Gerry Kelleher: University should be ‘open to all’

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Radical changes to the way universities are funded must ensure students from all backgrounds have equal access to higher education.

That’s the warning from the University of Central Lancashire’s new vice-chancellor Gerry Kelleher.

Reacting to proposals unveiled by former Labour universities minister John Denham, Prof Kelleher told the Evening Post: “If we can fund the delivery of university education more effectively, efficiently and fairly that is to be welcomed. “Importantly, any proposed changes to university funding needs to safeguard access for everyone who can benefit regardless of their economic circumstances.”

In a lecture to the Royal Society of Arts, the MP and foremr set out proposals to reform the funding of higher education, warning that, current university finances were unsustainable and there remained concerns about employability of too many graduates.

He said that by concentrating public resources on HE teaching it would be possible to reduce fees and the level of debt cancellation. He proposed developing more intensive two year degrees, employer-backed degrees, and giving more students a “real choice to reduce living costs by studying from home.”

The UCLan vice-chancellor said that while shorter degrees seemed an attractive option, the idea wasn’t popular with students or employers.

He added: “Good quality higher education that supports the UK in having a competitive economy can’t be had on the cheap. If we are to compete in the global economy, and maintain our position economically, we need a workforce that is educated to the best of world standards.

“The rest of the world isn’t standing still in education, China and India are investing huge amounts in universities, and our success in delivering graduates who are the envy of the world can’t be taken for granted.”