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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 18:07 GMT 19:07 UK
Fees fight set to go on
By Justin Parkinson
BBC News Online education staff

Students ate slices of Blackpool rock bearing an anti-fees slogan

MPs have voted in favour of the government's plans for "variable" university tuition fees of up to 3,000 a year.

Opponents claim the Higher Education Bill will create a "market" in higher education and leave graduates with huge debts.

The Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, thinks the fees will lead to an expansion of universities, enabling half of young people to attend by 2010.

As the Bill received its third reading, BBC News Online asked students rallying at Westminster why they hated it so much and what they planned to do next.

Alice Humphreys, 22, Nottingham University

There's so much at stake. The whole quality and nature of higher education is under threat.

Alice Humphreys

How could higher, variable fees possibly encourage more people to go on and study?

I have about 13,000 of debt as it stands. It would be even worse if I had to pay fees of 3,000 a year. People could leave owing 30,000.

There must be a fairer way of funding higher education. Since 1979, the highest rate of income tax has fallen from 83% to 40%.

Surely there is some scope for taxing the richest people in society.

Jez Sadler, 20, St John's College, Oxford

A lot of people are seriously in debt.

Jez Sadler

The government should listen to what students are saying.

People who want to study and contribute to society should be given more support.

It does not automatically follow that graduates are the highest earners, so why should they pay for what used to be free?

Mandy Telford, National Union of Students president

Even though MPs have voted in favour of top-up fees, we are taking our fight against them to the Lords.

Mandy Telford

A lot of peers are opposed to the Bill and we expect them to help us.

The campaign is still going strong.

Top-up fees are fundamentally wrong. They penalise people who want to learn.

The support we have received for the campaign has been outstanding.

Alin Campan, 17, Skelmersdale and Ormskirk Colleges

The level of fees are already quite high. It should be lowered if anything.

Alin Campan

I don't think most students mind paying a little bit.

But we should not be talking in thousands of pounds.

I'm not at university yet, but high fees would be a big disincentive to a lot of people.

Laura Collins, 19, Cardiff University

The government promised no top-up fees in its 2001 election manifesto.

Laura Collins
It has betrayed this quite blatantly and its credibility has been hugely damaged.

This is going to alienate a lot of potential Labour voters among the 5.4 million students in further and higher education.

It could be something that comes back to haunt Tony Blair.

Helen Turner, 25, Wolverhampton University

We can't have a market system in higher education. That runs against all its traditions and principles.

Helen Turner

My university was a polytechnic until 1992 and a lot of the students are from working-class backgrounds.

The government says the Bill is designed to encourage more of them to stay on, but it would discourage people.

I think it would cost about 12,000 a year to study and live if fees were at 3,000.

If someone wanted to be a doctor, the cost might amount to 72,000 over six years.

That's the price of a house, all for a piece of paper that doesn't even guarantee a job.

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