...By Lola Smith for TDPel Media.
The head of a Welsh university, Professor Edmund Burke, emphasized the necessity of increasing university tuition fees in line with inflation during a session with the Welsh Affairs Committee.
With inflation running at 10%, the current fees of £9,000 per year for studying in Wales and £9,250 in England are deemed unsustainable.
Professor Burke also stressed the importance of higher fees from international students to subsidize inadequate domestic tuition fees and support research efforts.
This discussion takes place amidst concerns from Welsh universities about funding shortages since Brexit, resulting in stagnant fees and potential job losses.
Dependence on EU Structural Funds and Potential Job Losses:
Welsh universities have reportedly relied more heavily on EU structural funds compared to other universities in the UK.
As these funds are coming to an end, it is estimated that up to 1,000 higher education jobs could be lost in Wales.
The committee was informed about the significant impact of EU structural funds on Welsh universities and the potential consequences of their discontinuation.
The Unsustainability of Fixed Fees:
Professor Burke passionately argued for an increase in domestic fees, highlighting the unsustainability of fixed fees across the UK.
He stressed that inflation running at 10% and fixed fees pose a future problem that must be addressed.
The current differential of £250 in Wales does not alleviate the overall issue. Regardless of whether the fees are £9,000 or £9,250, a fixed fee structure is unsustainable, and urgent action is needed.
The Vital Role of International Students:
Professor Burke emphasized the crucial role played by higher-paying international students in filling funding gaps for research and domestic fees.
He warned that international fees are currently keeping institutions financially stable.
Professor Colin McInnes from Aberystwyth University concurred, stating that international students are necessary to bridge gaps in other funding streams.
Determining Tuition Fees and Government Responsibility:
When questioned about appropriate tuition fees and who should bear the cost, Professor Burke advocated for at least aligning fees with inflation to achieve some degree of sustainability.
He noted that fixed prices in the face of a 10% inflation rate create an unsustainable situation.
Determining university funding is ultimately a government responsibility that requires urgent attention, as the current system is untenable.
Challenges in Replacing EU Structural Funds:
The committee had previously sought the opinions of eight Welsh universities regarding the conclusion of EU structural funds.
All universities expressed difficulties in finding alternative sources of funding, which may result in the termination of research projects.
Concerns were raised about the bureaucratic and complex nature of applying for funds through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, compounded by varying approaches among local councils.
Reliance on EU Structural Funds and Deprived Areas:
Professor Colin Riordan of Cardiff University highlighted that Welsh universities appeared to be more reliant on EU structural funds due to their location in deprived areas, which made them eligible for the funds.
The head of a Welsh university has urged for an increase in university tuition fees in line with inflation, citing the current fixed fee structure as unsustainable.
The dependence on EU structural funds and the potential loss of jobs in Welsh universities have further compounded the financial challenges they face.
The role of international students in supporting research and domestic fees was emphasized.
Ultimately, resolving these issues and ensuring the sustainability of higher education funding falls within the realm of government responsibility, requiring urgent attention.