Oxford students have hit out at their vice-chancellor, after he said he wanted to hike tuition fees to as much as £16,000 per year.
In a strongly worded letter, JCR presidents from 23 of Oxford’s undergraduate colleges told Professor Andrew Hamilton that he had “failed them”.
“We note with disappointment that the vice-chancellor has used this opportunity to shift the focus of the debate towards increasing student fees instead of lobbying for further funding from Government,” they wrote, “and we view this as a serious failure in his duty towards current and future students and Oxford University’s opportunity to attract the most able students disregarding their financial background.”
The signatories, each representing college populations of up to 400 undergraduates, were also concerned that the proposed fees hike could affect admissions.
“Oxford now has, from a low starting point, a lot of excellent work in access and outreach and a very impressive student financial support programme. All this good work would be sabotaged by a near-doubling of the tuition fee... we urge the vice-chancellor to reconsider his new view and to consult with students and with those working in access and outreach on the consequences of such a course of action,” they wrote.
In an oration given a few weeks ago, Prof Hamilton had argued that university fees should reflect the services being offered, and that the current £9,000 cap left “a chasm” of more than £70 million a year “that Oxford has to plug”.
“What matters surely is that an institution’s charges are clearly aligned with what it offers and that they are demonstrably not a barrier to student access,” he said.
His comments sparked an angry reaction from students and academics alike, with Oxford’s senior SU president Tom Rutland branding them “unthinkable”.
“I'm really pleased to see our JCR presidents have shown real leadership on this issue on behalf of their members and future students - it's so important to stand up for publicly funded higher education and to stop the raid on students' wallets,” Mr Rutland told The Independent.
It is not the only crisis facing the university this year. Earlier this month dons vowed to strike over pay, working conditions and “zero-hour” contracts. It is understood they will begin the strike on Halloween, walking out of lectures and tutorials.