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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 08:52 GMT 09:52 UK
Is university now just for the rich?

Tony Blair has been challenged over tuition fees by a student at the University of Glamorgan in Wales. Andrew Chaplin chased Mr Blair's convoy before accusing him of driving students into a spiral of debt.

Mr Blair responded by saying that going to university was a privilege and that tuition fees were necessary to expand access to higher education. He also pointed out that youngsters from low income families were not having to pay the fees.

The Liberal Democrats say they would abolish initial fees, but would expect some to be paid back later. They also want to bring back grants for poorer students. The Conservatives have not made any pledges to abolish fees, but they have ruled out "top-up fees".

As many universities suffer a funding crisis it is right to make students pay for their degrees? Could higher education ever be free to all again? Has a university education become the preserve of the rich?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

Why not make the companies pay? They are the ones who insist on university educated employees.
Caron, England

When I graduate in a few weeks I will have about £10,000 of debt to the government to pay off, not counting what I owe my bank. How politicians can say that this prospect is not discouraging to prospective students is beyound me. The loan is barely enough to cover living costs. I have a job as well as a full loan and extended overdraft, and I still have to penny-pinch when I go food shopping. Bring back grants, it'll be too late for me, but hopefully my little sister won't have to go through such stress.
Arike, Birmingham, England

What a completely stupid question! If you charge for higher education, of course people least able to pay will not be able to afford it. Can I afford to send my children to Eton? Of course not! What difference is there when universities start to introduce charges? It's okay for the likes of Tony Blair, who railroads his kids into any school/university he likes.
Andy, Lincs


Third-rate universities are being filled up with third-rate students studying for degrees which are often useless

Robert, Malvern, England
We are a wealthy country that should want to produce top people to help us progress even further, so higher education should be a right and not a privilege. But it should only be a right for those who are good enough. Labour seems to think that all young people are capable of being excellent university students, but that simply is not the case - third-rate universities are being filled up with third-rate students studying for degrees which are often useless. If the government wants to get the best people into higher education, then it has to allow them to realise their full potential in school. So many of our state schools however are so poorly funded and equipped that this simply does not happen. If Labour wants to improve our education system it has to concentrate on funding schools and not taxing students. They are putting the overloaded cart before the starving horse.
Robert, Malvern, England

I am a currently studying for a 4-year degree and am funding myself through the means of a loan and a part-time job. Instead of having to pay £2000 a year for rent and bills and £400 for books, perhaps I should have got myself pregnant a few years ago and looked forward to a long future of living on benefits and receiving free housing.
Alison Griffiths, Pontypridd, Wales

To quote the Socialist Alliance, why should we accept crumbs from Gordon Brown's table? We are the fourth richest country in the world,. Blair is faced with a dilemma - he wants more people in university, but more students means more government money needed to fund their passage through higher ed. So Blair has transferred the bill to students. I think that students are being short-changed. Ultimately they are likely to earn more, but a look at the drop-out rate should show us that many are not reaching that earning potential. The most common reason for leaving university before completing the course is financial difficulties.
Sophie McGlinn, Milton Keynes, England

When politicians say "education" they mean schools. What about universities? There are already shortages in qualified people in many sectors in the UK, so what does the government do? Why, make it more expensive to get qualified in the first place! Is it any wonder people don't vote?
Andrew Caswell, Durham, UK


I don't believe that these people were any better than any other benefit fraudsters

Andrew Hewitt, Woking, UK
Why not have a system that tests students to see if they are good enough to receive a grant. I remember when I went to university there were people there who had only got two bad A Levels but were there because the government would give out grants for them. I don't believe that these people were any better than any other benefit fraudsters.
Andrew Hewitt, Woking, UK

The students' repayment of loans is linked to an income threshold. It is therefore a form of income tax. But it is an income tax that is only levied on those who have attended higher education. Most graduates use their qualifications to the benefit of society, which is therefore a major beneficiary, so it seems inimical to me that the burden should fall on those people whose hard work and achievements are so badly needed.
Clive Evans, Bromsgrove

