The first OUSU Council meeting of the term has failed to reach a decision on whether to lobby the University to restrict tuition fee rises.
A vote on the motion was postponed to allow for wider student consultation, although many JCR representatives said that they thought there had already been enough opportunity for this.
Whilst keen to consult with students, OUSU President David Barclay stressed “We can’t afford to wait on this”.
The motion, put forward by Barclay, proposed that OUSU should “lobby the University to set a fee level below £9000” and “establish fee waivers for students from the lowest income backgrounds”. It costs £16,000 a year to teach an Oxford undergraduate.
Although the motion recognised that “charging over £7,200 will secure the short-term financial future of the University”, Sutton Trust research cited in a separate motion suggested that “£7,000 is [the] level of tuition fees that begins to deter applicants from applying to university”.
At an Oxford Education Campaign meeting on Monday, member Kit Jackson described OUSU’s motion to lobby the University to limit fees as a “cop out.”
“The [university fees] vote may have happened, but that is no reason to back down from the position that there should be no increase in fees. We will continue to campaign for not raising fees at all.”
When asked how Oxford would react if Cambridge were to set a higher fee level, Barclay stressed that the lobbying plans would concentrate on the raise this year and that fees were expected to go towards the top end of the scale in the long run.
The meeting attracted a high turn-out. Many students expressed that the lobby needed to be well targeted, including Sébastien Fivaz, the OUSU representative for Christ Church JCR, which previously came out in support of the government’s tuition fee rise.
He said, “The University must not just simply set a good “headline fee”: the priority has to be actual help for students.
“The decision to postpone should send a really clear message that OUSU is actually consulting.”
The University Council in Ninth Week will make the final decision on the fee-level. Student representatives will be invited but it is not yet clear how many.
One member of the Executive pushed to lobby for a fee level below OUSU’s proposed £7,200. He stated that OUSU cannot be “too reasonable” and let the University “walk over us”.
One St Anne’s student presented himself as a “proponent” of a higher fees level, suggesting that the University was a “luxury good” and should avoiding looking like “the budget option.”
A Teddy Hall student responded by describing education as “not something you go out and shop for…you get in here by being clever.”
Colin Jackson, OUSU representative for LMH, said, “Postponing the vote to the next council was wise – rather than passing a vague ‘sentiment motion’ as we would have done, we now have the opportunity to consult our JCRs and form some real, tangible policy.”
The debate continues this evening. Aaron Porter, President of the National Union of Students, is addressing Oxford’s Labour Club at Corpus Christi about student action in response to the fees rise.
OEC are encouraging as many students as possible to attend the talk in protest tonight. Several members commented that “Aaron Porter does not speak for me or any students I know.”