BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 January, 2004, 19:14 GMT
Will Government win top-up fees vote?

Tony Blair's hopes of winning the Commons vote on university tuition fees have received a significant boost.

The former Chief Whip and leading rebel, Nick Brown, has said he will be supporting the government because of the concessions it's made.

John Prescott has also warned rebel Labour MPs that they face a straight choice between Labour and the Conservatives.

The fees vote result is expected at about 1900 GMT after a six hour debate.

Will the Government win the top-up fees vote? Send us your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

I know lots of people who have been to reasonable universities, run up huge debts and still do poorly paid jobs that didn't require a degree to do. The "modern" universities are deluded. Just because someone has a good degree doesn't mean they will get a highly paid job. This ridiculous policy will cause more people to get into bigger debts. When will people realise that 50% is too high a figure for university education. Not everyone can be a lawyer, manager etc. We need more builders and plumbers.
James Anderson, UK

Why does the Government assume that graduates comprising 50% of an age adjusted population will have the same financial advantages over non graduates as previous generations of graduates, who made up only 10 or 20% of the age adjusted population? The logical conclusion of the Blair / Clarke argument would be that all 18 year olds might go to University and ALL benefit financially in the long term! Tax according to wealth please - that way we pay back into the system, regardless of whether intellect, parentage, or business acumen is the mechanism of our success.
Dr Elved Roberts, Chester

First time house purchase, finding sufficient deposit, is bad enough at the moment. What chance will the graduates of the future have when saddled with a huge debt to repay?
Murray Pakes, Northampton

Win the vote on top up fees - lose the next election Tony - the choice is yours.
Phil Matthews, London

Nick Brown should hang his head in shame. I am all for students paying for their own education, but I am even more for politicians voting according to their individual belief, not some childish party line.
Barbara W., Maidstone, UK

This issue has long since stopped being about what is right for the future of higher education. It's now very much a case of "back your leader or else," and the result should not be in any doubt.
Dean, Maidenhead, UK

The government will win if people like Nick Brown are so easily turned. However, will they win the next election? Voters will not forget - I for one, a lifelong labour supporter through thick and thin will never vote for them again. The third way is no way, no sense of principle, and cannot be trusted with the future of our country - our children will look back in despair.
Lynn, UK

This issue is a blatant breaking of the government's manifesto and yet Tony Blair does not seem to show the slightest guilt about misleading the people in this. How can we trust a man who so obviously goes back on his promises?
Dave, Scotland

We have a funding crisis because of this silly obsession that 50% of young people go to university
Steve, Bristol
Graduates will earn more, so should contribute, goes the argument. They already do, through the tax system, this is just double taxation. Already the top 10% of earners provide 50% of the tax take! We have a funding crisis because of this silly obsession that 50% of young people go to university. Yet we are short of nurses, plumbers builders etc!
Steve, Bristol

The notion that graduates earn higher salaries only holds true if graduates make up a small minority of the workforce. The aim of getting 50% of school-leaver into higher education appears to contradict this whole premise. I think this is known as having your cake and eating it.
Geoff Thomason, Stockport, Cheshire

Whoever wins the debate on fees, universities will lose. The government is trying to delude the people into thinking that top-up fees are necessary to keep universities afloat but the income from this source will do very little to solve the problem of university underfunding. If the Bill falls at least the government will have to confront the uncomfortable issue of how they fund higher education.
Charles Tomkinson, Macclesfield, England

I think the plan to increase uni fees is ridiculous. I do agree that students should give something back, but 3,000 a year is a bit too steep. This is one of the main reasons clever and able students don't go to uni...they simply cannot afford it. I think here Tony Blair is just trying to discourage the poor and offer a higher education to the wealthy, which is just purely unjust.
Brittany Jenkins, Reading, England

I agree with basic principle that students should pay something back
James, Belfast

I agree with basic principle that students should pay something back. But I have major hang ups about the way this government does business. They will do and say anything to save face and hang on to power. They are as sleazy as the Tories in their pomp. And they wonder why we have voter apathy!!.
James, Belfast

A correspondent writes "Why should students be forced to pay for what they will pay again in taxes?" Why should people who don't go to University also be forced to pay for those that do through their taxes?
Rob Smith, London, UK

Taxes in England are too low to support the public services people want
Anton, London, UK

