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Vice-Chancellor statement: Response to David Willetts' statement on higher education

The announcement today on the future of HE funding represents a crucial step towards ensuring the University maintains the world-class standards of education that its students expect and deserve.

In the wake of significant cuts to higher education outlined in the Comprehensive Spending Review, the lifting of the current cap on graduate contributions to between £6,000 and £9,000 helps provide the University with a sustainable financial future.

Professor Michael Arthur, the vice-chancellor of the University of Leeds, said: "In light of the recently announced cuts to higher education teaching budgets, this announcement is a very important development. It sends a loud signal that the government recognises the importance of higher education to the future of our country, its economy and the ability of universities to help the country out of recession."

The improvements to student support outlined by David Willetts in the House of Commons today should be supported. These include the threshold for repayment rising to £21,000, increased maintenance grants and improved information for prospective students to better inform their application process. These measures are fair and progressive in protecting students from low-income backgrounds.

Recognising the role of the University in widening participation, Professor Arthur added: "While many of the social disadvantages faced by students from lower income backgrounds are entrenched from an early age, the University of Leeds continues to take its responsibility in this area very seriously.

"The University will continue to invest in schemes that focus on raising the aspiration and achievement of students from less well-off backgrounds. In the long run, it is imperative that the participation of these students in higher education is widened.  University should remain accessible to all, regardless of wealth or background and we welcome Government measures which uphold this principle.

"In this respect, I am becoming concerned by the stance of some in higher education who keep insisting that the Browne Review will lead us to disaster. The more students from less well-off backgrounds are told they cannot afford higher education, the more they will believe it. We need to be clear that under Browne's proposals, graduate contributions will be linked to ability to pay, student support will be greater and higher education will remain free at the point of use."

In the academic year 2009/2010, the University of Leeds engaged over 40,000 young people in activities focused on raising aspiration and achievement. It also awarded £7.7 million - far above the £1.5m required by Government - in bursaries and scholarships to less well-off students.

Raising educational attainment must lie at the heart of attempts to widen participation. The University of Leeds continues to support and invest in schemes that assess the potential of such students and in certain circumstance base their offer of a University place on this.

In 2010/11, one in four students at the University of Leeds received a bursary. The University provides around 200 scholarships a year to encourage pupils from less privileged backgrounds to come to Leeds.

For further information:

Please contact the University of Leeds Press Office on +44 (0)113 343 4031 or email

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