Deputy vice-chancellor defends Lincoln’s £9k fees

The university’s deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Scott Davidson, has defended Lincoln’s decision to charge £9,000 for tuition fees come 2012 — saying that although they could have broken even with less, the extra money will allow the university to make significant improvements around campus.

Davidson says that when making the decision they had to take into account the recent funding cuts, such as the government removing the teaching grant. Although the figure £7,500 was said on numerous occasions as an amount that would allow the university to break even, but this meant it would keep the place running as it is at the moment by “paying the staff, making sure that we were able to maintain buildings,” says Davidson.

Professor Scott Davidson spoke to The Linc about Lincoln's decision to charge £9,000. Photo: UoL

This means they had to consider a surplus figure to “reinvest in buildings, replace kit and develop the amenities on site”, as well as creating more bursaries for new students.

Asked whether he thinks Lincoln is worth £9,000 per year, Davidson noted that students pay for much more than just simply their course: “I think what you are paying for is not simply your course. If it were only your course then yes you would be looking at lower contribution. But what you are looking at is the provision of the total environment, the provision of the teaching facilities.”

The majority of students who come to study at Lincoln are from the local area and to ensure that they still want to go to university the university are working on telling upcoming students what the new funding system means and have “a good pool of money” to create a number of bursary schemes.

Davidson explained: “At least half our students coming to the university in 2012 will receive some kind of financial assistance from the university and that a third of our students will receive scholarships for up to £3,000. Those £3,000 scholarships are for students from low income households, of incomes below £25,000.”

However, there is an understanding from Davidson that students will expect much more from the university now: “I think students are going to expect a much higher level of provision, they are going to expect really top notch facilities, they are going to expect really good amenities. And we need to provide our students with the very best kit to make sure they are being educated to an industry standard.”

The plans to improve the university include building the Artbox to rehouse the art students and fashion students on the Brayford Campus, finish the Engineering School and improve the library as well as updating the computer structure.

With the majority of universities opting to charge the full £9,000 a year for tuition fees, Davidson admits that Lincoln were looking at what other institutions were planning on charging: “Certainly we were keeping an eye on what other institutions were doing.”

He said: “We were looking at similar institutions, institutions that were a similar level in the league table, similar institutions in the University Alliance [a group of institutions of which Lincoln is a member] and of course we were looking at what the indicator might be if you went for £8,800, would that signify a lower quality in the mind of prospective applicants? We don’t really know if that’s the case or not.”

Davidson says that they do have other plans for funding in place saying they are “not a one trick pony” as they aim to get 15% of the student population to be international students, get more postgraduates studying at Lincoln and more research and consultancy income.

“So even if we do see a drop off in the number of undergraduate students we are pretty convinced that the evolving character of Lincoln as a university with a more differentiated mix of students will help us overcome any of those problems,” says Davidson.

However, Davidson says that he is “appalled” at the decision of the government to charge for higher education in the first place saying in his opinion it should be free: “Philosophically if the government hadn’t put us in this position we wouldn’t be doing this we would be at one with them in saying that this shouldn’t happen… but we have a responsibility to ensure that the university survives.”

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