Student and academic leaders have issued a joint call to University of Glasgow senior staff to showcase the higher education institution as “socially responsible” and effectively undercut rivals in the setting of tuition fees for rest of UK (RUK) students.
The president of Glasgow University Students’ Representative Council (SRC) said a real opportunity existed to Scotland’s third largest provider for English, Welsh and Northern Irish students to distance itself from the likes of Edinburgh and St Andrews who last week opted to charge the maximum of £36,000 from next year.
A sub-committee of the university’s ruling Court is to meet to deliver a final verdict on how much RUK fee-paying students are to be charged with indicative levels announced prior to the end of September.
Glasgow can be expected to join Aberdeen, Heriot-Watt and the Glasgow School of Art in capping the cost of a four-year degree at around £27,000 if middle ground between neighbour Caledonian University and its more prestigious colleagues is sought.
Edinburgh University along with St Andrews are to become the most expensive places to study across the whole of the UK with £9,000 fees across the full four-years.
And in an exclusive interview with The Journal, SRC head Stuart Ritchie insisted the city’s largest higher education institution was ideally placed to promote a favourable image with incoming students in the wake of decisions by Scottish competitors.
He said: “I think we can safely say that there is an opportunity for Glasgow to come out as the socially responsible university at the top of its game.
“As a university that has just moved up 20 places in the world rankings, is third in the Russell Group for National Student Survey results outperforming Edinburgh in terms of student satisfaction and overall happiness with the university, outperforming Edinburgh in terms of our jump up the league table… and with a smaller market share of RUK students, I think there is a real opportunity for the university to be innovative and say Glasgow will be socially responsible.
“There is a real opportunity and that is what we are pushing for. There is another meeting of the working group in the next couple of weeks. I can categorically say a decision has not been made and can’t be made until that group meets again.
“I think we’re clear about the direction we’re going but what level we’re at yet and how it would be divided that’s really what the questions are about. How it will be split up and how it will be supported – those questions have still to be answered.”
Ritchie, who sits on the working group tasked with drawing up conclusions to be presented before University Court on October 12, also fired a veiled parting shot at other student associations’ such as Strathclyde who have adopted an offensive campaign strategy ahead of senior decision makers delivering a final announcement.
Ritchie added: “People will say we’ve been quiet on the fees front. And that has been deliberate because it is a decision where I do feel the university’s hand has been forced and we’re trying to work constructively with the university.
“I personally saw very little benefit in having a big splashy campaign which could potentially backfire as it did in Edinburgh.”
Dave Anderson, President of the Glasgow University branch of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), warned of a “very real risk” the institution could be seen as attempting to cash in on lucrative RUK students should fee levels rocket.
He said: “Universities have been trying to maximise income for years, but to use RUK fees as a cash cow not only disadvantages academically able RUK students from less well off backgrounds, it could also put at risk the quality of education available to home students.
“Edinburgh's rush to have the most expensive degrees in the UK is indefensible. Glasgow have yet to set an RUK fee, and the feeling amongst staff is that the level should be set as cost neutral to ensure we maintain RUK student numbers and avoid the accusation of profiteering.”
A spokesman for the institution said: “The University of Glasgow is in the process of deciding what level of fees to apply and will announce this in due course."