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banner Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 19:47 GMT 20:47 UK
Student funding review confirmed
The impact of tuition fees in discouraging the less well off from going to university is being looked at again by the government.

The admission by Education Minister Margaret Hodge came after Tony Blair hinted that tuition fees and the issue of student funding could be reviewed again by the government.

Margaret Hodge
Margaret Hodge said universities still attract too few poorer entrants
During his keynote address to the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Mr Blair told delegates: "We'll have to find a better way to combine state funding and student contributions."

Later, during a fringe question and answer session sponsored by the BBC, Mrs Hodge accepted that the introduction of tuition fees during Labour's previous term in office had been a "radical shift".

"We've had this radical shift of student contributions to their higher education and we have always said that we'll monitor that to make sure that it's working in the direction that we want it to and that's what we are now doing," she said.

Mrs Hodge, who is responsible for life-long learning, also suggested that poor representation of the lower socio-economic groups in UK further education might be partly cultural.


"If you are middle class you get in [to higher education] if you get your A-levels.

"The number of working class young people who participate in higher education has stood stubbornly low despite the fact of the radical expansion [in places] the Tories undertook.

Nearly half of our young people out of the lower socio-economic groupings... don't even hear about university as an option

Margaret Hodge
"It may be partly because of aversion to debt and that's what we are monitoring and looking at but it's also because too many leave school at 16 and not enough get the level three qualifications."

She added that nine out of 10 people who attain A-levels go on into higher education.

"The other thing is that it's a cultural thing. I was shocked to find out that nearly half of our young people out of the lower socio-economic groupings... don't even hear about university as an option as they go through their school life."

Labour delegates took the opportunity to fire a wide range of questions during the session with the government's education team.

Partnership vision

Secretary of State Estelle Morris told the audience that her vision of the education system was one of partnership.

She cited the contribution public service broadcasting and now online education as an example of that.

Ms Morris - herself a former teacher - said that the urgency to raise standards was as great now as it ever had been.

But she warned that there would never be progress unless the government faced up to difficult decisions.

See also:

02 Oct 01 | Education
Blair hints at change in student fees
01 Oct 01 | Labour
Labour avoids public services row
12 Jun 01 | Education
Secondary schools Morris's priority
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