Professor Bernard King, speaking at the University of Abertay Dundee’s graduation ceremony yesterday (Thursday, 6 July), was referring to recent press reports that some Scottish universities wished to charge full tuition fees and raise more money from the private sector, so as to compete internationally.
Universities saying this tended to be the ones that received less than 50%, sometimes as little as 30%, of their total income from the public purse, he said.
Professor King pointed out that international competitors such as the USA’s ‘Ivy League’ universities were entirely private, charging full fees for those who can afford it but also providing scholarships for the less well-off.
“Coincidentally, those Scottish universities least dependent on the public purse enrol many students who have already been paying up to £30,000 per annum in public school fees, and for whom a Scottish university education is, by comparison, a real bargain,” he said.
“Perhaps the time has come for a full debate on whether this type of subsidy for the wealthy should continue. Perhaps, for some institutions, there is now an opportunity to be bold and to opt entirely out of the state funding system and go private, charging fees comparable to Harvard and to public schools in the UK (and providing scholarships for the less well-off).”
Professor King said that universities opting to go private would “free themselves from what they decry as the shackles of state regulation,” but warned that the result would be to break up the traditional diversified Scottish higher education system funded wholly or largely by the taxpayer.
He said: “We have to ask whether the traditional model is still affordable, and whether it is wise to continue drifting towards a world in which universities merge and become ever more monolithic solely in pursuit of ivory tower ambitions for academic glory on the world stage.
“Universities that wish to forgo their public funding to chase such dreams can do so. The funding saved could be re-invested in modern universities like Abertay where…they will get a much better return on their investment and which…produce graduates and knowledge that directly address the needs of the economy,” he said.
Professor King cited a report published last month by the Campaign for Modern Universities as evidence of the economic benefits on offer from institutions like Abertay.
“(The report) showed that every pound the taxpayer spends on research at Abertay and universities like it attracts more than twice as much money from UK industry and four times as much from the European Union as every pound spent in older universities,” he said.
And he quoted former education secretary Estelle Morris writing in The Guardian last week, who praised modern universities for this achievement and said that Britain must recognise their unique contribution to the country’s industrial base.
Professor King said that getting the best possible return from the taxpayer’s investment was particularly important when pressure on the public purse was so intense, yet funding was so limited.
“This fundamental concern is particularly important for Scotland, now that Scottish universities are having to face the increased competition posed by English universities set to enjoy greatly increased funding from top-up fees next year,” he said.
Addressing the graduates directly, Professor King said: “Now that you have graduated and are set to embark on challenging and rewarding careers, you might well wonder what any of this has to do with you. It is simply that, as universities become ever more important for lifelong learning and to support the knowledge economy of the future, you as the taxpayers and lifelong learners of the future will want to know that universities are being properly run and funded – and your money wisely spent - for the benefit of the economy.
“Everything we teach, and all the research we do, is delivered in accordance with our mission to make a disproportionate impact on society and the economy,” he concluded.
Kevin Coe | alfa
New Master’s programme: University of Kaiserslautern educates experts in quantum technology
15.03.2017 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Decision-making research in children: Rules of thumb are learned with time
19.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences