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EDITIONS
HE reaction Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 14:57 GMT
Anger over higher fees
students on campus
Fees will now be paid after graduation, it's reported
Students and lecturers have attacked the government's plans to allow universities to raise their tuition fees, saying it will lead to an elitist, two-tier system.

Students could face debts of up to 30,000 warns the National Union of Students (NUS) and will have to pick their course depending on the cost.

Both students and academics welcomed the return of maintenance grants for the poorest students and the decision to scrap up-front fees.

But both reject the idea of top-up fees, where universities can decide for themselves how much to charge for a course, up to a limit of 3,000 a year.

Debt warning

Some individual universities, such as Imperial College, London, have previously come out in favour of top-up fees, but others had opposed the idea saying higher fees could deter students from poorer backgrounds from applying to university.

The NUS President, Mandy Telford, said students were now being asked to bridge the university funding gap.

"NUS welcomes the government's recognition that student support is vital in student retention with the re-introduction of the maintenance grant," she said.

A thumbs up with one hand and a thumbs down with the other

Sally Hunt, Association of University Teachers
"The removal of up-front fees is another step in the right direction that we applaud, however we must question why the government refuses to recognise the deterrent that debt is for students from the poorest backgrounds.

"The differential level of tuition fees will lead to students choosing their course based on cost rather than aptitude."

The Association of University Teachers (AUT) said the government's announcement was "a mixed bag".

The union says top-up fees are unjust and retrogressive and will become a 'much-detested tax'.

AUT general secretary Sally Hunt said: "The government's higher education announcements produce a thumbs up with one hand and a thumbs down with the other.

"The additional funding is excellent, but the proposed top-up fees are wrong."

Pressure

The union which represents many of the lecturers at the newer universities, NATFHE, also condemns the top-up fees.

The organisation's general secretary, Paul Mackney said: "Despite some positive elements such as the restoration of student grants - albeit modest, NATFHE is vehemently opposed to the introduction of variable tuition fees.

"This will undermine the coherence of the UK HE system and the further impoverish the new universities - which already only receive 40% of funding while catering for 60% of students.

"Variable fees will put even more pressure on potential students from poor and modest backgrounds to choose courses and universities on the basis of cost."

See also:

22 Jan 03 | HE overview
22 Jan 03 | HE overview
16 Jan 03 | Education
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