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The Higher Education Bill: Notice

2 February 2004

Commenting on university funding and tuition fees in their Notice proposing a Cambridge bursaries scheme (Reporter, p. 230), the Council said that they had concluded that they were likely to recommend to the Regent House a significant increase in the fees paid by Home/EU undergraduate students, along the lines of the Government's proposals in the White Paper published in January 2003. The Council also said that their conclusion was to be taken in the context of the extended bursary scheme which had been developed, based on the existing scheme operated by the Colleges through the Isaac Newton Trust. They would make a definitive recommendation to the University when the parliamentary process was further advanced. The Higher Education Bill has recently been given a Second Reading by the House of Commons and the Council now set out their further views, in particular on the proposals in the Bill.

The Council are of the view that the Government's proposals, a combination of a variable fee (up to a maximum of £3,000 a year) with a Graduate Contribution Scheme, can provide a welcome although limited increase in the University's resources. The Council welcome the better provisions for students with disadvantaged backgrounds that are now included in the Bill. Subject to the further parliamentary passage of the Bill and to its final shape, they expect to report to the University recommending that Composition Fees for 2006-07 should be set at levels that take advantage of the new arrangements. Final proposals cannot yet be agreed but they will need to take account of the results of financial modelling which, as reported previously, suggest that teaching in the University is underfunded by some £24m a year. The calculations underpinning the new bursary arrangements assumed that the University would charge the maximum fee permitted on all courses. If enacted the proposals will not alone provide the necessary additional resource for Cambridge to remain in the top rank of universities worldwide; Cambridge, and the Higher Education sector nationally, will need further substantial recurrent and capital funding and the Council will be looking to develop other independent revenue streams and for further support from the Government.

The Council have been pleased to note the positive reaction, both within Cambridge and more widely, to the bursary arrangements described in their previous Notice. As soon as the parliamentary process permits, they will make definitive proposals to the University in a full Report and in the meantime will publish Notices from time to time to keep members of the University informed. They will shortly be initiating discussions with the Colleges and the Trustees of the Isaac Newton Trust about the funding of the bursary scheme.

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Cambridge University Reporter 4 February 2004
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