The £16,000 "Oxford price-tag" will cement the university as a bastion of privilege

Raising the tuition fee cap will reduce access and turn Oxford into a university for the rich

The University of Oxford has a nasty habit of making headlines. So when vice-chancellor Andrew Hamilton made his annual oration to the university last week, he must have known that the content of his speech would be explosive.

The Independent would soon be running the headline “We need tuition fees of up to £16,000, says Oxford vice-chancellor Professor Andrew Hamilton”; The Mail would choose “Oxford University’s plea to charge higher tuition fees”; while student paper The Tab would go for “VC demands fees of up to £16K”, augmenting its article with an image of a be-horned Hamilton surrounded by flames and banknotes. The tuition fee debate has been opened once more.

Read more: Oxford students condemn their own vice chancellor for talk of £16,000 tuition fees

It is, to my mind, inexcusable of the vice-chancellor. Oxford already has a reputation of being a university of the privileged and wealthy, and what hope can we have of removing that stigma if the wealthy are soon to become the only ones who can afford to come here?

Even the very suggestion of raising tuition fees to the heady heights of £16,000 per annum - and that’s on top of living costs - would surely make any aspiring Oxford applicant baulk. While students from well-off backgrounds may shrug at an increase in Oxford tuition fees (fees at Harrow are already set at an alarming £33,285 per year), those who are less well-endowed would have to consider most carefully whether a place at Oxford is really worth the £48,000 a three-year course would cost them.

The argument used to suggest that Oxford somehow deserves to charge higher fees is that its world-famous tutorial system provides a better education for its students than what can be found in other universities. Prof Hamilton says the cost of an Oxford education is £16,000; if this is true, then in purely economic terms each student currently represents a loss of £7,000.

Yet we cannot look at this in purely economic terms. Students are not financial transactions, they are projects. Projects which often donate vast sums of money to their alma mater in later stages of their lives in any case, and who should not be treated as cash-cows to balance the university’s books.

To be sure, Oxford does provide a fantastic educational opportunity to those who make the most of it. As a PPEist, I receive 10 hours of contact time per week. Eight of those are lectures, which I believe to be interesting but by no means vital to academic success. The other two hours I spend in tutorials. I certainly get a lot from those two hours. Whether I get £330-worth, which is what each tutorial would roughly be worth should tuition fees increase, is questionable.

Students I have talked to about this issue have used the phrase “the marketisation of education”. It is a phrase I think sums up the situation perfectly. For Prof Hamilton to tie the university’s name to a suggestion of increasing tuition fees yet further is entirely irresponsible. Those in the higher echelons of the university organisation insist that access is of the greatest importance to them, that encouraging state school students to apply is one of their top priorities. As a former state school student I would not have considered wasting a UCAS application on an institution charging me £16,000 a year.  

And in any case, Oxford University is enormously wealthy - wealthy enough to pay its vice-chancellor a yearly wage of £424,000. That would cover a year’s worth of tuition for nearly fifty students, at the current rate. Given the choice, I’d pick those fifty students over Prof Hamilton any day of the week.

Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
News
i100
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage: 'I don't know anybody in politics as poor as we are'
i100
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: 1st Line IT Support - Surrey - £24,000

£20000 - £24000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support Helpd...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Audit Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Audit Graduate Opportunities ar...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

SThree: TRAINEE RECRUITMENT CONSULTANT - IT - LONDON

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £50k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 bus...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015