Tony Blair and his ministers will try to convince Labour critics over plans for student top-up fees on Wednesday.
This comes after the Prime Minister insisted on Tuesday that he would not back down from his decision to introduce student top-up fees.
Students are stepping up their opposition to the plans with a national lobby of Parliament on Wednesday.
Do you think the Prime Minister can win over the opposition? Will top-up fees deter students from going to universities?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:
My daughter has just dropped out of Uni at the start of her second year. She has struggled constantly with lack of money, and a big fear of getting (further) into debt - this despite frequent top-ups to the regular payments I sent her. My son wants to go to Uni next September - and the same cycle will start again. I cannot help feeling that this somewhat cynical Government are working on the basis that parents will do everything they can to ensure their children get the education they deserve - even it means reducing their own lifestyle. However, there comes a point in time (particularly as parents are being increasingly taxed) that a cry of "No" has to be raised. Yes, I will try my best to fund my son, but no I will not be voting for New Labour in the next election.
The government's proposals contain many good points. e.g a third of all students will pay nothing. The government has, up to now, sold the loan aspect of its policy badly, and does not come up with figures to refute the £30,000 debt myth. They could have sold the idea better if they had developed this as a graduate tax from the outset. Instead they bowed to the Tory spin that this is a high tax government oozing with stealth taxes. I believe this is the best way of raising cash for universities and encouraging the poorest to attend the best. Nobody has suggested an alternative that works. The Tory proposal does not add up and cannot be funded.
Everything comes with a price tag these days, so why should education be any different. I say just pay up!
Lynn, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Perhaps we should be looking at the real issues. Why are we encouraging so many young people into universities these days? Isn't it just becoming like a finishing school, instead of a place to get a good degree. Is it because the standard of education in our schools is insufficient as it stands. Or could it be that it helps the unemployment figures enormously, which the government is crowing about at the moment!
Maureen Marshall, England
I can't believe what I'm reading here. In other countries, young people are out working before they reach 10, and the chance of schooling - let alone university - is a dream they can only imagine. All this squabbling and anger over the basic common sense proposal to pay a little bit towards one's education. I've heard some unintelligent debate come from the NUS in my time, but if this is an example of the calibre of today's university students, I think it's just as well so many of the short-sighted and moaning negative students are deterred from going!
Hopefully, the fees will deter prospective students from applying for many of the useless courses on offer - and the universities from providing them.
What a fuss, hasn't anyone heard of the Open University - you can work and get paid and study for a degree at the same time.
Lots of us have done it. It is probably one of the best demonstrations to a future employer that you are: flexible, a good time manager and have determination and character. It is amazing how many people think they can have their cake and eat it - you can't, someone has to pay - if you don't others will such as through tax etc.
Open university and cheaper universities (ex-polys) is certainly an option, Anon, but the problem is when you come to applying for the job (IT especially) you are going to get refused on requirements for candidates who studied at a top university. That discrimination needs to be made illegal before suggesting cheaper options.
Why this obsession with getting everyone into university? For some professions other types of training, such as apprenticeships, would better prepare people for work. This doesn't mean that these professions are not valuable. Why not concentrate on funding degrees where an academic background is absolutely essential for the profession (such as medicine and science) and providing other means for educating those that don't need a degree. This would also aid getting everyone to do what they are good at rather than forcing people to do degrees they might not even want to, but may feel pressurised to do, because somehow they feel that a degree give greater status
I graduated with a HND & BSC,without paying fees and received a grant, yet there are no guaranted jobs after this, and my education hasn't really helped me. My current job is based around my GCSEs. Rather than have taken time to get my education I could of earned so much more money and would have been far better off. It is not fair for so many to pay so much to get little in return, not to mention the loss of earning etc whilst in education. The government should examine the future prospects for graduates in the real world before pressing ahead with such a quick fix scheme.
Shakil , UK
A policy completely contrary to the election manifesto? Surely not! Mr Blair says he does not have a reverse gear. It's a good job he's a dab hand at u-turns then.
I was a mature student aged 29 when I graduated in 1999. I received a grant and topped that up with a student loan. While I accept the argument that students will earn more after graduation so should be responsible for their own education, from a personal perspective I would not have considered university an option had top-up/tuition fees been in place at that time. As I was at university at the time when grants were being abolished, this was a subject that was talked about a lot. Many other mature students were of the opinion that they would not be there had the cost been any greater
Gary Scott, UK
The damage being done to working class opportunities for HE began the moment this government came to power and introduced tuition fees. Right from the outset I found that some of my brightest students decided they could not afford to got to University and would not place their parents in penury. Conversely, some of the dumbest students I have ever taught, who should never be doing A levels, let alone degrees, were lucky enough to have affluent parents who ensured that their lazy offspring did not even have to work during university and wrote off their debts afterwards. What's fair about that? How is increasing the cost likely to make for a level playing field?
