Glasgow University to Raise Tuition Fees for rUK Students: SRC and QMU Respond

The University of Glasgow has announced that tuition fees for English, Northern Irish and Welsh students will rise to £9,250 per annum beginning in Autumn 2017. The SRC and the QMU have responded expressing concern and dismay over the decision, which was taken without adequate student consultation.

Reprinted below is an official response from the SRC Executive in the form of a public letter to the university Principal, Anton Muscatelli (originally published 18/10/16).

“Dear Principal Muscatelli,

Re: Decision to increase Tuition Fees for rUK Students

We are writing to you to express our serious concerns over the recent decision to increase tuition fees for students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland (rUK). It will not come as a surprise to you that we are extremely unhappy with the increase to £9250, our other significant concern being the lack of consultation and the speed at which this has been approved.

We understand that future consideration is being given to charging rUK students for four years’ tuition instead of the current three, and hope that there will be an opportunity for full consultation before such a decision is made.

At a meeting between the SRC Executive and yourself on Monday 10th October, our Vice President for Education, Kate Powell, raised the question of University of Glasgow tuition fees with you, following the decision by Edinburgh to increase fees for rUK students. We also reaffirmed the SRC’s absolute opposition to fee increases. Unfortunately, it appears that Court chose to ignore the student view and proceeded to agree the increase to £9250 on Wednesday 12th October. In the current climate, we think it important to reaffirm our belief, and we suspect yours, that education is a right and not a privilege.

To return to the matter of student consultation, we were extremely disappointed that we were made aware of the potential fee increase just two days before the meeting at which the decision was taken. This is not reflective of the atmosphere of mutual respect and meaningful consultation in which we usually operate and we wish to stress our discontent at the failure to engage with us earlier on the matter.

This decision to increase fees conveniently and openly followed Edinburgh’s increase. If the University of Glasgow’s philosophy is to act in line with other institutions regardless of independent judgement, does this mean that all such future decisions will be predicated on the decisions of other institutions rather than our own? Interestingly, neither recruitment nor reputation were affected when the University took the decision to charge students for three years rather than the four years charged by many of our competitors. We’ve always strongly believed, and are sure you share this view, that Glasgow should be a world changer and not a follower.

Throughout its strategy, this University asserts the enormous value it places on the cultural diversity we gain from our Scottish, English, Welsh, Northern Irish, EU and international students. In times of uncertainty for our EU students, a further cultural gap created by the potential decrease in the proportion of rUK students at Scottish Universities is the last thing we need. We oppose fees for students and we want to reiterate that any further decisions should involve the student voice.

Perhaps equally pertinent are the considerations that the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) will allow Universities in England to raise their fees further if they meet a certain level of accreditation, and that Scottish Universities, ourselves included, are reluctant to join the TEF as they will be disadvantaged through the metrics used to determine accreditation. We therefore also posited that a decision from the University of Glasgow not to increase fees would constitute a strong political statement against the marketisation of universities.

We believe that the TEF will have a detrimental effect, not just on the University of Glasgow but on the entire Scottish Higher Education landscape. As other Scottish Universities are breaking ranks by going against the ‘different but equivalent’ plan and joining TEF Level 2 instead, we need reassurance that we will not be entering this level and that if any considerations are made, the student voice needs to be heard. We must be closely consulted by the University, a process which was clearly lacking from this decision on fees.

We realise that a fee increase at any institution will never have students’ support, but the complete lack of transparency or involvement of students within your discussion, as well as the hastiness with which the increase was passed, leaves us deeply worried for future discussions with the University. We seek your reassurance that you are prepared to fully engage with us on any future discussions around fees. In the absence of such reassurance, your cavalier dismissal of the impact on your students looks to be a very slippery slope.

Yours sincerely,
The SRC Executive 2016/17″

[Ameer Ibrahim, Mhairi Harris, Erin Ross and Kate Powell]

The QMU came out in support of the SRC Executive’s letter in an official post on social media yesterday:

“The QMU would like to echo the concerns raised by the SRC in the below letter to our Principal, Professor Anton Muscatelli. The total disregard for the opinion of students demonstrated by the haste with which the decision to increase tuition fees was made, and the lack of prior consultation with students is deeply troubling. As the student pound is devalued and with the cost of living constantly on the rise, the last thing students need is to have to pay more for their degree. We at the QMU feel that there has been no adequate justification provided by the University for this change, and we are immensely disappointed by its approval (if not entirely surprised).

We are also very concerned about the possibility of charging for four years rather than three, and fully support the SRC in their requests for more thorough consultation with students before any decision is made. We are 100% against any move towards such an increase in fees and will do what we can to support the SRC in opposing it. We urge you all to attend the Open Meeting to oppose the rise in fees that will be held in Qudos on Thursday from 6:30pm if you, like us, feel that this is an unacceptable and deplorable decision.”

The open meeting on Thursday will be hosted by the Glasgow University Labour Club, and all are welcome to attend. More details can be seen on the Facebook event.

Image: University of Glasgow

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