Page last updated at 00:03 GMT, Sunday, 8 November 2009

Many 'against student fee rise'

By Angela Harrison
BBC News education reporter

University graduates
Fees for university students are a controversial issue

Most people are against raising university tuition fees for students in England, a survey has suggested.

A survey for the National Union of Students survey suggests only 12% of those questioned want fee increases to be considered.

At the moment, students in England pay just over £3,000 a year for almost all higher education courses.

The government will announce the terms of a review into the funding of higher education on Monday.

It had promised to hold a review before a decision was taken on whether universities could raise fees from the present limit of £3,225 a year.

The scope of the inquiry and the name of the person who will lead it will be revealed in a written statement to the House of Commons.

The review is expected to be wide-ranging, looking at various funding options, but will not be finished until after the next general election.

In the online poll, conducted by YouGov, 2,152 people were questioned between 3-5 November

Half of those surveyed said the review group should look at abolishing fees.

With recession cuts looming, all sides are keen to get their message across in the debate over who should pay what in higher education.

Students have been campaigning against any increase in fees and are lobbying to be represented on the review panel.

STUDENT FEES (2009-10)
England: £3,225 p.a.
N. Ireland: £3,225 p.a.
Scotland: free to Scots, £1,775 to other UK
Wales: £1,285 to the Welsh, £3,225 to other UK
Students from elsewhere in the EU pay the same as those locally
Those from outside the EU pay whatever the university charges

NUS President Wes Streeting said: "This poll shows that the public will not stand for a cosy stitch-up on university fees.

"At a time of economic crisis, when many hard working families are struggling to support their offspring through university, a hike in fees is the last thing we need.

"Students are already leaving university with record levels of debt and it would be totally unacceptable to fill the panel with people who are either government patsies or predisposed to higher fees.

The business community are among those calling for students to pay more for their education and some university vice-chancellors are reported to want to raise tuition fees to as much as £7,000 a year.

The Confederation of British Industry has said students should accept higher tuition fees as "inevitable" and pay more interest on their student loans.

Earlier this week, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson warned that the higher and further education sectors faced "increasingly tight fiscal constraints" and needed to raise more of their own funds.

"We will also have to look at the contribution that individuals make to the cost of higher education, which we will do through the independent fees review," he said.

University lecturers are largely lining up alongside the students.

The University and College Union (UCU) is worried that the fact that the review will not be completed until after the next general election will allow politicians to "duck the issue".

Votes cost

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "The NUS findings back up our recent poll that showed just how unpopular raising university fees would be with the general public.

"There is little doubt in my view that a higher fees policy would cost a party valuable votes at the ballot box.

"However, that does not make it acceptable for the main parties to use this review as an excuse to duck the issue ahead of the election.

"All the parties must clearly state their fee policies to ensure that students and their parents can make an informed choice at the ballot box and add their voices to the debate on the future of university funding."

Students in England and Northern Ireland and non-Welsh students in Wales have to pay tuition fees of as much as £3,225 a year.

Welsh students studying in Wales pay fees of £1,285 while there are no tuition fees in Scotland.

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