Mr Blair and others claim that we need a university educated workforce in this country to compete, that this graduate workforce is good for the economy. If the government wants it, the government should pay for it and stop shackling people with debt.
50 years ago, if you had a good set of O levels, you would have been in line for a good job. 30 years ago, a good set of A levels would have seen you into a career. Now, it seems that having a degree is not enough, with most employers more interested in other experience (such as my employer was when I applied for my first job after leaving university). It just seems bizarre to me that the government want to charge students so much for a degree, when a degree itself has never been worth so little.
It would have put me off going to university and I don't understand the attitude of the government who on one hand is saying that everyone has too much personal debt, and on the other it trying to get more and more people into vast quantities of personal debt with this top up fees scam. I agree that education has to be paid for somehow, but I don't believe that 50% of the population needs to go to university to get a balanced society and personally I think adding 1% income tax to graduates is a less painful way of getting money out of people and in the long run would probably raise more money then the top up fees scheme.
Lucie Allen, UK
What people seem to be forgetting is that money spent on university fees for what really is a minority, is being taken away from more important areas - child care and play groups, or primary schools etc - those early years are far more important and essential for a persons development and for what will inevitably be our country's development. As a university student myself, it's incredibly hard, but if it means my niece or nephew can have a better start to their learning - I'm all for it.
Why should anyone be deterred when they will only start repaying their fees when they have a job that pays well enough for them to be able to afford to. I am afraid it is a fact that graduates earn more than non-graduates. It is also a fact that our universities are chronically underfunded. We are talking about £5 a week here, that's not a huge price to pay for a university education. And as a student I say I would be happy to pay that price once I am earning.
Andrew Scurry, Oxford
It is difficult to imagine that the prospect of leaving university with a debt of £20-30,000 would not deter prospective students, particularly those from poorer backgrounds. If the proposals are passed then not only will students be required to mortgage their futures to pay for their higher education but also for improved research and repairs to universities following years of neglect. This is not fair. The country as a whole and employers hiring graduates benefit from the costs of higher education. If any of these costs need to be recouped, the fairest and most efficient means would be a graduate tax levied on graduates and employers of graduates. This would be retrospective, meaning that even Tony Blair would have to pay.
John Wallace, UK
Being a student here in the States, it is understood from very early on that we the students (of course with help from our parents, and often loans) will pay for our education. Leaving school in debt is a sad reality, but is more than worth it for the education bought. I think that top-up fees are reasonable, as the universities will need more money to keep expanding as institutions - but the government cannot forget the bright students who cannot afford the increased fees. Fees and financial aid go hand in hand. There cannot be the expectation of introducing one without the other.
I myself am a student in my final year at university, I feel it's incredibly unfair and unacceptable that people of my generation have to pay for their education as a result of Mr Blair, whilst he himself and his generation got paid to go to university. Perhaps he should think about imposing a tax on all graduates of all ages to pay for younger generations to go through university. But that might affect how much money both he and his graduate wife have in their pockets so it will most likely never happen!!!!
Dawn Mee, England
It is sadly forgotten that the University education is becoming a terrible burden on the country's finances and economy just as the NHS. The Government has its limitation to the extent it can spend on the welfare state. If we look around the world, we will see that in majority of the countries, university education is not free at all and the burden is not on the state but on the individuals. The Government has every right to ask for top-up fees.
Saqib Khan, Uk
I will be at university for a number of years because of my course! This means I will be in debt of around +£28,000. This amount only covers basic student costs. If top-up fees are introduced, it would send my debt to £42,000! Top-up fees will only increase debt...they are a ridiculous idea and should never be introduced!
When talking about 50 percent in higher education you have to consider that at the moment only about 50 percent of people get more than 5 GCSEs and so what benefit do these people get from higher education?
Tuition fees will discourage students from lower income families applying for university places. Education adds value and an increase in earnings whilst employed. The graduate therefore pays for his/her education by way of increase income tax.
I am a first year degree student and despite all the controversy surrounding the top up fees, I am definitely in favour of them. The university I am studying at is certainly well equipped and the teaching is excellent but there is still much room for improvement and you can tell there is a shortage of funds for it. All this anti-Blair hype is ridiculous and people are just greedy and expect handouts. Public Transport has improved but we don't turn around and say we won't pay for a bus ticket will we? Good on you Tony Blair, you're doing a great job. People should snap out of their dream world where everything should be free.
Graham Oliver, United Kingdom
Why is Tony Blair so set on increasing the amount of students in higher education when the current demand for graduates is so low? I am a recent graduate who is currently struggling to get a job, despite the fact that I have obtained a 1st class degree in IT from a top university and have previous work experience. The market for university graduates continues to decrease, so why should students pay for their right to an education, when there is no reward at the end?
Jason Williams, Wales
I graduated last summer but the plans are almost certainly going to stop me from being able to study further on my return to the UK. Its time Mr. Blair tries to remember what it was like to be one of the masses rather than trying to be a president.