The problem is that there are too many universities in Britain, many of which are sub-standard, and money is having to be redistributed to people who are just not bright enough to do an academic degree. The government is really playing with fire as far as higher education is concerned. Our ethos is based on merit, not selecting who is richest, but Brown didn't bother learning about how elite universities work. The message to the government is: don't bite the hand that feeds you.
Carys Moseley, UK

I agree there should be equal access for all to education. The system of grants, loans and top-up fees are based on the fact that we cannot afford to pay for everyone. Either we all pay more tax or the students themselves pay for it when they leave university - these are the options. Everyone who has been a student knows that part of their grant/loan was used to fund their social life, which is a vital part of being at university. Should the government be expected to stump up the bill for that? I left university with about £8,000 worth of debt having had a great time, learnt a lot and got a good degree. Four years after graduating I have a few years left to finish paying off those loans and don't regret my time at university at all.
Rhyannon, London, UK


Why have I been punished for the fact that I wanted to continue my education?

David Lane, Staffordshire
I started university with high hopes and aspirations because I'm the first in my family to ever go and from a poorer background. Sadly I'm not sure it's not been worth it - at the end of next year when I finish I'll have a £12000 debt. What kind of start in life is this? My parents have not been able to help me - they are too busy trying to look after themselves. This year has been especially difficult because it has been an industrial placement year and no help is given at all. You're expected to work as a 'normal' person in the real world, but you don't get paid anywhere near what you should, because you are still studying. The system hasn't been thought out. Why have I been punished for the fact that I wanted to continue my education?
David Lane, Staffordshire

Finishing a degree with large debts makes a salary the prime incentive. As our country moves to a North American style of education, but keeps the low salaries, goes what my choice is?
Greg Walker, Houston, US

As an ex-grammar school pupil, I feel that since last year's scandal about public and grammar schools being favoured for entry into university, the balance has now tipped in the other direction. Many of my friends should, by rights, have been offered places at universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, York etc. Many of them have achieved 10 or more A* GCSE's and are predicted to get between 4 and 6 A-graded A levels. Could this be a case of positive discrimination? l issues.
Gemma, Chelmsford, UK

It is all very ironic as we have a supposedly socialist government that has abolished the assisted places scheme which allowed children from less affluent backgrounds to receive a much better education. Now we have less well-off youngsters not allowed to go to university as they cannot afford it - elitism at its best! Is this just not typical of Blair's government who got into power under the guise of a socialist party and who are actually more right wing than the previous Tory government?
Tom, Frankfurt, Germany

Mr Blair on question time said that graduates will end up earning substantially more than non-graduates. Well perhaps they will, but probably not during their twenties when they are expected to pay back student loans. The time to pay is later, the way to pay is through the tax system. High earners should pay more.
Gerry, Scarborough

I am perfectly prepared to pay the university fees ahead of me, as were four of my older siblings. However, I do feel that intelligent people who can't afford the fees shouldn't have to fork out beyond their means!
John Arblaster, Brussels, Belgium (formerly UK)


What infuriates me is that these young ladies of 16,17 18, whose only career is to get pregnant, have all the handouts

Maureen, Wales
My children have been to university and gained degrees, two did it in the 80's when there were grants and one in the 90's when there was the loan system, and loads of parental help. It was harder in the 90's because you felt that your student child was running up debts and that maybe, this is not the way that young people should start life.

