A short piece for Epigram Online
Last week, our Vice-Chancellor, Sir Eric Thomas signed his name on a letter from Universities UK (UUK) to The Times, in which the 19 signatories declared that the Labour Party’s potential plans to cut tuition fees from £9000 to £6000 would “not help poorer students” and “risks the quality of education for all.” Thomas should be ashamed of himself, because all he has shown to us is his inability to breach an exceptionally dangerous norm.
There has been an enormous amount of unrest over tuition fees, both nationally and here in Bristol, and the likes of Thomas who manage our universities are not answering our questions. The reason why Thomas thinks our students should be paying £9000 per year is down to the drive for academic production. After much toiling for a straight answer on where our money is going in recent months, it seems that a good deal of our fees are going towards research and development. What Thomas wants to be able to say is that Bristol University has achieved X, Y and Z in the last year, published X amount of papers and is at X place on whatever league tables. The emphasis is on production; like his fellow UUK board members, Thomas believes as long as Bristol is achieving things that can be measured in numbers, then progress is being made. Our universities have become knowledge businesses at the immense sacrifice of their own students.
Our Vice-Chancellor has shown himself to be an unimaginative donkey because he is standing up for numbers and not for people. England currently has the highest tuition fees in Europe, and perversely most students will graduate with an average £43,500 debt that they will not even be able to repay. In February last year the Commons Public Accounts Committee said that the total value of outstanding student loans was forecast to quadruple from £46 billion to around £200 billion by 2042 in today’s prices. So the government is losing money, crippling its students with debt and making a misery of my generation, and yet still Sir Eric Thomas, who is in a position to raise his hand and point out the absurdity of this situation, chooses to stay on the side of the argument that will most likely lead to tuition fees being entirely uncapped. Our Vice-Chancellor is a selfish buffoon for being so complacent.