether this approach involved placing pressure on the Government to completely remove the cap on fees, Professor Humphris said: “At the moment there is no further information on whether the Government accepts all the proposals in the Browne Review, it would be premature to speculate until we better understand the Government’s final proposals.”

Professor Humphris further added: “It’s worth restating that under the proposals, students are still not required to pay fees when they join the University and indeed throughout their time at Southampton. The proposed student loan system is based on repayment of loans once students have graduated and are earning over £21,000.”

At no point did she deny that the University of Southampton joined the Russell Group in its views on fees. In fact, in admitting that, “what we have sought along with the rest of the Russell Group is the appropriate funding of UK Higher Education”, it would appear that the University followed the policy of the group, a key part of which was higher fees.

Given this admission, it is difficult to understand how and why the Vice Chancellor was able to tell students that an increase in fees was not sought by this University.


Discussion9 Comments

  1. avatar
    Daniel Webb

    Yes we did, after the interview with Debra Humphris I explained I would be looking to write an article following her inability to respond directly to the questions I had asked and consequently she has responded in the above article on behalf of the VC.


    Perhaps you should provide the VC with the link to get the answer from the dog’s mouth so to say?


    I think the phrase is from the horse’s mouth, unless you’re more angry about this then you appear.
    But we have contacted the uni, and he will be free to respond if he wants to.

  2. avatar

    This isn’t news! The Russell Group have been asking for uncapped fees for decades, almost for as long as the University sector has been woefully underfunded by the state. Unrestricted fees is the only way the Russell Group Universities see of escaping government control, and hence underfunding, so that they may compete for students who are now picking from the best Universities across the world. Regardless of your views on the pros and cons of fees for UK students, UK Universities would be crazy not to want the freedom, and funding, that unrestricted fees offer.

  3. avatar

    Given that the University will be suffering over £30million worth of cuts they don’t really have much choice. They have to raise fees just to keep things the way they are along with enforcing as many cuts as possible.

    Every University is going to need to charge higher fees simply to maintain the same standards, the government is to blame for higher fees because they are slashing higher education funding. You can’t fault the University for making the best of a terrible situation, would you rather they kept fees at the same level and reduced the quality of teaching and support ?


    I think the issue is more that he publicly said they hadn’t. There was no need for him to do that, he could just have legitimately defended his position.
    Also the fee raise and the cuts are the same thing really. If you raise fees, you cut state input, if you cut state input, you raise fees. So if you recommend one, you recommend the other.

    Sasha Watson

    Ive just realised a few things:
    Yes the University will lose 32-34m from cuts, the VC said so. They are resolving 7m of this from voluntary severance and other staff cuts. That leaves 25m still to recover.
    With 22,000 students, per student that makes us cover £1136 each roughly. so WHY are fees to jump to £7000. Thats an increase of £3700.
    Even if we just take the 14,000 Undergraduate Full Time students, per student the cuts are covered by a £1785 increase in fees.
    As speculative as this is, the VC needs to rebut this idea. The University would need to be subject to a £75m cut for the projected fee increase to be like-for-like.

    Old student

    I think your figures are out. You’ve missed the fact that Universities are woefully underfunded now (relying on overcharging foreign students to subsidise home students), state funding is sure to be cut further in the future, and look at all the requirements for improving access to poorer students (not all students will be paying those fees).

    The fact is that the argument on fees was lost in 1997 when a Labour government voted in tuition fees straight after promising not to in the 1997 election – and that was with a government packed full of ex-NUS Presidents like Jack Straw, Charles Clarke, Lorna Fitzsimons, the officially dodgy Phil Woolas and more. What hope is there for a Tory government to reverse this? The coalition are only finishing what Labour and the NUS started back in 1997. The horse has bolted, Pandora’s box is opened etc etc and there is no turning back now. Rather than yearning for May 1968 again SUSU would be best campaigning for the best of a bad deal. Either that, or help Aaron Porter get a seat in Parliament at the next election as Labour sweep to power and he can give free education for all…

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