The answer is simple, taxes in England are too low to support the public services people want. Low taxes mean that people have the freedom to do what they want with their money. As individuals we just have to decide if we want to spend it on consumer goods or invest it in something worthwhile like university education or trains or primary schools.
Anton, London, UK

You want the 'additional' education to ensure the high paying job - then stump up and stop moaning.
ROSITA, Scotland

I would much prefer to see current graduates who benefited from free fees and grants (not loans) be charged a higher rate of Tax as they earn. The NI code could be marked from the moment they graduate. I believe this would save future undergraduates spending valuable energy on worrying about the financial implications of taking a degree route.
Liz Lane, Chorleywood, Herts

Nick Brown should be ashamed of himself
Jonathan N, Ayr, UK

Nick Brown should be ashamed of himself. I stopped voting a number of years ago as the majority of MPs appear to be self-serving opportunists. If this is democracy, it is a very strange version of it.
Jonathan N, Ayr, UK

Blair should win the vote - the policy is right - the universities need better funding as do students - this proposal provides both. In a world of limited money tough decisions need to be taken - The PM is right to push these changes through for the long term good of the nation.
Dave Roberts, Salisbury UK

As a student myself I agree that we should make some contribution towards our university education. However 3000 is too much, it is unfair to burden graduates with such debt at the end of their studies. A graduate tax would be far fairer.
Angelica Sutton, Kent, UK

All working people are a benefit to the country and the population
Peter B, Birmingham UK

The argument that university graduates are a benefit to the country and should be funded by the taxpayer makes me angry. All working people are a benefit to the country and the population. Graduates should not think they are superior.
Peter B, Birmingham UK

We definitely need more funding for our universities, so I agree that students should contribute towards their education. However, I think the government need to lose the obsession with the 50% target. University is not for everyone. We need to be putting more money into vocational courses for those who want qualifications in areas they excel in. At the moment, the lack of vocational courses mean that some people just go to university for the sake of it and not because they are particularly interested in a certain degree!
Guramarjit Aulakh, London, UK

The argument that graduates earn more when they leave uni and so should pay a bit back, is flawed. They already do pay it back. It is called tax and National Insurance. Why is nobody making that argument?
Anthony, England

Companies should pay for training, not employees. There has been a shift in who does the training. Long, long, ago, there were apprenticeships and training by employers. Now you are expected to train yourself and be productive from day one. Nonesense. In IT, for instance, your degree will be out of date by the time you finish your course. Students shouldn't be burdened with top up fees - universities should teach academic courses, companies should train (and pay for training) people at work. Big business now pays so little tax, it has the money.
Paul B Watson, Manchester UK

Hasn't the proposed Bill has been so watered down in an attempt to keep the backbenchers happy that it will not be very effective?
Rodney, England

Good old middle England is once again left to pick up the tab
Simon Mansell, Penzance, Cornwall
The poor get grants, the rich can afford the fees. Good old middle England is once again left to pick up the tab - either that or our children are going to start their working lives with so much debt they may never be rid of it.
Simon Mansell, Penzance, Cornwall

Shouldn't MP's be voting on the issue in question and not simply along the party line? I hope the so-called 'rebel' MP's stick to their beliefs and vote against variable fees.
Diane Howarth, Reading

How will loans and fees be recovered from the large number of students who fail to graduate and from those graduates who emigrate? Is there an incentive for another brain drain?
Andy, Burton-on-Trent

Charles Clarke has said they won't raise fees before 2009. But what's to stop the Government going back on its word and bullying MPs again into allowing them to lift the cap before then?
Chris, England

Tony Blair wants us to be the best educated and best trained and this system is going to achieve that? So is he saying that the universities need more funding? If not, why change. If so, stop bombing and invading. Starting investing our tax in our country.
Peter, London

Making it worse will only increase the skill shortage in the future
James Moore, Milton Keynes

I'd rather they tax fat cats, increase corporation tax and reduce the military budget than introduce top-up fees. Students already leave University with huge debts. Making it worse will only increase the skill shortage in the future.
James Moore, Milton Keynes, UK

Nobody forces you to go to university. If you don't want to pay tuition fees then don't go to university.
Craig, UK

Why should students be forced to pay for what they will pay again in taxes?
M Smith, Norwich, England

