by LAUREN CODLING
THE chancellor of a top UK university has welcomed a yearlong government review, which
will address the issues of tuition fees and university funding.
Lord Swraj Paul, chancellor of Wolverhampton University for more than two decades, told Eastern Eye on Monday (20) that he welcomed prime minister Theresa May’s announcement to evaluate the post-18 education system.
“The matter definitely needs to be addressed,” Lord Paul said.
“These are very changing times and it is one of the most important issues of any nation – education.”
In launching the review, the prime minister admitted the higher fees had not resulted in the “competitive” market that was initially hoped for.
May added that university students in England faced one of the most expensive systems in the world and the charges “do not relate to the cost or quality of the course”.
“I’m not surprised,” Lord Paul remarked about the excessive charges. “It is unfortunate.”
Tuition fees were first introduced in the UK by the Labour government in 1998. From September 2012, universities in England raised tuition fees to up to £9,000 per year.
However, May has noted scrapping fees altogether would not solve the problem, arguing it
would raise taxes and limit the number of places available in institutions.
The prime minister added it was “only fair” that students who benefit from higher education should contribute towards the cost of it.
Lord Paul, who is the longest chancellor of any university in the UK, shared similar views to May, stating he did not favour the idea of scrapping tuition fees altogether.
“Both parents and the students gain more because they see it has cost them money,” he explained.
Having graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1952, Lord Paul
stated how “grateful” he is for the opportunities he had within higher education and regards it as a beneficial time in his life.
“I’m a very strong believer in education and I think it adds a great value to the country,” the industrialist, who set up the Caparo group, said. “More than ever, we need it, especially after Brexit, because we are going to be short of trade people.”
The review will also consider ways of reintroducing maintenance grants for poorer students,
as it is shown those with lower incomes apply for bigger loans for living costs, meaning they graduate with greater debts.
Referring to higher fees restricting options for disadvantaged students, Lord Paul acknowledged it “sadly” can happen.
“That is a very sad part that it does – in Wolverhampton, we have this situation. We aren’t the richest area of the country, but we try to help some students.
“Any way of compensating those who are not well off will be a great service to the nation.”
In a statement, the education secretary Damian Hinds said although the post-18 education system “has many strengths,” questions regarding costs needed to be addressed.
“With a system where almost all institutions are charging the same price for courses – when some clearly cost more than others and some have higher returns to the
student than others – it is right that we ask questions about choice and value for money,” he said.
He added: “We also need to look at the balance between academic study and technical education to ensure there is genuine choice for young people and that we are giving employers access to a highly skilled workforce.”
Advised by an expert panel from across post-18 education, business and academia, the review is due to conclude in early 2019.
“I hope something comes out of [the review] because, sometimes, a lot of these things start and then they get kicked in the grass,” Lord Paul said.