Oxford’s Vice-chancellor Dr John Hood has rekindled the ongoing debate on the future of funding for students by stating that it costs up to an additional £8,000 a year to educate each student.After the Vice-chancellor’s interview with a parliamentary committee in March, it was reported in the Daily Telegraph that Oxford may push up fees to £11,000 a year.This news comes at the time of the release of a government survey, which shows that the direct cost of studying increased by 68% throughout 2005-8. This includes the introduction of top-up fees in 2006.However, Dr Hood denied Daily Telegraph’s claims strongly. He said, “While I noted to the Select Committee that some increase in tuition fees might be considered desirable, I most certainly did not say that Oxford wished to raise fees to £11,000. A working group is currently discussing what our response to the government’s consultation on the fee cap might be. We do not consider such a sharp increase to be either desirable or a political reality.”“I explicitly told the committee that I did not want to hypothesise around a figure for fees. I have noted that we estimate the money we receive through fees and HEFCE is £7-8,000 less per student per year than what we estimate it costs, on average, to educate UK and EU undergraduates. This does not equate to my saying that we want to plug that gap entirely through fee increases.”“As I said to the Select Committee, any increase in fees at all, however modest, would be desirable only provided we can have cast iron, needs-blind admission assistance through loan schemes, bursaries, and hardship funds.”However, this denial has not stopped a debate over the future of University funding.Magdalen JCR questioned Lewis Iwu on funding in their last General Meeting. Iwu admitted that the OUSU position on the issue was currently “quite vague.” He also pointed out that if Oxford wants to remain at the top of the table as a world-class institution, higher costs are something students will have to deal with. A report published by Universities UK last term warned that students from low-income families would be discouraged if fees rose to £7,000, particularly if they had to take out private loans as well as government student loans.However, a typical fresher already borrows a total of £6,318 in loans, credit cards and overdrafts in one year, according to a study conducted by theInstitute for Employment Studies and the National Centre for Social Research notes. After taking into account their savings, an average student has a net debt of £3,518 after first year of studying.An Oxford university spokesperson said, “We have no evidence that the cost of being a student, excluding the cost of fees, has increased significantly.Obviously students now pay fees of approximately £3,000 compared to approx £1200 and loans can be taken out to cover these fees where no loans were previously available which means student debt will have increased compared to 2005 when no loans for fees were available and fees were approximately £1200.”Still, the Institute’s report also notes that more than 80% of students consider the long term benefits of higher education outweigh the costs and that they will ultimately earn more as a result. Although 9% fewer students combine work with study, student incomes have increased, as has student support.For the next academic year, Oxford will charge UK students £3,225 in tuition fees for most courses.Nevertheless, the £8,000 difference between what a student pays and what it costs to tutor them is difficult to fill. Dr Hood said it is partially being made up by expecting the college staff to work substantially harder than their counterparts in US Universities. They are also provided with less academic and administrative support.It seems that the rise in degree costs combined with the precarious job prospects is something that worries many students.One Magdalen JCR committee member commented, “People apply to Oxford often with the hope that a good quality degree will make them employable and lead to a lucrative career. This is not necessarily the case at the moment, and it worries me that in the meantime it is becoming more and more expensive to study.”The debate is likely to hot up when the government reviews the tuition fees system later this year and whether it will decide to raise the current cap.