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Thursday, 8 February, 2001, 16:19 GMT
Blunkett: No top-up fees
nus march
The NUS has campaigned against top-up fees
Top-up fees for students will remain outlawed if the government wins the next general election, the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, has said.

Students are delighted - but university chiefs have said it will mean they will need more public funding.

At the moment, better-off students pay a contribution towards the cost of their tuition, of up to 1,050 a year.

Universties have been discussing the possibility of charging students more, to boost their income.

There will be no levying of top-up fees in the next parliament if we win the next election

David Blunkett

One university - Aston - even included proposals for top-up fees in its five-year plan.

But Mr Blunkett told MPs: " I've made my position clear over the past two years that I am against top-up fees.

"But I can now make the government's position clear.

"There will be no levying of top-up fees in the next parliament if we win the next election."

More public funding will be neccessary in the future

Diana Warwick, Universities UK
The body which represents heads of universities, Universities UK (formerly the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals) says top-up fees must be part of the debate about the funding of higher education.

The organisation's chief executive, Diana Warwick, said: " More money has been directed towards higher education recently but it's clear the sector needs much more support to be able to bring in the extra students the government wants to see in our universities.

Owain James
Owain James says it is a triumph for the NUS

"If higher contributions from students or graduates are ruled out, more public funding will be necessary in the future."

The National Union of Students (NUS) has hailed Mr Blunkett's statement as a victory.

Its president, Owain James, said: "While we are delighted at the government's statement, NUS wants all political parties to go a step further and abolish tuition fees.

"We also want the introduction of targeted maintenance grants for those from lower income backgrounds - access should be based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay."

Mr Blunkett's comments have also been welcomed by the biggest lecturers' union, the Association of University Teachers.

Political wrangling

General secretary David Triesman said he hoped the announcement would end the political wrangling and speculation on the future of top-up fees.

"University staff will be relieved to see the threat of top-up fees removed from the political horizon.

"The challenge for politicians now is to find the extra resources to invest in higher education and the quality of teaching," he said.

"University staff will be relieved

David Triesman, AUT

"There is now a consensus against charging students additional fees in the political leadership of our main parties.

"Today will be a blow to university vice-chancellors who support the idea that students can afford to contribute more towards the cost of their education."

The Liberal Democrats' spokesman on higher education, Dr Evan Harris, said he would still be on his guard.

"After over a year of refusing to rule out top-up fees and indeed encouraging universities to explore methods of introducing them, the government has finally given the commitment that students and parents were waiting for," he said.

"Everyone remembers that the government claimed to have no plans to introduce tuition fees and abolish maintenance grants before the last election and it remains to be seen if they can't be trusted on top-up fees."

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See also:

31 May 00 | Education
'Top-up' fees threat for students
07 Jul 00 | Education
Students say top-up fees cut access
02 Feb 01 | Education
University top-up plans attacked
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