Why do students feel they have the right to free tuition? I chose not to attend college or university. So why should I pay taxes to support students. If I chose not to own a car should I still pay road tax? I live near Sheffield which has a large uni campus and I also work near the uni. Almost every student I see has the latest mobile phone stuck to their head. If they can't afford to pay tuition fees then they can't afford mobiles surely. As a degree often leads to a higher paid career is it too much to ask that they pay back their tuition fees later in life.
Andrew C, Rotherham, UK

Top up fees will only serve to increase the trend of the most capable students shunning 'less profitable' degrees in the sciences, foreign languages, history and the arts etc in favour of joining a nation of law, business and economic graduates who are perceived to earn more. Students already contribute by paying for their own living costs then repaying society by supplying vital knowledge and skills and paying a higher rate of tax.
Doug, Bristol

History has shown whenever "concessions" happen the end result is poor legislation that doesn't work
John, UK

I was under the impression (mistakenly it seems) that the government knew what it was going to do on this. With each new "concession" from Charles Clarke it looks as if they are making things up as they go along. History has shown whenever this happens the end result is poor legislation that doesn't work. They "promised" in their manifesto that they would not introduce.
John, UK

Everyone has to pay their way in life. Why should students think they are any different?
Andy, UK

Somehow 8 billion can be found for a war - but nothing for education
Iain, Cambridge, England

Top-up fees at the rates suggested will only make up 13% of the monies required funding for universities and not are not enough to solve the crisis. The problem is political will. Somehow 8 billion can be found for a war - but nothing for education. The best way is through taxing incomes. Education could start benefiting almost immediately. People who earn higher salaries would still pay for their education. The problem is that politicians are not doing enough to overturn decades of right-wing propaganda against income tax.
Iain, Cambridge, England

For the government to be panicked into making last-minute changes, shows the proposed law not to have been thought through properly with proper consultation. For this reason alone, if it goes ahead in this way, it will be bad law.
Hugh, Chichester, UK

It is wrong to introduce top-up fees! This is another form of bullying by government; a sad way of controlling the nation by discouraging people from getting higher education so as to keep majority of people IGNORANT and easy to control, as educated people tend to stand up against silly government rules! Hello Dictatorship!!! If this goes through, Tony Blair has lost my vote!
Jackmeena, Middlesbrough

If university graduates earn more and therefore should pay towards the cost of their education then surely the most effective way to levy this fee is by increasing taxation of high earners - also those who are most likely to be benefiting by employing such highly educated people. Surely this would fairer?
Henri, Hackney, London

Another classic government U turn with spin applied to previous promises
John Green, Rothwell

This is just the start of a slippery slope towards full educational fees. It is not just the student who has to pay. Parents with ordinary jobs who work very hard to provide the best education they can for their children results in a large proportion of students via the means test receiving no aid. Another classic government U turn with spin applied to previous promises.
John Green, Rothwell, Northamptonshire, UK

The cost to students of their loss of earnings whilst at Uni is never discussed. This could add another 30 - 40K to their 'debt'.
Ray Tollady, Oxford, UK

Two points: If students have to pay, then why study here, why not go to another country - New Zealand etc? Will we see more legal action if students don't get the marks they think they should get?
G Charlton, Sheffield

Considering the fact that the members of this government, among others, all gained their university education for free, and are now effectively back-dating payment when a person earns 15,000+ per year, then surely the obvious-not to mention decent- thing to do would be to back date fees by about 40 years for those who have been high earners on the back of free university education.
Ali Mooney, Leicester

The whole system must surely collapse in the near future. Even now most academics are poorly paid and often work on short-term contracts (18 months to 2 years is fairly typical) and thus have no job security. With an increased burden of debt I don't see many people taking this career route, who will teach degree courses then?
Sarah, Cambridge, UK

The Prime Minister's speech proved that he still refuses to listen to his rebelling backbench MPs. They are opposing top-up fees because their introduction will create a market in higher education, where degree courses are sold off to the highest bidder. Hardly a fair access programme and the rebels must stand firm on and make sure they defeat the government on this.
Ben Farmer, Nottingham, UK

If my MP breaks his manifesto pledge and votes in favour of these fees, then I do not want him representing the constituency where I live, and I will vote, and even campaign for his nearest rival, regardless of the party, at the next election. Any MP who votes against their manifesto pledge, has lied to the constituency they represent, and does not deserve to be in this position of trust which their electorate placed them.
Mr Walsh, Pudsey, West Yorks