Ian Gardner, UK - currently in Canada
As a St Andrews university student I recommend charging top up fees, as the vast majority of students here can pay, and more importantly how is this relatively small university in a remote location meant to attract top professors without financial incentives?
Sarah Harrison, United Kingdom (Scotland)
I'm currently a final year student studying biomedical sciences, and I can certainly say i would never have considered going to university if I had to pay £3000 a year. On top of living costs, the expense would have been completely prohibitive. Graduate salaries currently are not high enough for it to be financially viable to go to university if it means graduating with debts running into 20 odd thousand pounds.
Melissa Cowan, England
It is pretty arrogant of people to think that they should get their university education completely free. Students themselves decide to go on to higher education and so they should make a contribution because there is absolutely no way it can be justified for general taxation to pay for HE funding. Its about time potential university students started to realise that you don't get something for nothing, but also they have to be financially independent and this is a step in the right direction.
Bradley Thomas, UK
This is just another display of the age-old disparity between the people of the UK and it's Government. The people care about the future, plan for it and work hard towards a better one - the Government sees nothing past the next election. Time and again Parliament has shown that they have no long term view. Even from a purely business sense, the country must invest in the current youth to have any hope of being a world power in times to come. This is one of the number of reasons why I lost all faith in the Government of the UK and left the country with my family for ever.
Mike, NZ (previously UK)
When I went to university in 1973 I gave up a good job paying £1800 a year. My grant was £1666, tax free, and my girlfriend with whom I lived got £1500 - which makes £3166 tax free between us. We had lovely holidays and have never been richer since. Bring back the good old days, I say.
A tax on education! Have we returned to the dark ages? What on earth does the government think it is doing?
As a student I would have been put off by fees.
Now, as an employer I feel that the standards are dropping due to the government's policy of "forcing though" unsuitable students. The accent should be on quality foremost and not on student numbers. A degree is no longer an indication of someone capable of doing the job.
Top-up fees are ludicrous. I am in my final year of A-level studies and I can tell you that half of the people in my college have decided not to go into further education if top-up fees are introduced. This is the general view amongst people in my borough, which is in the inner city of London. So just where will Tony Blair find the extra 50% of students in higher education?
Joseph A, England
My daughter is now re-considering her university offer for 2004. She has already seen the debt incurred by her brother and is now seriously worried about her own financial future. I believe that this prime minister's approach to higher education will prevent talented young people, such as my daughter, from gaining the real benefits that higher education could give her. In turn this country is in danger of creating a new under-educated sub-class who may well never be able to contribute fully to the economic success that could be.
Frank Holloran, England
We seem to have become obsessed with the idea that paying for services must not come from an increase in taxes. Burdening our children with debt at the start of their working lives is not the answer. We are a very rich country by world standards. The political party that proposes an income tax that can be earmarked for education will get my vote at the next election.
Graduates might earn more in the long term. But in the short term how are they supposed to cope when they try to get a mortgage, are being told to start a pension, maybe want to start a family, have to repay a £12-14000 student loan and then also have to 'pay' for their degree?
Consider this. Once you leave university it is nigh on impossible to get a job, not many companies take on graduates with no prior work experience(especially those claiming to be experiencing staffing shortages!). Once you start work and agree to pay back your debts you will use around 20-40% of your wage to pay off your debt. My friend earns £900 a week as a bricklayer. Why bother going to university?
Why not reduce standard B.A. and B.Sc honours degrees to two years. After all with high-tech teaching methods, internet access for research and word processors this should be easily achievable. This by definition should reduce costs enormously.
Brian Braithwaite, Scotland
I think it will deter a lot of people from going to university, but only those who are not really sure why they are going in the first place. Too much emphasis is placed on getting a degree when in actual act the vast majority of graduates get a job which has nothing to do with their degree. Careers advice and the government should be promoting schemes which gain school leavers practical experience instead of offering three years more education which does not prepare graduates for employment.
Graeme Davison, Rotherham, England
I work with sixth formers who are currently applying to university. The fact is that the prospect of huge debts IS putting them off. These are very able students who will be lost to the system.
Helen Wyld, England
It would make more sense in the long run for academic institutions to seek financial support from companies which will benefit from graduates in subject areas such as economics, engineering, law, maths, medicine and physics.
Greg, Bristol, UK
A long time ago pupils came to school on an unwritten contract, that if they worked hard they would get a good job. The Thatcher years saw that promise eroded as manufacturing industry declined.
There was still the promise that if you work hard you could get to uni and then get a better job. Now this government is pulling the rug from under the contract again.
Andy Garner, UK
The government seem to take a very black and white view of this country; everyone is either very rich and so can afford it or very poor and so going to get some help. What about the majority of us who fall somewhere in between, we won't get help but neither will we be able to pay?
Graduates no longer earn much more than non-graduates in many occupations. If Tony Blair has his way, they will end up with less take-home pay than non-graduates doing exactly the same jobs.
