Students and academics demand clarity from vice-chancellors

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Southampton Students for Education, a group of students at this university, have issued a call through an open letter in The Guardian  for vice-chancellors to issue public statements making their views on the rise of fees known.

Over ninety academics from twenty universities have signed the letter, which demands a clear answer from each Vice Chancellor regarding whether they object to or support the imposition of what can be debts of £40,000 for new undergraduates, and the removal of public funding from undergraduate teaching.

SSfE in Portswood.

Eleven of the signatures are from staff at the University of Southampton, and others from universities such as Warwick, Leeds, Oxford, Cambridge, as well as and the Institute of Education.

The letter says the new system represents “an indefensible intergenerational unfairness” given that “his debt is being imposed on graduates without a democratic mandate and by politicians who have typically benefited from free higher education”.  This call comes just days after Nick Clegg issued an apology for breaking his promise to not raise tuition fees.

“His debt is being imposed on graduates without a democratic mandate and by politicians who have typically benefited from free higher education”

The letter further reads that “the privatisation of university funding risks transforming the vital relationship between students and educators into a cold commercial transaction between consumers and service providers”.

The letter is critical of not only the government but also to the previous behavior of vice-chancellors themselves, which it claims have “thus far lacked co-ordination and purpose”. The letter further reads “It is our hope that by providing a clear and unambiguous statement of their positions, university administrators, staff and students can engage in greater and more productive dialogue on the future of higher education”.

“Don, do you support the heaping of debt onto young people and the privatisation of undergraduate teaching. Yes or no?”

George Disney

The University has recently announced a drop of 600 undergraduates enrolling in Southampton this year following a drop in applications by nearly 8%. Vice Chancellor Don Nutbeam previously described this years drop in suitable students as a “wake-up call for the entire university community”.

SSfE protesting at Highfield campus before the fees were raised.

George Disney, organiser of Southampton Students for Education, has called for a straight answer from Don Nutbeam.

“The policy shambles over the summer that has led to a crash in student numbers in Southampton has highlighted the damage the government’s higher education reforms are doing. Also with students starting next week commonly incurring debts of £40,000, we think that it is about time Professor Nutbeam tells us what he really thinks about the Coalition’s university policies.

With the support of over 90 senior academics it is clear that university lecturers and students alike oppose both the massive increases in student debt and the removal of public funding for teaching imposed by the Coalition. But I still couldn’t tell you what our Vice Chancellor’s position is on this.

All that new students want to ask is “Don, do you support the heaping of debt onto young people and the privatisation of undergraduate teaching. Yes or no?”

The letter, which appeared in the Guardian yesterday, can be read here.

For more articles and features  concerning the rise in fees check out the first issue of the Wessex Scene magazine, available from Monday at all Freshers events, and around campus and halls.

 

 

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