Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, has signed an open letter condemning proposed lowering of tuition fees.
Eastwood is one of twenty Vice-Chancellors and Professors singing an open letter to The Times condemning Labour’s plan to reduce university tuition fees to £6,000 a year if they form a government in May. This letter warned that ‘at least £10bn of additional public funding would need to be found and ring-fenced over the course of the next parliament to close the gap’. It has also claimed that ‘cuts to universities that would damage the economy, affect the quality of students’ education, and set back work on widening access to higher education’.
They have also argued that the reduction would hurt people from poorer backgrounds and the government should seek to increase financial support to help better cover living expenses.
Vice-Chancellors from other universities, such as Surrey, Stafford, Brighton and Liverpool have also joined Eastwood in condemning Labour’s pledge.
Eastwood has said that ‘both new Labour and the coalition have taken bold decision to support higher education. They have been rewarded with a highly efficient system and some of the world’s finest universities. The priority must be to sustain that system and address real-terms reductions in funding we face.’
Liam Byrne, Labour’s higher education spokesman, has commented, ‘it is crystal clear that the student finance system is going bust, saddling students with debts most will never repay of £43,500 on average and costing the taxpayer more than the system it replaced.’
Labour introduced this pledge at its Party conference in 2011. Labour has said they will pay for the cut in fees by reversing a cut in corporation tax for banks. Graduates earning over £65,000 would also have to pay higher interest rates on their loans than others. Their overall plan is to shift toward a Graduate Tax in the future.