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EDITIONS
Friday, 18 October, 2002, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
Students protest against fees plan
students holding banner
Students say they were misled [Photo: Student union]
Students have been holding a silent protest over the plan by Imperial College in London for up to a tenfold increase in tuition fees.


He is absolutely deluded if he thinks he is talking on behalf of the higher education sector in general

Sally Hunt, lecturers' union

The plan was presented by the rector of Imperial, Sir Richard Sykes, to the meeting on Friday of the college's ruling council - which approved it.

He says "it seems likely" the government will next month propose to remove the limitation on fees, currently capped at 1,100.

He says initial discussions with a number of other leading universities "have indicated a commitment to charge higher fees".

He presents a range of options for means-tested fees of up to 10,500 a year.

Higher expectations

They could even be more than that, because he says fee-paying students' expectations of the quality of accommodation and other facilities would also be higher.


We're not interested in increasing the financial burden on students

Imperial's rector, May 2001
A spokesman for Imperial College said the paper was the "first stage" of a process that would enable students, as well as the university's senior management, to air their views.

Imperials' students are furious - not least because of what Sir Richard told them last year.

In an archive video recording released by the student television service, dated 1 May 2001, Sir Richard told students:

"We do not want to have - let me make this very clear in front of all of you, so I want you to listen - we're not interested in increasing the financial burden on students."

He shrugged: "It's a pointless exercise.

"One, it's illegal.

"And there are better ways of making money."

The students have vowed to oppose his plan, beginning with the silent protest at the council meeting.

Sir Richard has agreed to talk to students about the issue next Friday, 25 October.

Union denunciation

The revelation of the plan also appears to have upset University College, London (UCL) - with which Imperial has just announced that it is in merger talks.

Imperial's strategy director, Chris Towler, said he believed UCL was also among those minded to go for higher fees.

But a UCL spokesman denied this.

The Association of University Teachers nationally denounced the top-up fees plan.

Its general secretary, Sally Hunt, said Sir Richard was being "provocative" and added: "He is absolutely deluded if he thinks he is talking on behalf of the higher education sector in general.

"We are fundamentally against top-up fees for three reasons. Students are already massively in debt and this would simply make matters worse.

'Recipe for inequality'

"Top-up fees would undoubtedly lead to a two-tier system where wealthy children could go to the top institutions and poor children would have to make do with second best."

And she said they would do "absolutely nothing" to solve the financing problems in higher education.

The Liberal Democrat higher education Spokesman, David Rendel, said higher fees were a recipe for even greater student debt and inequality.

"I strongly support the students in their campaign to defeat it," he said.

"It is vital that universities, students and parents argue the case for a fairer alternative - just as the Liberal Democrats have already achieved in Scotland."

Students from Scotland do not pay fees as such, but have to contribute a proportion of their graduate earnings to an "endowment" fund for less well-off students.


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Top-up fees
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See also:

17 Oct 02 | Education
17 Oct 02 | Education
14 Oct 02 | Education
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