University fees and ‘The only way is up’?

There is an interview with Sir Christopher Snowden in the Times Higher, with the title.’ The only was is up, but there are different routes.’ The ‘up’ refers to university fees, and comments on views from the  VC of Oxford that fees need to go up. Funding for HE is a complete mess,  and the new system as far as I can see, is unsustainable (see Andrew McGettigan’s book). The article states:

Figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility show that the impact of student loans on public debt will peak at 6.7 per cent of gross domestic product (£103 billion in today’s terms) in the early 2030s. “That’s a sobering thought. And that’s on £9,000, of course,” Sir Christopher said.

The article discusses how other countries fund HE. All well and good. But what is lacking is any sense of how universities need to look hard at their costs. 2, 3 or 4 year degrees? Contact hours? Core functions versus extended roles? Value of a degree? Value of certification? Good teaching, and research, are expensive, but too many universities are playing at being big corporations, without paying enough attention to the value of their product. Income is one thing, but spending is the area that needs more attention first. What does any spending contribute to the core activities of teaching students, and undertaking research. And how does the cash flow between these two core activities. If times are tough, much else needs to be stripped back.

Post by Jonathan Rees

Clinical academic and skin watcher at the University of Edinburgh

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