“In an ideal world, I am absolutely clear we should have free education”

That is what Vice Chancellor Steve West said in an exclusive interview with WesternEye after signing a letter opposing a reduction of tuition fees. He continued, “If we were able to afford that as a society, that’s where we should be.”

Credit: Alex Cousins
Credit: Alex Cousins

Last month Labour leader Ed Miliband announced that his party would lower tuition fees to £6000 in September 2016 if in government.

In a letter from Universities UK sent to The Times last month, University of the West of England Vice Chancellor Steve West, along with Vice Chancellors from a number of universities, urged that lowering tuition fees to £6,000 would be “implausible”, and that this proposal from the Labour party “risks the equality of education for all.”

In an exclusive interview with WesternEye, Professor West clarifies the reasoning behind his plight to keep fees at the maximum.

“The amount of money that the university gets in, I have to protect. So whether that comes with a fee from the students, which is what it does at the moment, or government taxation, I don’t mind, providing it’s kept at the level I’m currently getting.”

“My running costs increases year on year but the level of income from the fees is flat. So in real terms I’ve got a decline. As Vice Chancellor of this university I have to maintain that the income that we receive is maintained in real terms”.

West explains that price hikes in tuition costs have occurred as the cost of higher education has increased, and government decisions are behind tuition fee funding, and argues that while he can lobby politicians, no political parties are proposing a tuition fee backed solely by government funding.

He later states, “Labour is proposing to continue with a fee of £6000 and then make good the difference to £9000 through some form of taxation”.

West further explains that higher fees do not only provide the university with a sustainable future and resources for students, but universities charging the higher fees of £6000 to £9000 also directly widen participation.

“Universities that are charging higher fees are required to use a proportion of the funding they get to explicitly support low participation groups and disadvantaged families”.

He finishes the interview by commenting of the £9000 per student per year fee, “I’d like it to be more- of course I would- because then I could do more for the students. But there is a trade-off”.

By Alex Cousins