Welsh Universities – The Brink of Disaster

It has been with increasing dismay that the news feeds have come through, another day, another Welsh University looks to cash in on the magic number of £9,000. It seems almost inevitable now that the entire Welsh higher education network is going to dig its claws into the cash pot, no University in Wales will be free of £9,000 tuition fees. In some respects, who can blame them? The second one Welsh University made its position on the issue of fees clear, it really was only going to be a matter of time before the rest followed. With the Assembly (using the newly selected title of Government just doesn’t sit right yet) set to write off much of the financial implications of such a move for students, Welsh Universities have a free hand, and can largely do as they please on the matter.

However, on far too many levels this does not sit well. Initially, whether the costs for the student are largely written off or not, the implication is very clear. Come to a Welsh University, and expect the same level of tuition as that which can be found in Oxbridge. Should fees be thought of in these terms or not is irrelevant, because this is what fee levels imply. And for much of the higher education network in Wales, this would be a bold and a fallacious implication to allow to be circulated. In all honesty, can Newport, Glamorgan or Bangor stand by such an implication, do they believe that they offer the same standards of education and tuition as the highest ranked Universities in Britain, indeed the world? Believe it or not, the pressure must surely be on these institutions to raise their game; ask for this much money, expect to deliver on it.

However the real problem rests not in the short term horror factor of the fees themselves going up, but in the ability of the Assembly to maintain their positive intentions of protecting Welsh students from fee increases. It must be seen, that in the University landscape across Wales, where all institutions are charging the maximum amount, it is completely unsustainable for the Assembly to cover the costs. In many respects, with a seemingly shrivelling graduate employment sector, can such a move be justified to the tax payer footing the bill? It cannot be sustained, and sadly, due to the gluttony of the Vice Chancellors across the country, it will not be sustained. Then what, a switch back to pre tuition fee rise levels? Unlikely, the arrogance and self serving nature of those running higher education in Wales will greedily hold on to the £9k fees, most likely pushing for more. And as they push, they will succeed in only pushing students, both Welsh and non-Welsh, away from Welsh Universities, and sign their own death warrants in the process.

The Assembly’s motives in protecting students from fee hikes were admirable, and should be commended. But the greed of the Universities will see these noble intentions ruined, and in doing so, see to their own ruin. With every additional Welsh University unfurling the banner of £9k fees, another coffin is driven into the existence of our higher education existence.

A sad day.

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