Vice-Chancellor: Government cuts “cannot be of benefit” to universities

Elsa Maishman 18 September 2015

In an interview with Times Higher Education, the Vice-Chancellor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz has said that Cambridge is not lobbying the government for variable tuition fees. According to him, it costs £16,700 per year to educate an undergraduate, but the University can cope with current £9,000 tuition fees due to the good performance of its investments.

Sir Leszek also called the government's decision to allow universities to increase fees in line with inflation from 2017-18 if they perform well in the teaching excellence framework a 'contentious issue' and said that Cambridge would be ''concerned about increases in fees because of the problems that it would cause to individual students or their desire to access higher education.''

A second-year History student commented that ''regardless of the access issues involved, the Cambridge method of teaching would cease to provide value for money if fees were raised. 

"As a humanities student, I already pay £9,000 for very few contact hours with teachers.''

When asked about the 25 per cent and 40 per cent cuts the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has been asked to model of its budget Sir Leszek said: “Cuts of this sort cannot be of benefit to the sector. We have to think of the whole higher education sector as one of Britain’s best and most important export industries.”

Sir Leszek's views on tuition fees are in stark contrast to those of his University of Oxford counterpart, Andrew Hamilton. In 2013, Professor Hamilton said that top universities should be allowed to charge significantly higher tuition fees than those which provide a less prestigious education, and that it seemed 'a little odd' that every degree 'regardless of content and quality' was valued at the same price.

He put the annual cost of an undergraduate degree at £16,000, and unlike Sir Leszek said that Oxford University could be under threat if no more money could be found to plug the shortfall.

In his interview, Sir Leszek highlighted the difference between Oxford and Cambridge, saying that "we are distinctive organisations with our own strategies and directions," and calling the word 'Oxbridge' a "complete mythology".