Cherwell - Oxford University's Independent Student Newspaper since 1920

Article Info

Website pageviews: 2133

About the Author

Eleanor Bley Griffiths has published 25 articles

Hertford Principal to chair fees commission

Will Hutton will lead investigation into the impact of the rise in university tuition fees
Eleanor Bley Griffiths on Friday 3rd February 2012
Photograph: Chris Edwards

Hertford’s Principal, Will Hutton, will be chairing a new independent commission looking at the impact of the tuition fee rise.

Fees for British and EU undergraduates are set to rise to £9000 from September at many universities, including Oxford. The commission will produce reports assessing the impact of the increase in fees on application and admissions trends in universities. Hutton explained, “It is incredibly important that we provide an independent check on the biggest reforms for Higher Education in a generation, particularly looking at what impact higher fees have on prospective students from less privileged backgrounds.”

Though many claim to know what the impact of raised fees will be, the picture is far from clear. UCAS figures released on Monday showed a 9.9% drop in applications to English universities for 2012, but applications are still higher than they were three years ago. Applications for Oxford have held steady.

Hutton said of his position as Principal of Hertford, “It’s made me ever more aware of the issues at stake - and many students not just at Hertford but across the university are very alert to what it is going on, and attach great importance to equity of access. I have been impressed in the few months I have been here by the commitment of both the university - and not just my own college which has a long tradition in these matters but nearly all the college community - to promoting access.” He also pointed out that “this is much bigger than either Hertford or Oxford. This is a policy that affects all of England.”

Oxford’s student party associations indicated support for the enterprise, with Miles Coates, President of OUCA, commenting that while he supports the Coalition’s tuition fee reforms, “no student should be prevented from going to university for lack of funding,” and the commission “will facilitate a constructive debate about the impact of tuition fees going forward, and enable universities and the government to continue to improve access to higher education.”

Lib Dem city council candidate Robin McGhee, a student at St Anne’s, agreed that the commission was useful, but cautioned that “the creeping privatisation of universities will substantially reduce the quality of education, destroy Britain's international edge in higher education, and almost certainly reduce opportunities for those from less well-off backgrounds to go to university.”

Many Hertford students were proud to see their Principal at the head of the commission. Finbar McLoughlin said, “Will's a good guy, I'm sure he'll do a sterling job.” Tom Fleming added, “As he's a top lad, I completely trust him,” while another student commented, “Will's a babe and I trust him implicitly.”

However, even with Hutton at its head, many were sceptical that the commission will have much of an impact. McLoughlin pointed out that past studies have not been acted upon, continuing, “Surely it is a bit late to launch an investigation now. I don't think for a minute that even if the report says 'this is the worst idea ever' the government would act upon it, given it would signify a massive climb-down and the reversal of a policy that they have only just implemented.”

Steven Wenham, a finalist at Hertford, commented, “Surely it's an important step, but Hutton's reputation as a left-wing looney will not win him support across the political divide. I doubt he had the stature and cross-party support necessary to produce something that will really impact on the tuition fees debate.”

Hutton stated, “We will be keeping an open mind; the aim will be to produce a dispassionate and authoritative analysis of the data as it emerges.

“It’s important because what is planned is a vast social experiment, and British society needs an independent and impartial assessment of the impact. We aim to provide it.”

Comments