Peter Wagstaff, UK
There is no such thing as free education. It has to be paid for one way or another - either by a tax hike applied to all, or by charging those who will benefit directly from tertiary education, namely students.
Steve Cantellow, UK
I think it's disgusting Blair should implement these top-up fees when he had the right to a free education.
Reduce the number of second rate universities, thereby reducing the number of students and then use the same amount of money to provide good courses for good calibre students.
Why can't big business, making obscene profits contribute to the education of our young people?
Donal O'Reilly, UK
As a parent, I find the entire idea of top-up-fees objectionable. As far as I am concerned, I already pay for my children to be educated, whether that be further education or not. I am a taxpayer. I pay tax and I expect my government to spend and invest that money wisely.
Mark Wills, UK
If you think that education is expensive try ignorance.
I think students will be deterred because of the pressure and worry of facing even more debt. Young people will still be trying to deal with debts while finding somewhere to live, setting up homes and having their own families. The system has not been thought through.
Brenda Shaw, England
Send the ministers responsible out to check the student debt situation here in New Zealand. They will find students starting work with a debt of $100,000 dollars, plus. This is especially hard on females and the indigenous people who, still, can't get the higher rates of pay that the white male graduates get.
Frank Munns, New Zealand
A solution for the repayment of top-up fees could be that the graduate does some form of community work and dependant on the number of hours worked, could repay all or part of their loan in this way. Local communities or charitable trusts would gain hugely from the input of young enthusiastic people and the graduate would gain social awareness.
Jill Sheldon, England
Education should be free for all, including university. If there's money for a war, there's money for universities!
Paulina Smid, UK
The fees for degrees that produce the wealth creators (engineers and scientists) doctors, economists and linguists should be financed 100%. The softer less valuable degrees such as law, classics and perhaps accountancy should be totally financed by the student. It is important that the best brains be attracted to the professions that build the wealth of the UK.
Top up fees make sense provided the money is all ploughed back into education and not diverted elsewhere. A large number of courses currently cost £1500 or less each year to UK and EU students. They spend on average only 12 hours each week in the classroom and 6 months each year at university. That leaves an awful lot of free time even if some of it is taken up doing homework and studying. University should not be a three year holiday. Why should anybody else pay for students to earn a degree whilst spending most of their free time smoking, drinking, socialising and generally having a good time? Yes there are exceptions. Get part time work, live within their means as best they can and take responsibility for wanting a higher standard of education and better career prospects. Those who work must do so why should students be a special exemption? Incidentally non-EU students studying here generally pay three times as much each year for their course fees and they don't seem to complain as much.
It is an absolute disgrace that government ministers who, almost without exception, benefited from free university education, should pile on the debt agony for this generation of students. If Tony Blair wants a "conversation" with "people" (as he likes to call us) then he should call an election!
Top up fees are common sense.
The impetus to pay for higher education should not be with the tax payer, but from the one who'll gain the benefits of that education later in life. They are not "up front" fees and will only be repayable once the graduate is earning more than the £20,000 threshold, which is fair considering. Why should the ordinary tax payer, who has no interest in higher education be expected to foot the bill, they'll not reap the benefits personally. Health and education continue to be under funded, because the government cannot afford to keep up the payment from the public purse. It's time for the individual to stand up and pay his dues.
The Government won't face the real solution because it means going back on themselves. Too many people are going to university now. We can't afford to fund it, and there aren't jobs for them afterwards. Also, by increasing the number of people with lower qualifications going to uni, we're going to have to decrease the standard of degrees. It's not working Mr. Blair, reduce the number of student places and bring back polytechnics.
Phil Evans, Keele, UK
Getting a mortgage doesn't deter most people from buying a house. I know many people think education should grow on trees, but high quality higher education needs more funds and it seems only right that there is some correlation between those who benefit and those who pay.
If top-up fees release more funds into primary and secondary education then they have my vote.
Has anyone considered what the knock on effect will be in respect of full-time postgraduate courses and research?
With that much debt after 3 years who would want to take a low paid PhD studentship?
Ian C, UK
I understand that it is hard for students to start life with debt, but a good education costs money for someone.
I hear complaints every week about the lack of staffing in schools, hospitals, etc, and yet at the same time hear plans to charge people even more to become teachers, doctors or whatever. Maybe it's time to look a little more closely at what putting up the fees will do to help the problems we currently face with understaffing?
Why the obsession with university education? For one thing it devalues non-academic skills training. Modern apprenticeships, for example, should be encouraged. University degrees are simply not required in many professions, and with mediocre graduates swamping the labour market, the whole concept of professionalism is being eroded. Cynics might argue that there is an inverse relationship between academic attainment and earnings potential, so let us hear no more about graduates consistently earning more than others.
