LEEDS University and its student union have jointly condemned the Government’s higher education reforms for creating a “volatile” market which has reduced people’s chances of going to a top university.
The statement also warns that the drop in student numbers since top level tuition fees of £9,000-a-year were brought in is not in the best interests of the country.
It urges Ministers to explain how the student loan system works to ensure that the higher fees do not put off students or their parents from going to university.
This year tuition fees have been almost trebled to a maximum of £9,000-a-year while university teaching funding from Government has been slashed.
Students do not begin to start paying this off until they have graduated, however, and started earning more than £21,000.
The higher education reforms introduced this year also include measures aimed at making universities more of a market place
Universities are allowed to recruit an unlimited number of students who achieved two As and a B or better at A-level but have had the number of students they are allowed to recruit who achieve below this standard cut.
Universities have also lost places to allow the Government to ringfence 20,000 places nationally for universities and colleges which charge an average of less than £7,500-a-year for courses.
The joint statement says these reforms have “created a volatile and unpredictable pattern of student recruitment across the sector and has reduced the opportunity for students to study at Russell Group universities. The Government is urged to reconsider these policies.”
The statement calls for international students in the UK to be exempted from the country’s net migration figures – in line with systems in the United States and Australia. It also says international students with valid visas to study in the UK must be given reassurances that they can complete their studies.
Viv Jones, Leeds University’s pro vice chancellor, said “The university and Leeds University Union will continue to work together in partnership to address the important issues that are facing higher education today.
“I hope that our joint statement – showing as it does that the university and our students share many of the same concerns – will carry weight with policy makers as they shape plans that will affect the future of this sector.”
A spokesman for the Leeds University Union executive said: “As a union we strive to make sure the opinions of Leeds students are heard on issues that matter to them.
“By working with the university to express our shared views, we’ve sent a strong, clear message to the Government about areas of their policy that we are concerned about.”
Vince Cable yesterday has acknowledged that the rise in tuition fees has affected university applications for some subjects including arts and humanities.
The Business Secretary said that the increase in fees last year “is having an impact on non-science, non-engineering subjects”.
He said that while applications from disadvantaged students have not decreased, there has been an effect on applications from adults – who make up 40 per cent of all university students.
He added: “Rather controversially the system of financing students has radically changed. I don’t want to go into arguments for and against it.
“What we have introduced is a form of graduate taxation. Some people like that system and some people hate it. We introduced it because it was the only way universities could maintain the high standards they’ve got.”