The wage difference between most graduates, and non-graduates is already far lower in Britain than it is in the US. Meaning that a degree is worth less in the UK system than in the US. Outside of the "golden four" degrees -medicine, engineering, law, and finance- students already pay more than their degrees are worth. If the government wants to go through with this, are they prepared to increase the wages sharply for teachers, nurses, and other essential groups? And to increase taxes to fund those wages?
Jan Johansen, Troms, Norway

There is too much murky water surrounding where the money goes and how it is spent
Nigel Cubbage, Redhill, UK
University's having greater autonomy over their finances is to be applauded, so long as they then publish accounts. There is too much murky water surrounding where the money goes and how it is spent. When one hears of top-level transfer fees and professors holding posts at two or even three institutions, one gets rather dubious about the wisdom being employed.
Nigel Cubbage, Redhill, UK

The assumption with general taxation has always been that we pay into the pot and get benefits out of that, whether that be health care, education or the dole. Starting to remove that in the case of education is the start of a dangerous slippery slope that I really didn't think a Labour government would ever start leading us down. Education benefits everyone in society, not just the direct recipients. Focus the money more on appropriate education (e.g. HNDs as well as degrees) and you might find less people complaining about the cost.
Katherine, London, UK

Best way to fund higher education? Find every bureaucrat and non-teaching employee at university or the Education Ministry who makes more than 30K a year and have them justify their job to a jury panel of taxpayers, if they fail the majority vote screening, they're sacked and their pay check goes to fund student grants and scholarships, I suspect billions in funding could be freed up right there without any new taxes or an increase in student fees!
Steve, San Jose, CA, USA

Firstly, I resent my taxes paying for grown adults (as students allegedly are) to pursue a higher level of education in order that they then can go and get a job that pays them more than mine! I feel that taxpayers' money should be ploughed into basic education up to age of 18 which would benefit employers far more in the long term. Degrees are an expensive luxury and should be viewed as such. And if students want to study for a degree as part of their career path then they should pay for it themselves (part time work) or seek a sponsor. That is fair.
Mark H, UK

The idea of top up fees is completely disgraceful
Ian, Morpeth, N'umberland
The idea of top up fees is completely disgraceful. As someone who has recently finished university I have a substantial debt even though I did not have to pay any tuition fees. Yes, I do earn more due to my qualifications, but that means I pay higher taxes than I would of otherwise (3000 in six months!). Is this not enough? Following the arguments of Mr Blair why not make statement benefits for unemployment into a loan so that it also has to be repaid, i.e. where will this stop? Mr Blair you got free education and you should resign if you in any way hinder others from this right!
Ian, Morpeth, N'umberland

With the exception of medicine most degrees could be completed within two years. My daughter has just started university and has so much spare time its ridiculous. Make them work from 8-5 over two years to get the degree and prepare them fully for working life. That should save the universities some money.
Sue, oxford

I think all universities be free from governmental interference, even going private if that's what it takes. If they want to give scholarships to the gifted, fine. If the government wants to subsidise poorer students (if it can afford it), that's also fine -but let politicians keep their hands off our universities if they want the best of them to retain their standing in the world. I don't have a problem paying taxes to send our geniuses to Oxford or Cambridge.
Miland Joshi, UK

I agree with top-up fees. If the students seriously want a degree, the Open University is cheaper, and you can work whilst doing it. The problem is, most current students do not want to either learn or work, so would be against this route. If they have all this free time to protest and moan, they can't take their education that seriously.
Anon, UK

The government should set up a system to determine how useful university courses are to society
Graeme Phillips, Berlin, Germany (normally UK)
The government should set up a system to determine how useful university courses are to society. The useful ones should be financed in full by the government with grants given that are enough to live off, with the useless degrees having their funding cut completely. If the universities want these courses to continue, they would then have to persuade people that the courses are worth paying such large amounts of money for. If people are willing to pay the money being asked for, then no problems.
Graeme Phillips, Berlin, Germany (normally UK)

If we assume that those who benefit from a university education should pay for it then why are businesses not being asked for more money so that they have a well-trained, educated workforce?
Leon Black, Heidelberg, Germany

Students of higher education should be prepared to invest in their own advanced education. It is a matter of principle.
Bruce Fallowfield, Dundee, UK

