Following a recent report from the Confederation of British Industry, Week One saw a group of students gathered in the Trent Courtyard to protest a suggested hike in tuition fees and cuts in student support. The report argued that inevitable cuts in finance would need to be borne by students instead of teaching budgets, and that businesses should take up the slack by sponsoring undergraduate students for more courses. It was backed by the Russell Group, a collaboration of research universities which includes the University of Nottingham.
The students – led by former SU exec member Matthew Butcher – felt that education should be free for all at the point of need in contrast to the Greenaway Report, written by the current university Vice Chancellor and published in 2000, which argued that the future income of students was the only secure source of increased funding for universities due to relatively low public expenditure on higher education.
Butcher argued, “It isn’t fair that university is still a middle class thing,” and that further exposing the funding of universities to market forces would hamper social inclusion: “Poor people will simply go to worse universities,” he said. A statement by the protesting group continued this argument, arguing that, “Education is not a product.”
The issue of British university funding is not a new one. A report in 2008 by Sir John Chisholm called for the introduction of unlimited tuition fees in an attempt to free universities to concentrate on teaching instead of meeting research targets for government funding.