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The University of Southampton

The future of Higher Education

Published: 23 January 2003

The following statement has been made by the University of Southampton's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bill Wakeham, in reaction to the Government's White Paper, The future of Higher Education:

"We welcome the priority that the Government has accorded to the current plight of higher education in the UK and to its future direction and development, particularly in light of the Government's recognition that universities play a central role in economic development."

The White Paper has major implications across the full range of higher education activity, and beyond. These will take considerable time to absorb, particularly because they will lead to the creation of a new market in higher education. However, specifically on the financing of the HE system, we welcome the recognition that universities need more income. If the country's HE system is not to be financed solely by universal taxation, we prefer to see a system in which the finance is found from the major beneficiaries of higher education-the graduates themselves. A system of repayment based on income levels after graduation will have less of a deterrent effect on those from poorer backgrounds than other options. For this reason we endorse the notion of the abolition of up-front tuition fees. We also welcome the recognition that universities will need access to the additional resources generated by student contributions as quickly as possible, so that students can benefit from the increased provision.

As a university we will continue to aim to recruit the same high quality of students as in the past. We remain completely committed to the notion that any student who is able to benefit from the courses we offer should be able to do so, and we will be looking to ensure that everything possible is done to offer financial assistance for those in need.

In this context we regret the need for the introduction of an Access Regulator to an already over-regulated system. While this post is intended to control access and to regulate the activities of individual universities against targets, it needs to be recognized that there are many aspects of the issues surrounding access and ability to undertake HE for which universities are not responsible and which are beyond their control. These extend to other parts of the education system and to wider issues of culture and society.

We welcome the White Paper's emphasis on concentrated research excellence, since a critical mass in research is a crucial component of world-class activity.

We also warmly endorse the White Paper's recognition of the need to reward teaching excellence. This is entirely consistent with our own objectives.

We await further clarification of the ideas that are contained in the White Paper and will now be discussing the implications of the Paper on the University's strategic direction.

Notes for editors

The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £235 million.

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