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HE reaction Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 17:15 GMT
Universities uncertain about reforms
Cambridge University
Cambridge was concerned about the effect of top-ups
Universities have welcomed the extra funding given to them under the government's funding review, but are divided on the issue of top-up fees.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke announced that universities would receive an annual increase of 6% in funding over the next three years.

The umbrella body which represents university chief executives - Universities UK - says the White Paper contains a number of proposals to ensure that the sector remains competitive and responsive.

Diana Warwick, the chief executive of Universities UK, said: "The White Paper makes a generous acknowledgement of the successful contribution universities have made.

"It also contains many detailed proposals which we will now be looking at very carefully."

Imaginative

Individually, universities see different good and bad points to the proposals.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, Professor Eric Thomas, said: "This is an imaginative and balanced response to a difficult set of issues.

"There are many points in the White Paper that we must consider and debate thoroughly, but overall this is a good day for all those with a real commitment to the future of higher education."

The Vice-Chancellor of Brunel university, Steven Schwartz, is also generally pleased with the package of proposals.

The College will continue to lose in the region of 1,000 per student per year

Imperial College
"Mostly I think it is good news for universities," he said.

"There is more money for the sector and the opportunity to increase fees but in a fair way.

"Students can pay back the fees when they can afford them."

For Imperial College, London, the proposals on top-up fees do not go far enough because it had wanted to charge more than the 3,000 limit.

It had already drawn up proposals to charge fees of up to 15,000.

A statement from Imperial said it was "disappointed that an historic opportunity to provide the means for the country's best universities to raise sufficient private funding for their continued success has not been fully taken".

"Even with the 1,900 maximum increase in fees, the College will continue to lose in the region of 1,000 per student per year," it said.

The university is also unhappy about plans for an "access regulator" to check institutions are doing everything possible to attract applicants from poor backgrounds.

Sir Richard Sykes, Rector of Imperial College London, said: "Imperial College's admission policies and procedures are based on academic merit whatever the background of the student.

"The issue at Imperial, as elsewhere in the UK and abroad, is that of quality of the supply.

" Universities should not be expected to address problems of schooling, peer pressure and family expectations found in some parts of society."

Backgrounds

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Sir Alec Broers said: "We welcome the indication that under-funding of the university sector is to be tackled.

"Cambridge intends to remain at the forefront of international teaching and research, and to continue to be one of the world's top universities.

"That means we need to continue to recruit world class academic staff, and for that we need additional resources."

"We will need to look closely at the proposals to charge higher fees.

"Cambridge has long been making strenuous efforts to widen access. We already have a very generous bursary scheme and will remain committed to admitting the most able students, regardless of their backgrounds."

Professor Diana Green, Vice Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, said she was encouraged by several aspects of the White Paper.

"The paper will need more detailed analysis, but on first reading, it looks as if the secretary of state has reacted to the concerns many of us expressed that the commendable aim to widen participation in higher education would be hampered unless student debt was seriously addressed," she said.

David Gibson, the chief executive of the Association of Colleges, which represents colleges teaching over-16s, said: "We want to ensure that students entering higher education from local colleges have access to every sort of higher education, and for that reason we are opposed to the introduction of top-up fees."

See also:

22 Jan 03 | HE overview
22 Jan 03 | HE overview
16 Jan 03 | Education
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