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Anastassia Beliakova has published 22 articles

Review 'hiding decisions' over tuition fees

Accusation against Russell Group of concealing plans to raise tuition fees
Anastassia Beliakova on Thursday 29th April 2010
Photograph: Department of Energy & Climate Change

OUSU this week accused the Russell Group of universities of concealing its plans for tuition fees until after the general election.

 26 of Oxford's JCR Presidents signed an open letter that publicly condemns the decision of the Russell Group to withhold their submission to the Browne Review, which examines fees and university funding.

 OUSU criticised the Russell Group for "collaborating with the government's independent review of higher education funding to suppress evidence submitted to the review."

 "As student representatives, we find it disingenuous and underhand that the UK's elite universities do not feel that they have a duty to share their submission to the Browne Review with the general public, and indeed their current and prospective students."

 The Review, chaired by Lord Browne, is evaluating how much students should pay to go to university and is considering options such as raising fees or charging a more commercial rate on student loans.

 A Freedom of Information request by OUSU to force the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to publish the documents submitted by the Russell Group has been rejected by the Department.
OUSU has now published the full e-mail exchange on its website. 

The Department has refused to release the documents, saying it is respecting the request for confidentiality of the Russell Group.

It has also said cited an exemption under the Freedom of Information rules which states that "it may not be in the public interest for information to be released prematurely and out of context." 

"Our fears that it's little more than a smokescreen for raising fees have been confirmed", said OUSU VP for Access and Academic Affairs, Jonny Medland.

 "The Russell Group is not entitled to special treatment and should release its vision for universities like everyone else," he said.

All other institutions published their evidence to the review in late February.

 OUSU President Stefan Baskerville called for the Browne Review to come clean about its work with the Russell Group. "All three major parties are hiding behind the Browne Review to avoid saying how they'll fund universities," he said.

"Now we see that the Review is more interested in working with universities to suppress debate than listening to students.

 "It's time that politicians and the Review came clean on what they think about student fees. We're days away from a General Election where this has barely been discussed."

 However, the Russell Group has denied wanting to conceal its intentions, saying that its submission was a draft document that needed to be seen in the context of a complete report, due to published in the next few weeks.
"We are working on our own independently researched report into the issues surrounding the funding of higher education which we anticipate will be completed in the next few weeks," a Russell Group spokeswoman told the BBC. 

"We submitted our early findings for this report to the Browne Review in time for their first deadline and asked the review team to treat our advice as confidential" 
"There is and has always been an intention to publish our final analysis of the issues addressed in the submission." 

James Evans, a first-year PPE student at St Hugh's, said, "If there really wasn't an issue with raising tuition fees then the Browne Report should be made public and the Russell Group should come clean.

"With the forthcoming election a key issue for students is education and tuition fees. I'm already coming out of university with a £20,000 debt, so it's an important issue for me if tuition fees will be increased and will probably affect my vote."

 

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