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Vice Chancellor: Browne Review — ‘the best & only way’

After the release of the Lord Browne report the Vice Chancellor David Eastwood wrote a letter to the students of the University pressing the need for higher education to implement their suggestions. The letter is available in full below:

Dear Student

Over the next few days you will no doubt hear in the media about the recommendations of the Browne Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Support. I wanted to write to you directly to explain why I believe that the review’s proposals offer a very good deal for students and a fair and progressive way forward that will enable universities to provide a high quality education on an affordable basis. These recommendations will not, of course, affect anyone currently studying for a degree.

If the recommendations are adopted by government no-one will pay fees up-front. Graduates, not students, make a contribution to the cost of their higher education, and they will only do so when they are in work and can afford it.  Graduates will contribute only when they are benefiting from their higher education.

There will be new quality guarantees and greater student choice. These proposals will mean that universities must provide open and transparent commitments to guarantee students the right kind of information, the right amount of teaching, and the right quality of learning.

There will be a generous system of support for student living.  The grants for the least well off will be increased, and no-one should be deterred from studying by the cost of their maintenance. Where families can contribute, they will; when then can’t, students will receive grants.  All students will benefit from loans which, again, they repay only when then can afford to do so. There is a new flexibility too.  Part-time students will enjoy the kind of support both for tuition and living that the current system denies them.

It is also important to recognise the wider context in which we find ourselves. Our universities are a huge success story, second only to those of the United States in terms of reputation, quality, and impact. But despite this success government spending on higher education will not be maintained at the current level; we are in line for deep cuts. It is critical to maintain the academic quality of UK higher education and continue to enhance the student experience so that universities are able to meet student expectations and the nation’s needs. We need to be bold and imaginative in seeking alternative solutions to maintain the UK’s world class universities.

Some have set their faces against student fees, while not understanding how a progressive system would work and not appreciating the dire alternatives.  When you read Lord Browne’s proposals you will see the best way, and perhaps the only way, to maintain a high quality, flexible higher education system which gives all who can benefit from higher education the opportunity to do so. If the government adopts these progressive recommendations, we will achieve the higher education system our country needs and that our students deserve.

The full report will soon be available at http://hereview.independent.gov.uk/hereview and you will be able to read my answers to a range of questions about the review’s recommendations on the BBC News website later today.

Best wishes
David Eastwood

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