What always infuriates me is that these young ladies of 16,17 18, who's only career is to get pregnant and have all the handouts, houses, money the lot, yet people with ambitions to make good with their lives have years of debts to pay off. Why doesn't this government reward people who have ambition with the education they deserve?
Maureen, Wales

I am perfectly prepared to pay the university fees ahead of me, as four of my older siblings did. However, I do feel that intelligent people who can't afford the fees shouldn't have to fork out beyond their means!
John Arblaster, Brussels, (formerly UK)

Surely, anyone could pay those fees - rich or poor! I'm not particularly rich myself but I believe that if people use their money wisely and not waste it all on rubbish, then there should be few problems. Of course it was better when the Conservative Party was in power, but that's the way things are. It's the peoples' fault for voting for Labour. Everyone knew that the Tories would not introduce fees back in 1979, but many voted for the (then) opposition party. Now fees have been introduced.
Jonathan Ho, Hull, England


Mr Kennedy, when you boast about scrapping the tuition fees in Scotland isn't it a lie because what you did is merely to defer it?

Joe Obayda, Surrey, UK
With due respect, Mr Kennedy, when you boast about scrapping the tuition fees in Scotland isn't it a lie because what you did is merely to defer it? Now it is debt.

Whereas the current system in England allows for those who are means tested to have part or all the tuition fees paid by the state.
Joe Obayda, Surrey, UK

Charging students up to £1000 per annum in tuition fees is only the start of the slippery slope towards charging people much larger sums of money. The more "elite" universities could well gain the ability to charge top-up tuition fees creating a US style higher education market which excludes the poorer and the disadvantaged from attending universities and colleges they are intelligent enough to enter, but sadly too poor to afford to attend. It is interesting to note the upsurge in interest in going to the US to attend college, presumably because of the enticement of generous financial aid. It is hard to see UK universities actually coming up with such money.
Brian Mag Thoirealaigh, Dublin, Rep of Ireland

Both Labour and the Conservatives are obsessed with "standards", a euphemism for academic exam results, which can be fed into league tables to "prove" how good their education policy is. Academic exam results are, in fact, one of the poorest indicators of potential. The figures we should be looking at are attempted child suicides (19,000 a year, one every half hour), child suicides and deaths caused by school bullying (16-80 a year), 2 million visits a year to their GP by children with emotional and psychological problems, suicides by 18-24-year-old males (now the main cause of death for this group), suicides of teachers, and why teachers are consistently the largest group of callers to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line. Bad behaviour emanates from the top - the very top.
Tim Field, Didcot, UK


It is possible to attend university but you really do have to be determined.

Claire, Brighton, UK
I am starting a business studies course at Greenwich University in September, and like all other students today, I will be taking out a student loan to fund my four years there. As I will be living and studying in London for four years, it is estimated I will have about £17,000 debt when I graduate. However, I have always been determined to go and therefore I took a year out between college and university and have worked full time to ensure I have some money behind me. Although I know this won't fund the whole course, it will be a help and I am proud to be able to say I have funded some of the way through my university education. It is possible to attend university but you really do have to be determined.
Claire, Brighton, UK

I think that Tony Blair was wrong to introduce tuition fees. It prevents people from low and middle incomes from reading for a degree, something which the traditional Labour party was against. Tony Blair may argue that paying fees may be worthwhile due to the end result of a well-paid job. Mr Blair, however, is not in the real world. He ignores graduates like me who are unemployed and on the New Deal for Young People, a scheme not designed for the well educated.
Robert Hopkins, Preston, Lancashire

The issue to me is why should (say) a dinner lady on the minimum wage finance the education of an individual who when leaving university will earn several times her salary.
Peter Arnold, London, UK


Why should we pay people who most of the time can't be bothered to do any work?

Neil King, Croydon, UK
I am about to start my final year in September, and it has been a real struggle to get through financially. I can only afford to buy half the books I need.

I agree with the fees in principle, but I definitely believe that the boundaries for means testing should be looked at.

We should be assisted and rewarded for using our brains. Why should we pay people who most of the time can't be bothered to do any work? At the end of the day, if the cash had to go to either students or the unemployed. I know where I would vote for it to go.