Francis, Shetland Islands
What about families like mine? I'm English, husband Spanish, 3 daughters born in England, at present living in Madrid. On a teacher's salary we cannot afford 3,000 pounds per year fees. We don't qualify for a loan in Britain since we haven't been residents in the last 3 years and there are none available for us in Spain. We have managed to fund our eldest daughter who is just finishing her degree in England, but the new charges are beyond our means for our other two. They both wanted to continue their studies in England, they are British after all.
Christine Curtis-Perez, Spain
Blair talks eloquently about social justice but his educational reforms favour the rich universities so that the gap between the rich and poor universities will only get wider. An American style university elite system is now a real possibility.
Howard Cannatella, England
When Blair, Blunkett, Clarke and the rest took their degrees it was FREE. Fees paid, decent grant, rent paid and dole in the summer. Britain is the still the fifth largest economy in the world so why can't we afford it now? Is it because we've had war, war, war instead of education, education ... ?
Ron F, UK
If a degree is worth doing, it's worth contributing towards the cost. Did two degrees in London and am now able to work anywhere with the knowledge I gained. Top up fees discourage time wasters who are looking for a way to sit on their behinds for another 3 years.
To those who have posted from the US to say that we in the UK should stop moaning about paying for education - please remember you have higher wages and a lower cost of living out there so you can afford to build up a debt knowing you will easily pay it off. Graduates here may well end up in low paid jobs with massive commuting costs and unaffordable housing.
Why don't all you stop moaning about top up fees. Yes it is education, but this is Higher Education we are talking about. So if you want a degree pay for your fees, if not than you can go and find a job after you leave school. You don't have to pay anything back until you earn £15,000 and over, so why all the worry? The top up fee is a good idea. This ensures everyone makes full commitment to the course. You ask yourself this question - do you want a good job or not?
I am an undergraduate at the University of Durham, and, after completing my degree, hope to take a graduate degree in medicine. I will have spent seven years as a student and amassed untold debt. Those who believe that the taxpayer should not subsidise students are missing an important point. If qualified A-level students from poorer backgrounds are deterred from entering a degree course because of the debt they will accumulate by graduation, the taxpayers who are complaining now about helping us with our fees will be the ones complaining in ten or fifteen years when there is a shortage of doctors, lawyers, teachers, and the myriad other members of the professional classes that we rely on every day and seldom remember to thank or think about how hard they worked to get there.
Elizabeth Routledge, England
Just three words for Mr Blair - "Education, education, education".
Mike Burns, UK
The problem lies with the government's nonsensical target of 50% of young people in higher education - this is simply not necessary. If you didn't need a degree to do a standard office job 30 years ago, why do you need one now? The answer is, of course, that you need one because you compete on a playing field where everyone else has one. The obsession with projecting an 'egalitarian' ideal of degrees for everyone devalues genuine academic achievement. The government should take a good look at the old polytechnics and ask if they provide value for money; is a media studies graduate from one of these universities really more equipped to contribute to the economy than if they hadn't done their degree?
Student top-up fees will make students think twice about going to university, I think that the public should help students with the cost, because they are the next generation of dreamers, shapers and makers. To help them now is to help ourselves in the future.
Phillip Evans, UK
Education should be a right not a privilege. Students should not have to pay fees at all. They'll be charging children to go to primary school next. I have student debts of £12,000, which I was "promised" would be charged at inflation rates of interest, yet I am now being charged 3.5%. Thanks Tony! How am I supposed to live with that? Let alone pay abnormal council tax and rent as I live in the south of England, which is the only place a skint graduate can find a job.
John Lister, UK
I graduated from University last year with a student debt of around £24,000 which I've now started to pay back. I'm not bitter by this debt as I now have a solid future and my degree has given me the potential to go further. I welcome Mr Blair's plans to change the way fees are charged as it will ensure those who can afford to pay will. I think people just see the £3k figure and think its unjust - they need to look at the bigger picture.
Ian Woodland, UK
The wrong solution to the wrong problem. The problem in Britain is not that there isn't enough graduates with arts degrees, but that there's too many. The way to offer true opportunity is to ensure people gain qualifications that really will benefit them in future. The Government's proposals sadly lack that focus.
Richard Price, UK
Means testing of parents is surely irrelevant if students pay their own fees post graduation? Agree so many degrees are now pointless. Govt also wants to have foundation degrees (read technical college course) and so its just going back to how it was, but with less money and more students. The current fee system isn't ideal, but works(ish). The idea of graduates getting it free on other peoples taxes is stupid because if we all benefit so much from degrees and earn so much who really pays the more tax then?
If these top up fees and student loans are so that the better off working graduate will be repaying them themselves when they earn enough, why are there bursaries, and why are student loans means tested? Surely after graduation all graduates will be on an even footing?
Scrap tuition fees and cut the numbers of university students. What on earth do we need all these graduates for anyway? What ever happened to craftsmen and skilled tradesmen? All I want is a good plumber!
This may deter the older student from wanting to apply to university. Mature students are often excellent students, but when already coping with mortgages and families, the investment needed to go to university may well deter some able and excellent students wishing to make a career change into one of the more needed disciplines, i.e. nursing / teaching.
