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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 12:06 GMT
Students: 'listen and scrap fees'
Mandy Telford led protests at the recent NUS rally
Mandy Telford led protests at the recent NUS anti-fees rally
Students say the government's new public consultation exercise, the "Big Conversation", is a perfect opportunity to reverse its top-up fees plan.

Ministers should "do the honourable thing" and scrap the policy, said the president of the National Union of Students (NUS), Mandy Telford.

More than 120 Labour MPs are opposed to allowing universities to vary annual tuition fees, up to 3,000.

So the legislation, expected next week, could be defeated in the Commons.

Level of hostility

I fear that Blair's proposals will hit the lower middle class hardest.
Anna Keyes, UK

"Opposition to top-up fees comes from every section of society and is the most unpopular policy unveiled in the Queen's Speech earlier this week," Ms Telford said.

"The TUC vehemently opposes their introduction as do Labour backbench MPs, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and a staggering 84% of the public.

"The Big Conversation is the perfect opportunity for the government to scrap top-up fees.

"The level of hostility to this policy means if the government persists with it they will be facing an embarrassing defeat in the House of Commons."

She said public consultation would reveal what the students had known all along - that nobody wants top-up fees.

"If this exercise is to have any credibility then the government must listen to the public and act on their wishes."

As things stand, however, universities are planning to use the new powers to vary fees.

A majority have indicated they will charge the full 3,000 because they need the money to make up the loss they currently sustain on teaching undergraduates - hence the term "top-up".

Blair launching 'Big Conversation'
28 Nov 03  |  Politics

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