And I certainly WILL NOT be voting Labour.
Neil King, Croydon, UK

The solution is simple: take the loan, do the degree and disappear abroad where you cannot be traced.
Charles, Oxford, UK

The introduction of tuition fees, and more importantly the abolition of the maintenance grant, are causing many problems for young people entering higher education. The fees aren't so bad, as they only affect those from richer backgrounds. The abolition of the grant, however, is a real block for those from poorer backgrounds. I am on a four year teacher training degree. By the end, I will be in debt to the tune of some £16,000 - nearly equivalent to a whole years salary. Half of Britain's young going to university? - I don't think so Mr Blair!
Philip Edwards, Taunton, England

If students spent less money on beer and drugs then perhaps they would not end up with such big debts!
Anatoly, Swindon, UK


What kind of start in life is a £10,000 debt, when you have not even started full time employment !

Stuart Eaton, Bristol, UK
I think its is disgusting that fees have been introduced for students. What kind of start in life is a £10,000 debt, when you have not even started full time employment !
Stuart Eaton, Bristol, UK

"The tuition fees are necessary to expand access to higher education." Mr. Blair has always been an expert in presenting the day as night, or the opposite. If I have to pay for something it can't possibly become "more accessive", can it?
Nick, UK

It's appalling that our young people start their working lives with a debt around their necks. Why not pay for education by a 5 year higher tax-rate when they start work? It's more humane that way.
Tharg Thargson, London


Part of every student's education should be a year in the third world, where they would see how lucky they are

Matthew Baines, London, UK
We get free schooling until 18 years in this country. Many people do not even get that. It is about time that people put their lives into perspective and realised just how lucky we are in this country.
Matthew Baines, London, UK

I wonder why there is so much emphasis in the press on the charging for tuition fees, while relatively little attention is given to the abolition of the student maintenance grant, which affects those from "poorer" backgrounds far more than the tuition fees issue

I think the most likely reasons for this emphasis are the fact that charging for tuition fees was seen as a departure from previous policy for higher education, and thus breached the principle of "free" education, and can also be attributed to the ability of the better-off to dictate the agenda. Surely the priority should therefore be to restore the maintenance grant before looking at tuition fees. Then at least working-class people would have more incentive to apply for higher education and meet Mr Blair's goal of 50% entry.
John Pavey, London

Back in my student days of 19-something, I failed to get the A-level grades to go to University, but went to a polytechnic instead. There was never any suggestion that 'beyond school' education should be seen as a 'privilege'. Higher education should be an available choice for those who want it - I certainly hope that my children will be able to go if they want.

If we are to have any hope of holding on to those who want to become professionals in science, teaching, the arts, this country needs to see that education is an essential right. Well-paid professionals certainly pay back the cost via their taxes, surely?
Steve Brereton, York, UK


Now only those who have benefited from further education pay: how can this be a bad thing?

Bernard, UK
I was a student who benefited partly from a grant in the 80's, but mostly relied on my parents.

The current loans system is much better: everyone can get a student loan, and there is no requirement to pay it back until you are on a good salary. No one is now prevented from gaining further education due to financial circumstances, but those who benefit have to make some contribution.

In the 80's, more than 90% of the population had to pay via taxes for a few to gain further education. Now only those who have benefited from further education pay, and only if and when this has proved a major benefit to them: how can this be a bad thing?
Bernard, UK

Education must be paid for, and at the moment far too little funding goes into further and higher education. What is needed is either higher taxation to pay student fees and grants, or a 'university tax' payable after graduates are in work and earning above a set income. Students should only be expected to pay for education when they have the money to pay. They should not be saddled with debts before they have any means of paying them back.
Paul R, Wales


I wouldn't mind betting that parents of young children in the UK today are already saving for their children¿s' further education.

