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Friday, 3 August, 2001, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
Universities call for funding review
lecture hall
University heads say student funding system is too complex
University chiefs are calling on ministers to look again at the way students are funded.

They say the various bursaries and benefits add up to a complicated funding scheme which is costly to administer.

They are not challenging the student loans system itself, although they are worried that students from poorer homes are being put off studying by the prospect of big debts.

The new president of Universities UK - the body which represents university bosses - has said he hopes the government will re-examine its policies.

Professor Roderick Floud told the Times Higher Education Supplement: "The student support arrangements need urgent review, in particular because of the increasing evidence of the costs and debt built up by students.


The student support arrangements need urgent review

Professor Floud, Universities UK
"It is obvious that this is going to have a greater effect on families with low incomes."

He said he was pleased that the Prime Minister had shown an interest in the issue.

At the Labour Party's national policy forum last weekend, Tony Blair said he and the Education Secretary Estelle Morris would reconsider the balance of contributions made by students and the state.

He said the issue of student loans and tuition fees had been highlighted by many voters in the run-up to the general election.

However, the Department of Education has said this week that it is not planning a review, although it is continuing to monitor the situation.

Research

Universities UK is carrying out research into the present arrangements for supporting students in higher education and will report on this to the government this autumn.

Professor Floud told BBC News Online: "Vice-chancellors believe that the current support funds and benefits available to students are complicated and costly to administer.

"We also fear that many students don't apply for such funds as the application processes are so incomprehensible and we are increasingly concerned about the levels of debt and hardship facing some groups of students."

"We are also very worried that the perceived costs of going to university are putting off potential students from low income households," Professor Floud added.

"Universities UK is determined to address these issues as a matter of urgency."

Professor Floud - who took over as the President of Universities UK on Wednesday - appears generally supportive of tuition fees.

He said: " Although public perception is that all students pay tuition fees, they are, in fact, paid by only 50% of students and a much smaller proportion pay the full fee.

"Students from low income families do not pay fees.

"Our last survey showed that 97% of students pay their fees and these are an important contribution to university income, although they too are costly to collect," he said.

See also:

25 Jul 01 | Education
Students face growing debt burden
02 May 01 | Education
Indebted students face exclusion
29 Apr 01 | Education
Hard-up students 'turn to vice'
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