The Students Union have spoken out about the Government’s plans for using a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) to allow English universities to increase their fees. The scheme was put forward in a green paper – a document which is given to both members of parliament and those outside for consultation and feedback – on Friday 6th November.
This scheme, if followed through, will mean that universities which are awarded a “Level 1 TEF Award” will be allowed to charge higher fees than the current £9000 limit. The Government have proposed this idea to deal with issues of misplaced funding due to Higher Education Institutions being judged on their research levels, rather than their teaching.
Whilst the Students’ Union recognises that concentrating on the improvement of teaching is a good thing, they are not happy with the potential increase to fees and what this will mean for higher education. In a statement they said: “The Students’ Union strongly opposes and does not support this.
We believe teaching quality should NOT be incentivised with money by allowing institutions to increase tuition fees leading to the marketisation of our education system.” Most English universities would qualify for a “Level 1 TEF Award” as it is largely based on feedback from students when they have completed their degree.
This will mean that the universities with the best teaching levels will also become, or be able to become, the most expensive universities. According to the Students’ Union: “Increased tuition fees for higher preforming universities means the education system will become elitist so students from lower socio-economic backgrounds may not be able to afford to go to top universities.”
Whilst this will not directly affect Cardiff University, there is other legislation along the same lines which will. The removal of higher education institutions from the Freedom of Information Act, for example, will mean that students are no longer entitled to question their universities over numerous issues.
Just recently People and Planet filed, and received, an FOI regarding the University’s investment in fossil fuels. This led to the revelation that the University currently invest over £2 million in companies directly associated with fossil fuels and a motion at the AGM passed for the Students’ Union to lobby for divestment.
If Higher Education Institutions become exempt from the Freedom of Information Act groups will not have access to information such as this. The University will no longer face the same accountability, as students will not have the means to query issues such as spending, diversity and staff pay or be able to back claims with official figures.
This Green Paper comes after the announcement that the student loan repayment threshold will be frozen at £21,000 for the next five years. The Guardian has reported that this will mean students paying back around £3,000 extra due to the threshold not increasing with inflation.
This freeze will work retrospectively, affecting those who have been in Higher Education since 2012.
The Government are being widely criticised for these decisions and many think it will lead to a lack of diversity in universities, as those who are less financially stable might be deterred from going into higher education.
It is hard to imagine that these new policies will not receive a widespread backlash from students, many of whom are still outraged at the original rise in tuition fees, introduced in 2012.