Natalie, London, UK
Things might not have got so bad if people had a little more time to come to terms with the new system. Americans have always had to pay for college, and so they have culture of saving for their children¿s' education. Failing that, a gifted child can get a scholarship. I wouldn't mind betting that parents of young children in the UK today are already saving for their children¿s' further education. Unfortunately, when the fees system was introduced, many people from low income families (but still above the hardship threshold) would just not have been able to get the money together. If they had known 10 years ago that they would have to do this, they probably would have saved.
Natalie, London, UK

When I was growing up, it was all very clear: The subjects I took at O-level, I could take at A-level; subjects passed at A-level, I could do at university. If I wanted to do something else, I paid for it! If the government (i.e. the taxpayer) is going to pay for students' further education, it should at least be for subjects they show aptitude for! (The fact that I left school at 16 is beside the point!)
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

Once upon a time there was a student in the 80's/90's. Got a bit of grant and a sizeable loan. Did the work. Did the beer. Had handsome overdraft to show for it. Grumbled lots. Got degree. Got a job. Got a better job. Paid it off. Got an even better job, etc,. Can help daughter to go do the same (although hopefully less beer than he did - especially on a Friday). The end.
Mac, UK


"University for all" tends to mean three-years-worth of heavy drinking while studying some pseudo-course

Dean, London, UK
I would be happy for my taxes to pay for university education, providing that it was actually an "education". The problem is that "university for all" tends to mean three-years-worth of heavy drinking while studying some pseudo-course simply for the sake of postponing work. How can you call "gambling studies" or "knit-work design" justifiable of state funding?
Dean, London, UK

The vast majority of tuition fees can and should be paid for by the state, and were under Major's Tory government! Tony Blair swept into office on that often overused line of "Education, Education, Education". Shouldn't he be saying what in effect he has actually done which is "Tax The Students, Tax The Students, Tax The Students"!!!
Phillip Porteous, Cumbria

What the government have recently introduced to encourage graduates into teaching is tantamount to bribery. As a second-year Music student, my subject is one of the worst affected by the teacher shortage. If I decide to take a PGCE, I'm looking at a £6000 handout upfront, plus a further £10,000 "golden hello" after a successful couple of years in a school. Perhaps if I had not run up debts of £8000 buying my degree, the offer wouldn't seem so attractive.
Rob, Lancaster


What's the difficulty with holding down a job to finance your education

Mark, London
Oh grow up. The biggest problem with welfare societies is that their people begin to expect the world as their birthright, without having to earn such privileges. The transition from school to university life entails sacrifices. What's the difficulty with holding down a job to finance your education, when millions of students across the Atlantic have been doing this for decades? And this, despite the fact that their fees are not subsidised at all. And UK students' cash flow problems would be eased if they didn't spend their grants on the nearest bar. Grow up, British society has coddled you for long enough.
Mark, London

Tuition fees an unnecessary burden on students and a contravention of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All people should be entitled to free public services and education up to university level is included. If the government cannot afford to pay for student grants there is something wrong with the system. Worse, even, if more than half of the school leavers of our country got 5 A-C grades to enable them to take a degree, only a small percentage could get onto the best courses. Our education system not only allows inequality but is built on it. Yet another reason why our country is only democratic in relation to a country such as Afghanistan.
Benj'min Mossop, London, UK

The problem is the absurd notion that everyone should go to university, as if it's some sort of 'job training' scheme, rather than an environment to foster learning for its own sake. Funding three (or four) years of 'training' for every citizen is something the state simply cannot afford. It only worked in the past because so few people actually went to university. Tuition fees should be abolished, and maintenance grants should be provided to all university students, but in order to make that economically practicable, university must be restricted to those with the greatest academic potential regardless of class or wealth. For the vast majority who just want/need job training, there should be shorter, focussed training schemes for everything from executive management, to computer programming, to manual Labour.
Tom, USA

When will people finally realise, as they should have before the last election that Labour is no longer a party for the young, women, the working classes or any minority group? Labour are motivated by one thing alone - votes - and the only way they know how to attain them is by spin and getting celebrities to support them. The whole debacle of impoverishing British students through tuition fees is but one example of the continuing theme - Labour don't care.
Stephen, Sydney, Australia


