University criticism by English politicians could have ‘unintended consequences’ for Wales says Vice Chancellor
The rhetoric of some English politicians who have claimed that “too many” students go to university could have “unintended consequences” for higher education institutions in Wales, a Vice-Chancellor has said.
Prof. Elizabeth Treasure of Aberystwyth University, who became chair of Universities Wales last month, said that she worried that UK Government claims that students did not earn enough after graduation to justify having studied for a degree could have an impact over the border.
England’s former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson set out the government’s vision in February, stating, “we need universities and colleges to work together to address the gaps in our labour market”.
But Elizabeth Treasure told Times Higher Education that it was “too narrow to look at outcomes as being finance-driven”.
“There’s far more that graduates give back in terms of ability to think, to analyse, to problem-solve, etc,” she said.
“Why are you defining it as too many students? Have you got a range of options for young people and older people and returners to choose from? We need to identify where the jobs are and what sort of skills people need for them – let’s look at the transferable skills people gain by doing degrees.
“I personally believe it’s very reasonable to go to university and study something you’re passionate about for three years.”
Elizabeth Treasure added that England should follow Wales’ example on widening access to students. Wales provides a generous student support package, including £10,530 maintenance funding for students living away from home.
“In my opinion, England should look to us to replicate that level of support,” Professor Treasure said.
But any change to tuition fee levels announced by the UK Government would also impact universities in Wales, she added. England’s universities currently charge £9,250 but a drop to £7,500 has been suggested, which would force Welsh Universities to drop their own fees to remain competitive.
“Whatever happens, we will have to respond to whatever announcements are made in England,” Elizabeth Treasure said.
“And, we’ve made this point to ministers, Wales needs time to respond to that. We will have to move quickly if the fees are cut in England.”