Poorer students could be put off by fees, university boss admits

POORER students could be put off from going to university once fees start to skyrocket, London Met’s top boss has admitted.

London Metropolitan University, which has campuses in Holloway Road, Holloway, prides itself on catering for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

But even this university will have to put up fees once Government funding is withdrawn – and it is looking at charging in the region of �5,000 to �7,000 a year.

University fees are currently capped at �3,290 a year.

Vice-chancellor Professor Malcolm Gillies, who pointed out that nearly 60 per cent of the university’s 2008-9 students were from manual-occupation families, said: “I think the scheme that is being proposed by the Government is flawed. I think it could become harder for poorer students to study here.

“Poorer students will be put off by the size of the debt they are incurring. It’s a 30-year loan that they are potentially taking out. Many families will have a lot of concerns about signing up to that level of debt.”

The university is already in the red because of historic Government funding problems.

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It owes �36.5million to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) after inaccurately reporting the number of students on courses. So far, only �2.5million of that has been paid.

HEFCE has also reduced the university’s annual grant by �15million.

And between 2012 and 2015, Government money looks set to be withdrawn altogether as universities are told to fund themselves.

Last academic year, London Met made around 350 redundancies.

It is currently looking at cutting another 44 – which will mean the possible closure of the Learning Development Unit and fewer staff in the IT department and the computing and humanities faculties.

And in the long-term, the university will have to put up tuition fees, concentrate on the more profitable courses, and generally cut back on expenditure.

Professor Gillies said: “At the moment, the Government pays half the cost of a UK student. By 2015, the Government will pay none of that and the student will have to pay all of it.

“I wouldn’t expect London Met to go as high as �9,000 a year tuition fees. But it could be between �5,000 to �7,000 a year. That will have to be worked out.

“I wish to remain committed to our focus on students from poorer backgrounds but we also have to balance our books.

“The university also has to look at how it grows income. Such as any teaching courses that generate more profit. If students don’t wish to study certain courses but are queuing up to studying others, then obviously you start to adjust.”

Professor Gillies hopes the changes will secure London Met’s future in difficult times.

He said: “I would hope that there are not going to be massive changes. That’s why we are getting in early.

“I think the university will come out of it leaner and more focused. I think we all look on it as inevitable.”