University education should not be the domain of the rich

Dominic, London, UK
University education should not be the domain of the rich. These people are the future of our country and not just in an academic field. They are the architects, writers, artists, business leaders, political leaders, and so much more. Give them what they deserve - a decent education.
Dominic, London, UK

The current system puts too much emphasis on how much students' parents earn. What should matter is how good a student you are. Maybe we should be giving decent maintenance grants to those students who worked hard at college. There are far too many university places offered to students with pathetic qualifications. The money saved here could be used to fund excellent education for students who deserve it.
Alistair, London, UK


Tuition fees are a form of progressive taxation

Rob Yuille, Cardiff, Wales, UK
Education is still available to all and is not just for the rich. Tuition fees are a form of progressive taxation - they force the better-off to pay up front, so that the less-well-off can be given wider access to university. Once those people have degrees they will earn far more than they would without; the £3,000 debt they incur by fees can be paid off in the first year or two of a graduate's job.
There are other problems, though, other than the fees themselves:
1. The system assumes dependence on parents who are willing to pay their children's fees.
2. The threshold of income above which fees must be paid up front are too low.
3. Hardship access funds are not working, and more support must be provided to less well-off students to avoid astronomical debts mounting up.
4.Top-up fees, as proposed by the Russell Group of Universities, should never be introduced as this would certainly create a two-tier system.
Rob Yuille, Cardiff, Wales, UK

I was a student who benefited partly from a grant in the 80s. Even for those who had full grants it was a struggle, as these were not really sufficient, and most students finished with large overdrafts at punishing interest. Those from a poor credit background would not even have had this option, and some had to drop out as a result. The current loans system is much better: everyone can get a student loan, and there is no requirement to pay it back until you are on a good salary. In the 80s, more than 90% of the population had to pay via taxes for a few percent to gain further education. Now only those who have benefited from further education pay, and only if and when this has proved a major benefit to them: how can this be a bad thing?
Bernard, UK


Measures like tuition fees and loans are there to keep your taxes down

Steve, UK
The equation is simple. If you want more university places, better facilities, more books, better paid lecturers, and fully funded students, then argue for tax increases. Alternatively, argue for structural change like two-year ordinary degree courses instead of three (which, make no mistake, could be done), or the scrapping of some of the sillier things students study. Otherwise accept that measures like tuition fees and loans are there to keep your taxes down, and comfort yourself with the fact that at least only those who are highly motivated are likely go to university. As for the rich ones who are avoiding work, they'll do that anyway, with or without university.
Steve, UK

Tuition fees are a sound idea, in principle. Those who can afford to contribute should be obliged to do so. The fundamental problem is that the system determines fee payments by reference to the parents' income and then subsequently charges the fees to the student. Unfortunately, many students then end up paying the fees from an already limited budget when fairness surely dictates that those whose incomes are used as reference for the fees (i.e. the parents) should logically end up paying the fees.
Andrew Commins, Exeter, UK


Someone has to pay the cost - education is not free!

Colin Gudgeon, Melbourne, Australia
Some form of student contribution is inevitable, and no political party with a chance of winning an election will stop this. However, this should not mean that university is exclusively for the rich, as the debt is there to be paid back in future years by the student, after graduation. There is probably a better way of collecting the money - possibly through the taxation system when a certain income threshold is reached, and the system must allow for bright people to succeed regardless of their background. One thing is for certain; a "free at point of use" system is not viable, because people simply do not want to pay more tax to cover these costs. Someone has to pay the cost - education is not free!
Colin Gudgeon, Melbourne, Australia

I went to university completely self-funded. I have also come out with a lot of debt. Nothing would have stopped me from getting my degree and the same goes for my little brother who is about to start. Maybe this has only affected half-hearted students. They may now have to think twice before wasting three years.
Jason Kynes, London, UK