Funding our institutions of higher education is a difficult one. I am sure business and the public could help. I am just surprised that the government is pushing people in to a high debt when there are calls to reduce personal debt. Is it fair putting extra pressures on students whilst studying? Isn't there enough suicides?
Steve, Rushden, Northants

I don't believe in the indiscriminate expansion of the higher education system that seems to form the underlying rationale for this policy. Some sixth form students are just not suited academically to three years in higher education and may be better off joining the job market at age 16 or 18 rather than attending a degree course. However, those that do have the ability and dedication to achieve high grades at A level and meet the acceptance criteria of the higher education institutions should be fully funded by the state - including all tuition fees.
Adam Goulston, Bath

Get a degree and a life long friend, the bank manager
Nick, Ossett, West Yorks, UK
Keep younger people off the "dole" by making them stay in the education system, (is there an alternative? What's an apprentice, never heard of one!) Even better make the students pay for the so called privilege of further education too! Get a degree and a life long friend, the bank manager.
Nick, Ossett, West Yorks, UK

At last the significant benefits of the proposals have come out. The payment of fees after a student has finished there course is a significant development. Blair is right in saying it is a matter of spending priorities. By funding Higher Education in this way it not only puts money into Universities it releases other money to support the Government's programmes. Let's be clear the Government has achieved much in terms of Child Poverty, support to Pensioners and getting people into work.
Chris Peat, Leeds, UK

I feel this whole affair is totally our fault as election after election, any politician who has suggested higher taxes to pay for health or free tertiary education has been shown the door by us, the voters. So when you get a real genuine problem that shouldn't be party political, like how we give quality education to all who want it, we find ourselves in a position where MPs genuinely feel a moral dilemma, but by not standing up to the public and running scared of tax issues they have allowed this situation to develop.

We the voters created this by voting with our wallet too often. I think the plan must go ahead for the sake of our future as our short-sightedness has left us no other options
Rupert Carlile, Sandy, Bedfordshire

The government is just running away from the financial problems of this country
David, Wantage, UK
As a country we are living on debt. We are not replacing the infrastructure as fast as it wears out. When we do we pay for it with dodgy PFI deals. We are running a massive balance of payments deficit. All this represents borrowing which will have to be paid back by the next generation. Now the government proposes to saddle a lot of them with massive personal debt as well. The whole idea is utterly immoral. The government is just running away from the financial problems of this country and hoping the roof doesn't fall in while they are in office.
David, Wantage, UK

Although I'm not a Blair voter, I fully support his decision to increase fees for all those would-be students who spend their money on cigarettes, drinks, nightlife etc, etc. I believe only 5% of students in this country should get a completely free university education plus a free scholarship. The rest can fund their ambition themselves.
Lana, UK

Could this all just be a Labour ploy to reduce the number of university students and also make a few bob to fund future wars?
Rahul, UK

The key is to REDUCE the number of people going into higher education, then we wouldn't need top-up fees! What is the point of 50% going to university, when a first class student from an ex-poly can't even come near a third class student from the Golden Triangle (Oxbridge, LSE, UCL, Imperial)? Unpalatable as it may sound, let's face reality - only the brightest should go to uni.
James, London

There is much talk about a defeat for this bill as there was for Foundation Hospitals. Look what happened there! At the end of the day people will whinge about this, the bill will go through and people will have to pay up. It's just the same for all the other taxes like Council Tax, NI contributions, fuel etc etc. People complain and then end up paying anyway. Where is all the money going?
James, Plymouth

It is probably a very good step forward into increasing the quality of education
Kyle, Prestatyn, North Wales
Many People will put top-up fees down as one of Labours disadvantages, but what the new top up fees do will be to increase the funding to universities throughout the UK, instead of government funding the Universities are allowed to regulate their own finances. It is probably a very good step forward into increasing the quality of education in our higher education institutions. In light of recent changes in the country, Labour is the best thing that's happened to Britain.
Kyle, Prestatyn, North Wales

Let's not forget, US students have paid top fees for university for years, public university charging no less than twice what Blair is proposing. Is 3000 a year really such a burden? Schools of the same quality as Oxford and Cambridge cost the UK equivalent of at least 12,000 a year.
Sarah Vanikotis, Grantham, England

Although I do not come from a poor background I am still obliged to pay for university and everything it entails by myself. As I am doing medicine (for five years then two as a junior doctor getting paid peanuts) these top up fees will create a huge financial problem for me and many people like me. It does not make sense that they will attract more people to university
Xander, London

