Prime Minister mistaken at PMQs to suggest fees regulator has powers to set levels

30 March 2011 | last updated: 11 December 2015

UCU calls for legislation to protect independence of research councils

UCU today said that David Cameron was wrong to suggest, at Prime Minister's Questions, that the university access regulator, OFFA, would set fee levels for some universities.
The government had previously mistakenly thought that OFFA had the power to set fee levels, but the regulator's chief executive, Sir Martin Harris, recently confirmed that it did not. More on that story can be found here.
UCU said the spate of universities wishing to charge the full £9,000 a year fee had left the government's university funding policy 'economically and morally' flawed. The union said it was encouraging that, in the exchange with Labour leader, Ed Miliband, the Prime Minister said he wanted universities to pay their staff more.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Universities are in a very difficult position as they try to set fees for a new untried system. The new system is flawed both economically and morally and the government needs to urgently think again.
'The government has got its sums wrong and cannot afford universities to charge higher fees, however it does not have the regulatory power to do anything about it. It is not right to ask the brightest brains in this country to be guinea pigs for an unfair system that has not been properly thought though.
'It was encouraging that the Prime Minister took time to state that higher pay for lecturers was an important part of ensuring UK universities remained amongst the best in the world. It would be even more encouraging if he backed up those words with proper funding for our beleaguered sector.'