I was a student in the 70s who benefited from a grant. I have a student daughter and a son hoping to go to university in September. I have a 14 year old who might also go to college. I'm a single mum, but I would sacrifice to send them to college if they have the brains. Why must my children and their generation be loaded with debt because they want to use their intellectual powers? My daughter wants to teach, my son to do medical research - to benefit people. I don't mind paying more taxes to help them do this - but I'd like to see top earners also taxed.
Meg Elis, Caernarfon, Wales


Education is not just a right it is an investment in the future of our country

Dougie, Lancaster, UK
As a student I am lucky I will leave university with only around £4000 debt. Most students are worse off. Education is not just a right it is an investment in the future of our country it is obvious that the small amount of money (in government terms) that it would cost to reintroduce a maintenance grant for poor students and abolish tuition fees would be worth every penny.
Dougie, Lancaster, UK

Although my fees are paid, the student loan does little more than pay rent for the year, and although student income is well below the poverty line; we are expected to live as young adults in society. Is it no wonder that the University of Central England expelled 500 students three weeks ago for non-payment of tuition fees? People simply cannot pay, and all that will happen is a specialist degree education will become exclusive to those from better-off backgrounds
Emerson Povey, Birmingham, UK

For a party wanting to look young and trendy, it isn't doing very well in attracting support from millions of young students, is it? It is often said that the younger generation aren't really interested in politics, but this seems to be one very hot issue and it would serve Labour right if a whole generation remembers them for this at the ballot box over the coming years.
James Pittman, England


Tuition fees and the scrapping of grants discourage potential mature students from considering university

Kevin Stevenson, Nottingham, England
I was a mature student who was one of the last people to go through university under the old system I am the first member of my family ever to go to university, and I'm proud of it. However, under the new system, the level of debt that I would heap on my family, and myself would certainly have stopped me from going. Tuition fees and the scrapping of grants discourage potential mature students from considering university, and heap intolerable pressure on young adults who are trying to work hard and feed and clothe themselves. Will Tony Blair's baby bond in a high interest account pay for my son's future tuition fees? I think not!
Kevin Stevenson, Nottingham, England

University places should be awarded to students with the ability and intelligence not just the money. If you increase the places so that more and more school leavers are going this will place a greater burden on the universities but there is not a corresponding increases in the amount of well-educated people coming through the system. A place at university is NOT a right but a reward for effort and intelligence.
Marc, Pontypool, Wales

Boo Hoo. If you can't afford tuition to school, you do what I did and take out a loan. Then when you get out, you pay it back. Not to hard to figure out. I mean, get some backbone people. You can't have everything for free!
Irwin, USA


I've known girls who've worked in strip clubs to pay the rent, and on phone sex lines

Paul, London
Finishing university now, I find myself faced with £12,000 worth of debt and have to wonder if it was really worth it. I've seen so many people drop out and work in rubbish jobs because they can't afford to study - all these intelligent people removed from the job market who have so much to bring, punished for being too poor. I've seen a student live on nothing but economy eggs and bread for months just because he needed to buy a computer for his degree course. I've known girls who've worked in strip clubs to pay the rent, and on phone sex lines. Something needs to be done.
Paul, London

As an expat, I got a B.A. in Britain on a grant in the 1980s (my father left school at 13). I think Tony Blair has got it right. Make those who can pay for their degrees do so, and use the money such fees generate to educate those of talent who can't afford university. Historically a problem for labour has been that it needed middle-class votes to win and they were best pleased with universal benefits that gave everyone a hand up, including those who didn't need it as much as those who won't get it. In the US, of course, no one would trust government to re-distribute income in this way. Dr. David Leaver
David Leaver, Cincinnati, Ohio

Tony Blair and Labour have got education all wrong. As a one of the guinea pig students doing AS-Levels this year, I know more about this than most. AS-Levels are much easier compared to the A-Levels being sat by the current Upper Sixth. Universities will find themselves being bombarded with more and more students achieving three or four A grades.

