Financial and Business|

Vince Cable Warns Universities of Trouble for Overcharging

UniversityVince Cable, the business secretary has given universities a warning about charging high fees. He says that these universities will face cuts in places if they don’t offer good value to students. In a speech to vice-chancellors, he said that some universities need to seriously think about a narrower mission as institutions teaching specialties. They need to think along the lines of liberal arts colleges across the Atlantic instead of just increasing fees to offset cuts.

The latest university to set a higher tariff is the University of Leicester. The school says is doesn’t have another option but to charge more due to £31.5 million in cuts. Their new tariff is £9,000 for next year. However, it’s Cable’s belief that universities need to consider cheaper ways to offer services. His example was 6th-form colleges, where students can get a year of teaching for just £4,800. Having less intensive classes at universities will leave students wondering why they are so expensive.

The business secretary went on to warn that universities could face sharper competition from new institutions that offer high standards, lower prices and more vocational qualifications that can get students right into a job. They will need to consider if assumed links between price and public reputation will work in their favour or not, he continued, as, fundamentally, the ones setting the most expensive tariffs should be offering the best to their students – particularly in regard to teaching and employment.

Cable expected to see a fuss about creative thinking in how to redesign courses and manage workers. He may be missing something, he scrutinised, but he hasn’t seen a lot of this going on. While the government looks to regain control of overall student numbers, they are reviewing how to let more popular and cost-effective universities expand.

Ministers will support expanding student numbers at institutions that offer lower priced courses, including private providers and FE colleges, Cable noted. They intend to help providers grow if they offer places students want at prices they want. The consequence is that institutions not offering recognisably good value but high prices will be seriously squeezed. Aside from the money issue, the government also wants more students to be accepted into the university of their first choice, required they get the grades.

However, National Union of Students (NUS) president Aaron Porter says the ministers are trying to present themselves as television police enforcers but resemble the Keystone Kops. It’s shameful that the government is passing the blame of universities charging higher fees when its the government that presided over the creation of the funding system that encourages universities to do so. Ministers are facing consequences that all but them saw when they rushed in to change tuition fees, he added.

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