I think that the basis of this argument is wrong. If the government achieve their goal of getting 50% of all school leavers to university, then the advantage of having a degree is much less, so the apparent financial benefits will diminish. After three to four years of university all those graduates will find themselves in a lot of debt with a limited job market and quite possibly poor financial prospects.
If top-up fees are introduced after completion of degrees people will go abroad and work there as they then can avoid paying back the excessive amounts of money! Britain will lose out as they will lose doctors who will decide to go and work abroad
The idea that top up fees should be implemented is ridiculous. I am a full time university student and am finding it very difficult to pay the fees and support myself. It is so bad that I have barely enough money to buy food, and no I do not drink nor smoke. If these top up fees do go ahead, I may have to stop my further education as I will not be able to pay them, even with the two jobs that I have at the moment. When will grants come back again, and how does Tony Blair think that people straight out of university with their degrees can afford to pay this top up fee as well as the huge amount of student loan as well. It is a heavy burden to place on anyone's shoulders, and will start the young professionals into their working life with a huge debt behind them.
Naomi Wilson, N. Ireland
These students should get a life.
Do they expect the tax payer to nurse them through life?
Here in the States we pay for our education either before or after we get out of school.
M G Capewell, USA
The new proposals will not punish the very poor nor the very rich they will, however, punish those people in the middle who have the academic ability to merit further education but perhaps not the financial backing. It is possible to get into a university, although perhaps not a very good one, with very poor A Level grades. The way to reduce the numbers of students in higher education is by making A levels harder and setting high academic standards. Only those with the intelligence to get good and worthwhile degrees should be allowed to go to university. The government should be concentrating on the foundations of our academic system. Top up fees will not solve any problems, in fact they will only make things worse.
Amanda, Cambridge, UK
This is almost another tax if you look into it, a Education tax. Repayments paid on a 'means' basis. Education should be a right and it should be free. The benefits can be reaped from taxation once you have graduated. We have a major shortage of doctors, architects, engineers and IT specialist and guess what - all these jobs require lengthy and expensive degree periods. The proposal will therefore discourage entrants to these degrees and encourage debt as well as create a glass ceiling on education based on how wealthy your parents are, not your ability. This whole proposal goes against Labour and British modern values and history. It also lends more argument to our US style government.
Simon Williams, UK
I would suggest fully funding (fees + grant) a fix number of higher education places and ensuring that funded places are allocated purely on merit. Funded places could also be weighted to the more useful courses where graduates get tax paying jobs afterwards. Anybody who does not win a funded place on merit could still enter higher education but at their own expense (possible supported by a student loan arrangement as we have now).
Steve Townsend, England
Tony Blair is totally wrong to inflict huge debts on university students. I am aged 50 and did not go to uni, because my parents could not afford it. I would gladly pay extra income tax to ensure children from poorer families get their chance at a degree. He is so out of touch, children from a poorer background can expect no help from their parents in paying back these fees, whereas it must be a likelihood that the better off parents will help in that respect. It is scandalous to burden graduates with MASSIVE debt.
Tony Blair, put yourself in someone else's shoes for once, your own children are privileged, most aren't.
Jean Hesketh, UK
Not that long ago we actually paid students to go to university in the form of a grant. Where did the money come from for this? Surely if Higher education is so strapped for cash, and there are some students who have only 9 hours actual contact with tutors each week, there are some efficiencies to be made. We shouldn't be burdening students with debt - they are the countries future.
We have a choice between higher fees or second-rate universities. I hope the fees are increased before it is too late. Higher fees will discourage students from doing pointless degrees, which is a good thing. Good students from every background will still want to do quality degrees.
Chris, Cambridge, UK
I graduated from my four year Engineering degree in 2002 with a student debt of around £16,000. Under these new plans i could have been saddled with an additional £16,000 debt. There is no way that I would be prepared to start my working life owing more than £30,000.
Alex Shenfield, UK
Target 50%? The result is spending per student halved and the incurring of crippling debt. Do we need 50% of the workforce to have degrees? Perhaps employers can start to make life easier by changing their obsession with graduates and identifying those 18-year olds degree-capable and employing and training them. This would produce more job-specific education, allowing the next generation to build a life unencumbered by debt and freeing cash to improve degree courses for those vital jobs requiring further education such as doctors and engineers.
Surely if 50% of young people go to Uni then this will devalue the qualification in the job market, meaning a degree won't necessarily lead to a large salary. Which will mean it will take many years to pay off the debt. This will put off many capable students
The option of Apprenticeships should be given more credit in schools. When I was at school the only option made available to me was University. I went - didn't like it and started a Modern Apprenticeship for a multinational car manufacturer. I have been EARNING money since I stared. I attend college and I am currently studying for my HND, all of my college is paid for by my employer. I have also gained valuable on the job experience that you just cannot teach at University!
