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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Concern over student debt
lecture hall
MPs says students from higher income families homes should pay more towards their higher education to given more support to students from poorer backgrounds.

Critics are concerned such moves could put many people off going to university.

The Commons education committee report on student funding came after it emerged that the government's own review had been postponed again.

What the report says.

The government review, ordered by the prime minister after his ear-bashing during the general election, is not now expected until October.

The Department for Education and Skills has said it has no further comment to make on the select committee's report for now.

But a Liberal Democrat member of the select committee, Paul Holmes, said its support for higher tuition fees "flies in the face of the government's so-called commitment to increasing participation in higher education".

He said the Welsh and Scottish administrations had a far better grasp of what encouraged young people to take up places at university.

Incentives

"Twenty years of debt and three years of scraping by, strangely enough, does not appeal to many of our young people," he said.

"An end to tuition fees, and the reintroduction of maintenance support for their student years are the incentives a lot of young people need, particularly those from less affluent homes.


The continuing prospect of inadequate loans and future debt will still deter many

Lecturers' leader
"It is a shame that neither the Labour nor Conservative members of the select committee could see this."

The Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Alistair Burt, said the fact that the select committee had produced a report in a matter of months put the Government to shame.

"They promised to produce their review by autumn last year and we are still waiting," said Mr Burt.

"This ridiculous state of affairs is badly undermining confidence throughout the sector."

Universities said the committee's recommendations did not go far enough to remove the barriers stopping the poorest students going into higher education.

The president of Universities UK, Professor Roderick Floud, said: "We welcome the recommendation that current systems of student support be simplified.

Students' concerns

More core funding

"But our submission to the review of student support went further, recommending mandatory grant support for the poorest students. This is vital if the financial barriers to access are to be removed."

Universities UK said additional help for students must not be at the expense of institutions' funding.

Top-up fees would not help the majority of universities, so it looked to next week's spending announcement by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, to address their need for more money.

The lecturers' union Natfhe said it was encouraging that the report recognised the need to provide maintenance support for further education students, who until now had been ignored.

Two-tier

Its general secretary, Paul Mackney, said: "It also recognises that finances available to students should 'reflect the realistic cost of studying'.

"Sadly, this principle is used to advocate bigger loans - with their consequent bigger debts - instead of a realistic maintenance allowance to attract poorer students.

"The continuing prospect of inadequate loans and future debt will still deter many potential working class and ethnic minority students."

It was disappointing that the committee had "failed to reject" the idea of institutions charging differential tuition fees.

This would lead to "a two-tier system", he added.


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11 Jul 02 | UK Education
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