Blair wants people to be "true to Labour values", pity he couldn't be "true to Labour Manifesto 2001"
Glen, Gillingham, UK

Being a student in my final year I have to work to support myself financially. At the start of the year, in our introduction lecture, it was recommended that no one worked more then 16 hours a week... I do nearer 50 and so does my housemate. If didn't, then we would be homeless.
Pete, Bristol, UK

My daughter is 18 years old therefore an adult in her own right. Why should my wife and I be means tested on my daughters education when she is clearly in charge of her own educational destiny?
Tim Richards, Horsham England

Surely one of Labour's manifesto commitments was 'not to introduce top up fees'. Before President Blair gets carried away can he please explain, in plain unequivocal language whether this meant anything at the time, or whether it was just another sound bite designed to attract voters.
TG, Ascot, England

Has anyone worked out what the Government actually does with all the massive tax revenues it takes from us?
James, Manchester, UK
So we don't have a pension to look forward to. We don't have a transport infrastructure worth talking about. Despite pouring money into the health service - we still wait 4 hours and more in A & E. Now we are being told we will have to pay for further education when not so long ago, we were able to take decisions about our future without the burden of substantial debt. Has anyone worked out what the Government actually does with all the massive tax revenues it takes from us? Oh I know - we sustain the gold plated pensions our MPs have - that's alright then.
James, Manchester, UK

I don't believe it is economically worthwhile to attend University anymore. I have an Engineering degree, and while I earn more than friends and relations who don't have degrees, it is not sufficient to justify starting working life with 20-30K debts.
Gary Price, North Wales

As a software developer, I employ solely graduates; however, to distinguish between them I make them all undergo a verbal test on questions that they are given beforehand. Invariably old universities generate better results than ex-polytechnics. For example, a candidate with a third class degree from Cambridge did better than someone with a first from Sheffield Hallam. Unless we get rid of noddy degrees, this country's education will go down the pan. The answer is to get rid of useless degrees, not charge students more and make higher education less accessible.
Dave, UK

The problem would be hugely reduced if Students studied at their local University and lived with their parents
John, England
I have no problem with the theory of top-up fees, though the devil will be in the detail. A graduate Nurse is likely to emerge from University with higher debts than a Graduate in Law (Nursing is a more expensive course to run), but with far lower earning potential. Doesn't seem quite fair. On the subject of Student debt, I suspect that the problem would be hugely reduced if Students studied at their local University and lived with their parents, as is typically the case in much of the rest of Europe.
John, England

Clearly it hasn't occurred to the students on this page, that perhaps they could get a job after their a-levels for a year or so to save up money for their uni fees? After all, how many 18/19 year olds live independently of their parents? At that age, you have no or very little rent to pay, your mobile phone, going out and boozing expenses only- anyone can save a decent amount by living at home and working full-time for a year! Hopefully these new top up fees will encourage teenagers to think long term about their education and career choices, and whether its actually worth going to uni or not.
Em, UK

Yes, the universities desperately need more money to fund the expansion demanded by the government. There is one very obvious, equitable way to do this - it's called income tax. And before people start moaning about having to fund students when they get no benefit from it, that's what income tax is about. I can't complain that my taxes go to things I don't like (e.g. war) or don't benefit from (e.g. child allowance). Making a decent settlement so that our universities can function properly could easily be funded by raising the level of income tax, and ensuring that our society is better educated.
Rob Spence, Lytham St Annes, UK

Funding students from indiscriminate taxation is seen as 'unfair' and the benefits graduates enjoy are well publicised. Less easy to measure are the indirect benefits, graduates give back to the country in increased taxation, economic growth etc. Top-up fees are an excuse to introduce another tax under another name.
Steve, Essex

If the government leaves university education for those who actually want one they'll soon find there's little need for higher fees
Andrew Marshall, UK
It amuses me when I hear Universities being accused of being elitist. I always thought that was the whole point, they're supposed to be elite institutions. If New Labour wasn't so hell bent on getting every child in the UK into university they might realise that a university education does not suit everyone. Students who would have been better off with an apprenticeship or vocational course are becoming disillusioned and are leaving second rate universities with third rate degrees. If the government leaves university education for those who actually want one they'll soon find there's little need for higher fees.
Andrew Marshall, UK

