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Russell Group to make own policy on fees and pay

Jul 31 2003 14:21
Oliver Pell
The group representing 19 of the top universities in the UK is pushing for the government cap on tuition fees to be raised to ?5,000.
Imperial College is one of the 19 members of the Russell Group.

The Russell Group, representing the top 19 universities in the UK by research income (including Imperial College), appears to be changing status from a "talking shop" to a genuine competitor to Universities UK, the umbrella organisation representing all universities in the UK. The group has advertised for a full-time paid national executive and is setting up a policy making committee to be in place before the Government's plans to allow universities to charge up to £3,000 a year tuition fees are put to Parliament. Diana Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, is quoted in last week's Times as saying "we work well with the Russell Group...and I have discussed how this close involvement will continue."

The group appears to be proposing that although the top universities will continue to be represented by Universities UK on many issues that are considered universal they would break away on some issues - such as pay scales. Top academics in Britain earn significantly less than their US equivalents.

To increase the amount of money available to them, the Russell Group is proposing that tuition fees should be capped at £5,000 rather than the £3,000 currently suggested. The universities would expect to use the extra money to invest in better facilities and higher salaries in order to compete internationally though would presumably also use some of the extra money to boost their scholarships and bursaries for poorer students.

At present it does appear that the government's aim of creating a "market" in higher education with different institutions charging different rates of fees has been an abject failure, with almost all institutions gearing up to charge the full £3,000 a year fees as soon as possible. The Russell Group are arguing that more of a market is likely to emerge with a £5,000 cap since it is less likely that all institutions will charge the maximum possible amount.

However, news has emerged that Scotland's two Russell Group members, Edinburgh and Glasgow universities, are not expected to join any of the Group's moves for separate policy on pay or fees. Sir Graeme Davies, principal of Glasgow told this week's Times Higher Education Supplement that they " do things differently in Scotland". Last year both universities came out in opposition to top-up fees, reflecting a political reality in the devolved Scottish parliament where 3 of the 4 political parties are opposed to them.

The Aldwych Group, representing the students' unions of the Russell Group universities, responded to the news with a statement indicating that the unions are "increasingly worried by the selfish approach adopted by [their] parent institutions". Can Okar, Chair of the Aldwych Group, said that with its bid to increase the cap of tuition fees, "the Russell Group is undoing all the good work it has done in recent years to widen access".

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Discussion about “Russell Group to make own policy on fees and pay”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Jul 28 2003 18:49

Oliver, shouldn't you be on holiday?!

Jul 28 2003 19:51

He should be revising the constitution, for in 4 days, he is Council Chair.

Jul 28 2003 20:59

Just to add to the misery for those who already have large student debt take at look at the new interest rates for student loans,

happy summer holidays.

Jul 29 2003 01:38

How overjoyingly nice. On a typical three-year debt such as my own (say ?13000 as a baseline estimate), that amounts to about ?33 a month interest growth, a not insubstantial amount.

Under the current repayment system (9% of income over ?10k), anyone earning between ?10k and ?14.5k will not be repaying quickly enough to negate the interest growth. Assuming the same percentage is maintained with the increased starting freshold of ?15k this range rises to ?15k-?19.5k, rapidly approaching the rumoured average graduate starting salary of ?20k.

The worst is, this is somewhat approaching a best-case scenario: a four-year student on full loan could easily expect debts approaching ?20k, and medics' loans must be astronomical, making repayment *much* harder.

Kinda makes consider the relative merits of being unemployed :-)

5. ...   
Jul 29 2003 09:25

If students are so broke how come most of them don't bother doing any form of paid work during term time, they still go out drinking and the majority can afford TV's, Videos, CD systems and mobile phones?

Reduce debt by reducing luxury's for a start...

Jul 29 2003 11:36

Hang on, I've never known anyone at uni to go out and buy a TV or video by themselves. Most people either bring them from home, have them as part of the furnishings of wherever they are renting, or club together and buy collectively.

I'm not sure how you define luxury, but if you ask most people in the country whether trying to live on ?5k a year in the most expensive city in the country (if not Europe) fits the bill, I don't think many would agree.

But this is a digression. We're supposed to be discussing the huge avoidable debts after uni, rather than the poverty during it.

If you leave Imperial with about ?15k worth of student loan and pretend it's just a graduate tax that you'll have to pay until retirement age, you can get away with earning just over ?17k a year, using the new interest rate.

If, however, you actually want to treat it as a loan and try and pay it off before you're 30, you'd better start looking for a job with a staring salary of at least ?31k.

Hmmmm ...

Jul 29 2003 11:43

And that's before you've even considered adding top-up fees into the equation.

Jul 29 2003 16:41

And don't forget us poor sods who have signed up for PhD's...

9. stef   
Jul 29 2003 19:08

maybe you should substitute 'mad' for 'poor'

Jul 30 2003 11:11

And don't forget to start saving for your pension :(

Jul 31 2003 18:07

In reply to Barry:

I though interest rates in the UK were at an all time low.... as is inflation (to which Student loans are tied).

Closed This discussion is closed.

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