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The Vice Chancellor made his first-ever visit to LUSU Council in Week Two, to give a presentation to officers on the new tuition fees regime and Lancaster’s widening participation agreement.
Professor Paul Wellings, accompanied by Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Bob McKinlay, spoke to around thirty JCR and Cross Campus officers about fee arrangements following the decision to set Lancaster’s tuition fees at £9000 from October 2012. Professor McKinlay outlined the terms of the new agreement Lancaster is entering into with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA).
Under this agreement, Lancaster must commit to levels of financial support, outreach and retention to widen access to the university once fees increase. A plan has been formulated to offer a £5000 bursary to all students whose household income is under £25,000. This will be split into a ‘3-1-1’ package with £3000 awarded in the first year and £1000 in the final two years. Subject to OFFA’s agreement, the initial £3000 will be split further into £1000 for a fee waiver, an accommodation voucher and cashback.
Following the presentation Wellings and McKinlay answered questions from students which covered potential consequences of new fees for Masters students, enhancing the student experience and student perception of fees. Both were keen to stress that although the fees will almost triple in 2012, the government’s cuts to Higher Education mean that the income the University receives will stay at approximately the same level.
“There hasn’t really been a massive change as far as university income is concerned,” said McKinlay. “A question about ‘What are we going to get in the £9K world? Are we not going to get three times what we got in the £3K world?’ – the answer unequivocally, if we’re going to be honest, is that you’re not going to get three times what you got in the £3K world because income hasn’t gone up.”
Wellings remarked during his speech that efficient use of resources is vital.
“How do we use the resources we’ve got most effectively in order to make sure that the academic expectation of the next generation of students [is realised]?” he said. “How do we build and drive a first class university for the future?”
During the question period, Fylde JCR President Ste Smith raised the issue of investing more money in student space, to which both Wellings and McKinlay replied that comparatively speaking Lancaster has too much student space rather than too little.
“The last thing in the world we need is actually more space,” said McKinlay. “It’s using the space well and making sure space is suitable for particular purposes [that’s needed].”
Speaking to SCAN after the meeting, Smith said: “I was initially surprised to hear that the last thing we need is more space, but perhaps Professor McKinlay is right and we do have the space at Lancaster, but we’re clearly not utilising it in the right way to ensure that our clubs and societies have the right type of space when they need it.”
LUSU is currently bidding for space in the old sports centre building, something LUSU President Robbie Pickles is ‘feeling quite positive’ about despite what he referred to later on in the meeting as ‘guarded’ comments from the Vice Chancellor during the discussion.
“The ‘guarded’ nature of comments in forums such as this is inevitable […] the issue is one which was discussed by University Management the following week and it is normal not to give too much away in advance of discussions,” Pickles told SCAN afterwards.