As I am currently a student, studying an unusual (but certainly challenging) course at Cambridge University, the issue of student debt is very close to my heart. (I'm not sure what career I'm headed towards, so am unable to estimate my future ability to pay off my debt rapidly, although I am certainly not planning on wasting the education I've received.) However, personally I am not too badly off, as the University provides some bursaries for students with lower-income backgrounds. In addition, my rent has to be paid for only 30 weeks of the year, rather than for more than 40 (as with most other students). I am concerned, however, that a lot of my friends made University decisions based on proximity, so that they'd be able to live at home and hopefully avoid getting into debt. If fees are introduced, I hope that the Government takes great care to explain to students just how they work, so that potential candidates feel able to make their choice without having to worry about financial distinctions.
Hogan, UK

I do not have a degree. I earn 15000 a year. I will probably never earn much more than that. If top-up fees are introduced, graduates will start paying once they earn over 15000. They will go on to earn more than that. But presently, on a lesser salary, through my taxes, I am paying their fees. At least they'll be choosing to pay if they choose to do a degree. I have no choice, I have to pay.
Catherine, Manchester

If the funding debate forces many school-leavers to think whether they will really benefit from a degree then so much the better. An employer I think the government is misleading young people into thinking that a degree routinely gives better job prospects. In some cases it does, but a 2.2 or third in a 'soft' subject from an ex-poly is worthless in the job market. I've seen too many CVs that beg the question why didn't you just get a job and start working at 18? A useless degree and 15k worth of debt, or three years good work experience and 35-45k earned. It's a complete no brainer. The government targets for university entrance are betraying many young people.
Mike, Wiltshire

Why should students from poorer backgrounds get help paying the fees ? If the government is to be believed they will be earning good salaries later on so should take on the same debts as everyone else !
Matt, Middle England

You want the education, you pay for it
Mark Bufton, London
At least Tony Blair is trying to make difference, instead of just appeasing those who will always bemoan having to pay anything for education. I'm 28, I'm still in debt, but that's because I've been enjoying my life so far and it has been my choice not to pay off my Uni debts. I certainly don't point the finger at the Govt. It's quite simple - you want the education, you pay for it. At least this way may just see the end of those students who see University as a 3 year extension to an easy life before entering the real world. Shut up, pay up, and get a job.
Mark Bufton, London. UK

I cannot help but feel that we are missing two very important points in this debate. Firstly, our universities are still disproportionately filled with those who have benefited from private education. When these people have paid 10 - 20 thousand per year for this privilege 3,000 is a drop in the ocean. The government will ensure that those who cannot afford do not pay.

The second is that a lot of the debate seems to be so completely inward looking. This is about global competition, and to be honest on a micro-level our facilities do not compare to those of the States, while in Finland 71% of people benefit from Higher Education... If we want to close the productivity gap, graduates need to pay... and a post-education repayment method seems to be pretty fair
Joe, Glasgow, UK

In the USA, everyone is expected to pay for their University courses. However, their parents have had 18 years to save up in advance. As Labour lied about top-up fees in their manifesto, we will have less than 2 years to save up to help our children. We don't all have enough money to buy our children 2 flats each from our petty cash, Mr Blair!
Patrick, Fleet, Hants

The 3000 top up fee will hardly be enough for the funding gap
HK, UK (Singapore)
The tuition fee seemed to be a good way of raising money for universities. However, after all the concessions, Labour's proposal has become something that will not solve the problem and pleases nobody. First of all, the 3000 top up fee will hardly be enough for the funding gap. Secondly, the universities are expected to set up bursaries for poor students. Moreover, if 50% of the work force are university graduates, a substantial proportion of the graduate may earn less than the 15000 threshold (this may happen with even 30% of the work force have a degree). That implies that the government will not be receiving the payment from them. To make the matter worse, their debt will be written off after 25 years. I wonder how much fund it will really raise!
HK, UK (Singapore)

If people are forced to incur substantial debt for the privilege of higher education, (in addition to paying substantial earnings related taxes). It is only a matter of time before they will question why their taxes are being used to benefit others. Our system worked until the government started to insist on devaluation of university degrees.
MG, Manchester

The assumption is a degree will earn you more cash, and all graduates will want to move into a highly paid, lucrative corporate career. I think in the longer term, top quality students will shun charities and voluntary work simply because they can't afford to work for them, something that charities can ill afford too. Crazy.
Matthew Inns, Swindon, UK

Mr Blair seems to have forgotten that he promised not to introduce 'top up fees' in his 1997 manifesto.

