Reporter 406, 22 September 1997

University response to Dearing Report

University Vice-Chancellor Professor Alan Wilson has expressed concern at Government plans for students to fill the funding gap identified in the Dearing Report on higher education. Urging the Government to adopt Dearing’s recommendation for increased public spending on the HE sector, Professor Wilson regretted the controversial introduction of tuition fees and pledged to “do everything we can to minimise the effect of these measures on students.”

When the long-awaited 1700-page Dearing Report was published in July, the University welcomed proposals to lift the cap on student numbers and to widen access to HE. However, Education Secretary David Blunkett quickly dispelled any hopes of increased public funds, at least in the short run. Critics believe his means-tested fees plan could deter potential students from lower income families. Some observers, notably Nick Barr and Iain Crawford (Guardian Higher 2.9.97), argue that a more equitable solution to the HE funding crisis would be to allow universities to set different fee levels and for the linking of student loans to future income to be collected by the Inland Revenue.

Discussion of such alternatives is likely to intensify with the publication of the Government’s White Paper, expected before the end of the year. Meanwhile, two University briefings on the Dearing Report are being held next month. The briefing for the Senate takes place on 8 October, 5pm in Lecture Theatre 22. The briefing for the Council takes place the following day, 5pm in the Great Woodhouse Room.

• As the Reporter went to press it was announced that Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett is to offer universities £100m extra revenue next year.

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