Minister's sums don't add up in plea to universities to charge lower fees

1 March 2011

UCU said today that the universities minister, David Willetts's attempts to encourage universities to limit fees to around £6,000 for arts and humanities courses showed that he had lost touch with what is happening in universities.

The union said that most universities run a mixture of lower priced arts and humanities courses and more expensive studio or lab-based ones, so their average fees are already higher than the minister had calculated.
Responding to David Willetts's speech to the British Academy, UCU said the minister also appeared to be ignoring the fact that universities are reeling from new restrictions on overseas students and cuts to research funding.
UCU has calculated that universities offering arts and humanities subjects will have to charge £6,863 on average at current prices for courses at these levels to break even. The union said its analysis made a mockery of the minister's claim that universities focusing on arts and humanities need not charge more than £6,000 a year.
The union's findings reveal that every single English institution with undergraduates would have to charge more than £6,000 a year just to plug the funding gap created by huge cuts to teaching budgets. The average fee would need to be £6,863. The full UCU analysis: Universities will have to charge £7,000 annual fees just to break even
The union went on to say it was astonished that Mr Willetts had the nerve to suggest that axing entire arts and humanities teaching budgets was a sign that the subjects were valued by government.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'David Willetts is wrong to suggest that universities offering mainly arts and humanities degrees can recoup the funding he has axed with fees of around £6,000. Put simply his sums don't add up and his working out is flawed. Our own research shows to replace the money he has cut, the average fee needs to be almost £7,000. The government urgently needs to look again the severity of its university funding cuts.
'I am absolutely amazed that the minister had the audacity to tell the British Academy that, although the government had removed the entire arts and humanities teaching budget, the subjects were still valued by the government.'

Last updated: 14 March 2019