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EDITIONS
Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 18:56 GMT
Clarke to 'sell' university fee plans
Charles Clarke
Education Secretary set for grand tour
Ministers are to visit "the four corners of England" in an effort to promote higher education reforms.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke and Higher Education Minister Margaret Hodge are promising an "open debate" with students and university staff.

The announcement follows the publication of government plans to allow universities to charge up to 3,000 a year for courses.

It is estimated the changes could leave the average graduate owing 15,000.

The National Union of Students described this as "students footing the bill" for the state.

However, means-tested grants of up to 1,000 have been introduced for the poorest students.

The plans also give the higher education sector an annual increase in funding of 6% over the next three years.

Slipping behind

Mr Clarke said: "I want to have a frank and open debate about how we are going to get more people from poorer backgrounds into universities and colleges."

The government has reiterated its target of moving "towards 50%" of young people going into higher education by 2010.

The extra charges, it says, are necessary to pay for this expansion and to allow leading UK universities to compete with those abroad.

Margaret Hodge
Margaret Hodge

Fees are now to be repayable after a course, rather than before, and not until graduates are earning 15,000 a year or above.

During the tour, Mr Clarke and Mrs Hodge will talk about "foundation degrees" - vocational qualifications which lead to full university honours degrees.

Also on the agenda will be the quality of teaching and improving links with business.

Mr Clarke said: "The truth is that without investment our universities will slip behind in the world rankings - damaging the economy and prospects for students."

The itinerary of Mr Clarke and Mrs Hodge's tour is due to be announced.


News and analysis of the government's plans for higher education
See also:

22 Jan 03 | HE overview
22 Jan 03 | HE reaction
22 Jan 03 | HE reaction
22 Jan 03 | HE case studies
Internet links:


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