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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Top-up fees 'not ruled out'
lecture theatre
Students are currently charged 1,075 in tuition fees
Universities are still considering "top-up" fees for students, even though the three major political parties have ruled out introducing them.

Diana Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, says the higher education system needs 900m a year more by 2004 to cope with growing numbers of students.

Bringing in top-up fees is one of four options being considered - although the organisation prefers the term "market fees", because those courses which are harder to fill could lower their payments.


Universities UK is keeping all the options on the table... this includes the market fees option

Diana Warwick
Currently universities can only charge students 1,075 for tuition - any found charging more lose the same amount in public funding, under government regulations.

Other options under debate for raising the 900m are getting it from the taxpayer, a tax on graduates or endowing universities with a one-off state grant.

Writing in Economic Affairs, the journal of free-market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, Baroness Warwick said: "How the higher education system is funded in the future is ultimately a political decision."

"Universities UK is keeping all the options on the table and continuing to promote a robust and evidence-based discussion of them.

"This includes the market fees option, even though all the main political parties have ruled them out," she said.

Oxford fees

Ms Warwick's words come as the bursar of New College, Oxford said students could face a 15,000 top-up fee to prevent the institution "sinking into decline".


Unless top-up tuition fees are charged... the Oxford colleges will simply, slowly, collectively, sink into a steady decline

David Palfreyman, Oxford
In a book introducing first-year students to the tutorial system in Oxford, David Palfreyman claims the university may no longer be able to support its international profile in research and first-rate tutoring.

Mr Palfreyman, who is also director of the university's Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies, believes Oxford will eventually have to follow the American system of charging tuition fees for high-cost courses such as medicine.

The suggested fee of about 15,000 could be deferred until after graduation and would generate funds for bursaries for poorer students as with the ivy league institutions in the United States.

"Unless top-up tuition fees are charged and/or extra endowment capital found, the Oxford colleges will simply, slowly, collectively, sink into a steady decline," said Mr Palfreyman.

Disappointment

President of the National Union of Students, Owain James, said the union was disappointed that top-up fees were still considered as an option.

"Students have overwhelmingly demonstrated their opposition to them and all the main political parties have ruled them out," said Mr James.

"Students today are contributing 1.6bn every year, NUS is worried that the serious issue of equal access to higher education is being ignored while additional fees remain on the agenda."

Access to higher education should be based on academic ability, not the ability to pay, he added.

See also:

02 Feb 01 | Education
University top-up plans attacked
31 May 00 | Education
'Top-up' fees threat for students
07 Jul 00 | Education
Students say top-up fees cut access
02 Mar 00 | Education
Below inflation rise for universities
14 Sep 00 | Education
Universities debate funding options
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