£9k fees “Don’t add up”: Cambridge staff attack University’s calculations

24 February 2011

The University announced yesterday that it would be seeking a vote of support from all academics to increase tuition fees to £9,000 from September 2012 – despite accusations its figures “don’t add up”.

A graph at the heart of yesterday’s lengthy announcement in the University Reporter purports to show that the only way Cambridge can replace the funding gap created by government higher education cuts is to charge students the full £9,000 fee.

However, serious concerns have been raised over the way this conclusion has been reached. Among other hidden costs, undergraduates would be expected to pay for the entirety of a £4.2m cut to the government’s Historic Buildings Fund, even though Cambridge’s buildings are used by academics and postgraduates as well.

Still more worryingly, the University’s call for £9,000 fees is based on predicted cuts across the entire government teaching budget, without differentiating between cuts to postgraduate and undergraduate teaching. This forces undergraduates to fund taught masters courses, as well as their own degrees.

University Computing Service staff member Bruce Beckles, who has been analysing the University’s figures, told The Cambridge Student that “a crude approximation” would suggest undergraduates will be funding postgraduate study to the tune of £4m a year.

Beckles pointed to  significant “scaremongering” by the University, adding, “Observe that charging £6,000 fees, instead of £9,000 fees, just for a year only actually means we fail to make an additional £6m or thereabouts (because of the extra amounts we have to spend on fee waivers, bursaries, etc. if charge £9,000 fees).  Given our annual turnover and the size of our endowment, particularly after the 800th Anniversary Campaign, we could afford that, as a strictly limited measure, without even blinking.”

The Reporter’s Notice announcing a vote states that University Council discussions leading up to the £9,000 fee recommendation “included senior University and College representatives and the President of Cambridge University Students’ Union”. What the Notice omits is that at least two Colleges involved in those discussions strongly disagreed with its recommendation, as TCS revealed two weeks ago.

Furthermore, CUSU President Rahul Mansigani intended to submit a formal ‘note of dissent’ expressing his disagreement with the decision. Publication by the University of a Report, rather than a Notice, would have allowed for dissenting opinions to be registered.

CUSU plans to challenge the University by organising an amending vote asking Council to charge fees only at the level required “to replace the cuts to… grants in support of undergraduate teaching” and to maintain bursaries at their current level.

James Burton – News Editor

Photo: gierszewski