In his first interview as the soon-to-be Oxford University Vice-Chancellor, Andrew Hamilton has outlined his desire for a US-style scholarship system to encourage gifted, financially strapped students to apply to the top universities. This is a bold move for someone who has yet to be installed in his post and is the latest spearhead in an on-going campaign to break the elitist perception of Oxford.
Hamilton intends to campaign for a university funding system based on the US model, where majority or full scholarships are readily available to the poorest students. He described the current UK system as 'needs-blind', with even the most generous bursaries failing to meet student requirements. On a wider scale, Hamilton also remarked that any move to raise the current tuition fee cap (£3,225) would have to be matched by a major expansion of financial support for students.
However, Hamilton, formerly Provost of Yale, is not without his critics. The trend amongst Vice-Chancellors at the moment is to raise tuition fees at the next review, many of whom feel their institutions are not otherwise sustainable, rather than maintain the cap and expand support. When it comes to the US question, there is also a fear that introducing American-style scholarships will result in American-style university fees, which can be up to £31,000 a year.
It is early days - and even Hamilton has said he can't do anything until he has settled into the post. Still, it will be interesting to see if his appointment can affect the way all universities approach fee structures in the UK.