It will deter those who go along for a free ride. They would think twice about going to Uni if they had to pay for it. Paying for goods and services is something we all understand - who respects something that is given free? Paying for Education is a good filter - and will deter those who do not really want to do it. If you want a nice house - pay for it, if you want a nice car - pay for it, if you want a first class education - pay for it, and let's face it, which graduate cannot afford £5.19p a week with NO INTEREST when they reach the 18K threshold?
They would have deterred me. I find it deeply insulting that the government can declare that "the student gets the benefit, the student should pay". In the same vein, couldn't one say the same about the NHS? "The patient gets the benefit, the patient should pay". If all of the facts about graduates earning more are true, then surely they'll pay more tax and national insurance anyway? Maybe it's all a BIG CON to massage the unemployment figures and cut down the amount of state benefit that has to be paid.
Phil N, UK
I think top-up fee is a very fair system. You won't pay till you got actually paid over £15,000. So you will only need to pay the fee when you actually get benefits from the education received. I can't understand why people started worry about debt when there isn't even any yet. Just have less nights out, you won't end up in that much debt! I am at my third yr at uni, and I'm doing a placement at the moment, which i got paid £13,500, I don't have to pay back anything if I got the same job after I graduated under the proposed rule. I wish top-up fee was existing when I first went into uni, my situation could be much better.
So if my son leaves school at sixteen and works for a supermarket he could earn in excess of £50,000 by the time he is twenty one. On the other hand he could stay on at school and study for A-levels in physics, chemistry, maths and computing and then a degree and by the time he is twenty one he could have a debt of up to £20,000. I don't think my son wants that much debt and think if 50% of students go on to take a degree then the degree becomes worthless anyway.
I find it upsetting that ministers who come from privileged families, and were educated in the era of grants feel that my generation should pay larger and larger sums of money for our education. I am at the same uni as Tony Blair's son and I am constantly reminded of the stark contrast between rich and poor students. I would like to see ministers live on £4000 for three years! Then we shall see if they want to charge more for education.
I am so pleased that I went to university when there were still grants in place. If I was looking at university now, I can honestly say that I would not go ahead. There is no way I would start my adult life with such a huge debt on my shoulders. What this means for the UK is that the very very poor will be helped somehow, the very rich won't care, and the middle ground will have to decide whether getting a higher education is worth the debt that they will incur.
I graduated this summer with a first class degree from Oxford. I am now twelve thousand pounds in debt, an amount which is rising steadily. In contrast, I have heard of other well-off students who took out student loans only in order to invest them. There needs to be greater consideration of precisely who benefits from student finance policies, as well as perhaps a little more compassion towards those of us from less well-off backgrounds who feel we have a right to improve our education.
There might be an initial period of adjustment where some students will have to alter their plans, but students will find sources of funding for their precious university education. We must get used to the concept that good infrastructure, education and public services have to be paid for, somehow. Maybe those parents who don't contribute a penny to their children's' fees might be forced at last into contributing, as they always should have.
Adrian Cheong, Oxford, UK
Some lucky school leavers will be deterred by the fees from going to university and leave school at 16 to get an apprenticeship in a lucrative trade. By the time they are 21 they will have had five years of earnings and be on the road to personal prosperity, whereas many of their compatriots will leave university at the same age with useless degrees in telly watching and a lorry load of debt.
Bill Gordon, UK
You have to remember that from the government's point of view debt is a good thing. Particularly for those bright young folks coming out of universities. They create less trouble etc because they are tied to banks/loans and desperately need any job.
How convenient for Mr Blair and his complacent colleagues who were able to complete a uni course with fees, grants and housing benefits, that no-one was short sighted enough to do this to them. My son has had to take all the loans on offer to complete his first class degree and masters and keep a roof over his head in London. Now he has to start his career almost 30 grand in debt. What kind of start in life is that for the people who are our hope for the future?
J. Spencer, UK
Why the obsession with so many people going to university? All that does is make university degrees worthless. We should be increasing the standard to get into university and getting rid of Mickey Mouse degrees, so REDUCING student numbers. Then we might be able to better fund the universities and students that deserve to go, not making it a playground for the rich again, or encouraging people to waste their time at the "university of life".
I'm just about to graduate as a doctor with £30,000 debt for the honour of working for a government who would rather I and every other medical student pay in the region of £40,000. We will already be more than paying for our tuition once we qualify through the higher tax band. If this government's priorities really are health and education then at least those who want to work in these areas stand a fighting chance of doing so rather than only those who can afford to.
Tim Smith, England
Thank God I've finished university. I wouldn't be able to afford it now and with these top up fees, i would be in debt for the next 20 years.
Top up fees may anger some students when in 10 years time they find themselves with larger debts than some of their peers due to not coming from a poorer background. If the fees are repaid after graduation with a minimum salary why do they need to be means tested?
What about rewarding hard work by offering rebates to students who get good results? This would mean that by working harder and getting a First class degree, a student could still get a 'free' education.