The quality of our graduates decreases under these pressures
Jasmine, Cheshunt, UK
With so much opposition to the idea, no. They should be persuaded by the majority in the country and their own backbenchers who think this is a bad idea to look at this issue again and perhaps look at the 40 or so other models of funding higher education that are available.

I’ve recently completed a degree as a mature student, and what I observed were the young graduates of today struggling to balance their commitments to their education with their necessity to work to live and eat and in almost all cases their education suffered. On the whole I would say, and I think it is a fairly logical argument, that the quality of our graduates decreases under these pressures and the aspirations of the family, employers and ultimately the country are negated and as far as top-up fees are concerned, the only winners appear to be the Universities themselves.
Jasmine, Cheshunt, UK

I graduated in 1995, and was fortunate not to have to pay any fees. I was also fortunate that my parents could afford to pay for my living expenses. I finished with a small amount of debt which I will finish paying for this April. If I was starting now I dread to think how much debt I would have from my tuition fees. I work in the public sector and I hope I am paying society back by doing a job most people wouldn't want to do for pay many people wouldn't get out of bed for! My partner and myself would never be able to provide University education for any children we may have on what we earn. Having a degree has made a valuable contribution to my life but not in monetary terms. I think going to University should be about intelligence not ability to pay.
Jenny Perry, Waterlooville

Can we be told how much, if anything, Mr Blair contributed to his university education.
Dai Cornelius, Abbey Wood--London

I am looking at having to work at least 25 hours a week just to survive
Rebecca, Bristol
I sympathise with many of the students who have commented here. I will be starting university in September as a mature student. I am looking at having to work at least 25 hours a week just to survive and continue to pay my mortgage and the scary thing is that I won't even be paying fees. I noted on my chosen university's website that they recommend students work no more than 16 hours a week. How can they make ludicrous claims like this when they are thinking about raising fees!
Rebecca, Bristol

Ask an overseas student paying 9-10k in tuition every year the value of a degree... Tuition fees are a must, however, and every University should provide for scholarships primarily based on merit. These measures will make students more hard-working and increase the standards of graduates from UK universities.
PK, Northampton, UK

The problem with top-up fees is that they are rooted in the idea that education only serves individuals and not society as a whole. In that case, there will be no greater public purpose in educating citizens, but only private costs and benefits. Whether intended or not, that strikes me as an attack on the fabric of society itself.
Darrell Whitman, Newcastle-under-lyme, UK

I thought a lot of companies had suspended their graduate programmes or are making graduates redundant. It costs a lot to employ someone with a degree compared to someone with less qualifications, and at the moment a lot of companies are looking at cost cutting. Not last in, first out but most expensive first out.

If companies want good quality graduates they should pay
Nigel Bell, Cheltenham
Throughout this debate no-one has yet mentioned what graduate employers could contribute. If companies want good quality graduates they should pay. Make them stump up the cost of tuition fees. After all they are the ones that stand to gain the most!!
Nigel Bell, Cheltenham

There needs to be a real shift away from university towards more vocational jobs. Reduce the university numbers, not increase them, and shift a lot more emphasis onto vocational training. If this happens the Government will not need to introduce top-up fees.
Ed, UK

A year and a half after graduating, I've made only a small dent in 11,000 worth of debt, and I truly pity all those who are facing even higher costs proposed by the Bill. Having attended a "proper" university, perhaps I wouldn't be so resentful of the money I owe if my degree wasn't devalued by scores of polytechnics masquerading as universities, handing out piles of degrees in useless subjects.
Lee, London

Many people don't realise exactly how hard it can be to live on a student loan. My rent alone comes to more than my loan, and with no help from parents I still have to pay my tuition fees. I am doing a medical degree yet have to work 20hrs a week to fund my education. There's something wrong there...
Vicki, London

Sometimes to achieve excellence we are all required to make sacrifices in our lives
Jon, Swansea, Wales
Being a student myself I can fully understand the apprehension of those pupils in school thinking of coming to university after the proposed fees are introduced in 2006. However, I cannot support the NUS in their campaign not to raise fees as the education system desperately needs extra money. Sometimes to achieve excellence we are all required to make sacrifices in our lives.
Jon, Swansea, Wales


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific