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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 23:33 GMT 00:33 UK
Viewpoints: Tuition fees
Plans to introduce university tuition fees of up to 3,000 a year have divided the political world and academics for more than a year.

As MPs prepared to vote on the third reading of the Higher Education Bill, BBC News Online heard from some of the main voices in the debate.

Charles Clarke, Education Secretary

Phil Willis, Lib Dem education spokesman

Tim Yeo, shadow education secretary

Universities UK

Mandy Telford, National Union of Students president

Dr John Brennan, Association of Colleges

Charles Clarke, Secretary of State for Education

Disadvantaged students will get financial support to study what they want when they want.

We will also protect all students by abolishing up-front fees. This means no student - or their family - has to find tuition fees before they start their course.

Charles Clarke, Education Secretary
We would be denying universities freedom
Charles Clarke

And we will help them further by increasing the student loan in line with living costs. Students shouldn't have to rely on credit cards and commercial debt.

Universities will be able to vary fees from 0 to 3,000 - but fees can vary between courses, not just between universities.

The bursary system will also be fair on both students and the universities, who will use some of their extra income to provide them. .

Variability remains key. We do not agree that a substantially higher fixed fee would be the way to raise additional resources. It would be deeply damaging.

We would be denying universities the freedom to incentivise industrial, vocational, scientific, technical, engineering and sandwich courses, or foundation degrees, which are vital for the economic future of this country.

Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat education spokesman

Phil Willis, Lib Dem education spokesman
Save our universities from becoming a market lottery
Phil Willis

This bill remains bad for students, bad for universities, bad for taxpayers and bad for the future of our country.

The third reading gives Labour backbenchers a last chance to honour their manifesto pledges and save our universities from becoming a market lottery for future students.

This is the time for Labour backbenchers to put political integrity before government opportunism.

Tim Yeo, Shadow Education Secretary

[The backbench revolt] is further evidence of the deep divisions in Labour over this controversial bill.

The majority of MPs oppose top-up fees.

The only way that the bill will pass is if government whips carry on using strong-arm tactics to force their MPs to vote against their consciences.

Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors

Let's look at what is actually being proposed in the UK.

The package here offers students no up-front fees, loan forgiveness at 25 years, no real rate of interest, a generous grant and bursary system and a cap on the fee itself.

By these means, the UK scheme seeks to avoid the problems which others have found elsewhere.

What is being proposed in the UK will ensure that the poorest students will be better off while studying under these arrangements than they are now - and they are also effectively indemnified against low earnings after graduation.

Mandy Telford, National Union of Students president

If top-up fees come in, then more and more students will be forced to choose their course based on its cost and therefore put themselves at a disadvantage before they even graduate.

Mandy Telford, NUS president
Employers will look at the cost of a course rather than a graduate's ability
Mandy Telford

Increased fees will mean some employers will look at the cost of a course rather than a graduate's ability.

Furthermore, if the government does not provide a decent student funding package, then those students forced to work long hours in paid work will be unable to get involved in CV-enhancing extra-curricular activities.

This will further widen the gulf between the haves and have-nots on campus and after graduation.

John Brennan, chief executive of the Association of Colleges

After 2010, the bill as it stands allows universities an essentially unlimited ability to increase tuition fees.

We believe this freedom will seriously compromise the chances of young people from working-class backgrounds to attend certain universities.

The government's current commitment to a support package of 3,000 for the poorest students will be of limited help, with fees at perhaps three to five times that level for the elite universities.

Such universities may claim that their own bursary arrangement will fill the gap. But if that is so, it is difficult for them to argue that they need extra tuition fee income in the first place.


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