Dave Bancroft, Austria
Universities could save money by not offering stupid worthless courses. If all courses have a clear purpose for advancing the employment skills available in this country then the Government will bring in more taxes and they will be able to fund Universities.
For once am on the Government side on this issue. Why should I pay for someone else to go to University? I graduated just over two years ago and am now paying back my loan. All students should contribute towards the cost of their degree.
Joel Akisniep, UK
Our two sons studied for six years each to become doctors, if they had to pay those fees you would have lost two hard working men, as they would have never had been able to study medicine. They left medical school in heavy debt.
Mrs Paula Phillips, England
Does charging drivers more for driving deter drivers from driving?
The government are meant to be encouraging people to go on to higher education, and their way of doing it is to tell them that they'll have no money. Either that or they'll breed a generation of adults who will live their whole lives trying to pay off debts. It just doesn't make any sense.
The reality is that universities will not advance without more money. The just solution is govt aid to poorer, qualified students.
Garrett W. Sheldon, USA
Is it so unusual that people might want to start their working lives saving for a house or pension, rather than paying off debts? The Government seems to want all our money now - soon there'll be no pensions or individual long term investments of any kind if people have to pay off thousands of pounds before they can begin saving.
There seems to be no problem with the government imposing a burden of debt on those who will obtain a loan to pay university fees. What about the remainder who will not have to pay their way through university. Will they also be expected to repay the money spent on them by the tax payer once they begin to earn a decent salary? When the government can decide what level it should be that is. Otherwise the system is even more unfair, biased and prejudiced than currently proposed.
Richard Tams, UK
The NUS has dropped the ball here. The No fees stance is a non compromising policy that will not gain the student population anything. A little compromise, like accepting fees yet trying to keep them reducing would give our sovereign body a much better stance. Having marched in Dec 2002 I am now appalled at the waste the NUS has made of this opportunity. Telford's comments regarding the possible rise in the threshold are out of line, why not accept the concession which will benefit the students and yet still work on fees. The NUS really has lost touch with the opinions of its members
Chris Holt, England
For once the Government is spot on. Of course students should contribute towards the cost of their degree. As for the idea that income tax takes care of it - no, that is a tax on your income, irrespective of whether or not you have a degree. The point is, that the education itself has to be paid for by someone. And as for the idea that 'variable' tuition fees are wrong, well, why should someone going for a degree in social work at an ex-poly, pay the same as someone taking accountancy at Cambridge?!
What I find unfair is that this measure is for England only. The Scottish Parliament (funded by English taxpayers money) has ruled these fees out for Scottish Universities. This won't stop MP's from Scottish constituencies voting this through for England though. There is a constitutional deficit here that needs urgent attention.
The government could solve this issue and demonstrate its commitment to science and technology in a single stroke. Simply waive fees for those students taking subjects like Physics and Engineering, while imposing full fees for the increasing number taking woolly subjects like Media Studies. Given that the number of students taking science subjects is fairly static despite the increase in total student numbers, it is likely that the laws of supply and demand will sort this out without the need to proclaim certain subjects more worthy than others.
As a graduate student reading medicine as a second degree, I can confirm that there is a huge discrepancy between the 'urgent need for doctors' and the government's readiness to help those who are stepping forward. I am already charged fees, and am completely self funding. I know for a fact that the current fees are already squeezing people in similar positions off the courses due to mounting debt, especially in London.
Many aren't applying at all despite being qualified and interested. This valuable part of the student population will simply be blown out of the water if fees go up. Fiddle with the terms as much as you like- people simply don't want to take on the debt to start with.
Now, the cost to the country of putting so many young people into universities is becoming plainly evidsities is becoming plainly evident. If we had stuck with a healthy student population and not seen such a great recent surge in increasingly non-academic studies, Universities could run more efficiently and wouldn't need all this extra cash.
Since the government insists on sending so many to university here's a simple solution. Let the top 10%, based on academic ability alone, go to university paid for by the taxpayer. Let the rest go if they pay their own way. At a stroke you allow the brightest kids to study further without incurring debts. If anyone else feels they can make a go of it they can finance it themselves. Bingo - genuine opportunity for all and no fear of debts for the most academic.
John B, UK
I'm currently studying for my AS-Levels, and will therefore be the last university year to escape under the current fees. However, anybody from my year planning a gap year will have to pay the top fees. To answer the question whether they will deter students, I would like to point out nobody I know is taking a gap year. That's at least one hundred who I know that have been deterred already.
Although, I am originally from the States I am currently a third year student at Oxford, reading for a degree in Modern History. In the United States it is normal to leave university with nearly $100,000 debt, the idea that the government should subsidise education would be a joke. While this is not a path the UK should strive to follow, it has not deterred American students from getting a degree in "non-essential" fields such as history and English. University attendance is not likely to fall off dramatically in modern Britain where many see it as a necessity no matter what the cost.
Elizabeth Barrett, UK