By increasing the number of university places, Labour are making it more difficult for sixth formers to filter the good universities from the bad. They're also reducing the value of our degrees.
Daniel Rees, Leuchars, Fife, UK


It is time to scale down the number of universities and degrees

Peter Baddeley, Surrey
Mr Blair says he want to get more and more people to go to university. This will only bring greater costs to universities, it is time to scale down the number of universities and degrees. We want a system where degrees are valued, and where it is based on ability not wealth.
Peter Baddeley, Surrey

Many from poorer backgrounds just cannot afford to take the risk of huge loans. The nation should recognise the value of higher education and help people achieve that. I feel that the best way to do this is via means tested maintenance grants. The government assumes that all graduates will become high earners, but what of those entering public service (apart from MPs naturally), who earn little more than the average national wage? If people like me (or the Prime Minister even) didn't have to pay then why should others? It all smacks of 'I'm alright Jack'.
George, Sheffield, UK

For the government to claim that it wishes to encourage applications to University from "non-traditional" backgrounds, while at the same time increasing the costs to students is inconsistent. While no one should have to pay their tuition fees from their student loan, a lot of people do have to, for a variety of reasons.

For the Prime Minister to say that "tuition fees are necessary to expand access" is ridiculous - making people pay more for higher education is not the way to encourage them to take part in it.
Chris, Durham, UK


All the tuition fees system do is make people whose parents have money completely economically dependent upon others

Benjamin Szwediuk, Swansea
In 18 years of Conservative government when the percentage of people applying to university rose from 16 per cent to 82 per cent the amount spent on education in real terms remained practically THE SAME. That's right, no extra money was spent on education in spite of huge increases in the number of people in higher education.

When it comes to "means testing" is that NO student, NO student has money. All the tuition fees system do is make people whose parents have money completely economically dependent upon others in spite of the fact that they are young adults which is not only psychologically demeaning but ultimately, morally wrong.
Benjamin Szwediuk, Swansea

How much alumni support do UK schools get? US universities probably receive more in alumni support than in tuition.
Chad, Des Moines, Iowa, USA


Student loans may be unpopular but how else are we to fund this increase in student numbers?

Naomi Staines, Scotland
Every year we hear about more and more school leavers going to university. If it is so difficult to fund University education, why does the number of students continue to increase? Student loans may be unpopular but how else are we to fund this increase in student numbers? Students either pay up front to get this education (which will enable them to make more money in the long term), or they pay at a later date. I'm a graduate who still has student loan repayments hanging over me, so I know the problems. Stop whingeing and get on with it!
Naomi Staines, Scotland

If students are so poverty stricken, why was Andrew Chaplin carrying an expensive camcorder?
Dave, London, UK

He's a media student so he probably needs it for his work. Is it not also possible the camcorder actually belongs to his department and he had to borrow it because he couldn't afford one?
Gavin, Exeter


Higher Education should be a right for anybody with the ability, not a privilege for the few

George, Sheffield,UK

Many from poorer backgrounds just cannot afford to take the risk of huge loans. The nation should recognise the value of higher education and help people achieve that. Higher Education should be a right for anybody with the ability, not a privilege for the few. I was fortunate to get through University before the abolition of the student grant, and remember the struggle to keep out of debt. If people like me (or the Prime Minister even) didn't have to pay then why should others? It all smacks of "I'm alright Jack".
George, Sheffield,UK

Tuition fees and student loans are beginning to take their toll. Dropout numbers amongst existing students are increasing, and some universities are finding it difficult to attract sufficient new students to keep courses open. Students from low-income families in particular are reluctant to take on the huge debts gaining a degree incurs. So yes, unless we scrap tuition fees and offer means tested maintenance grants to those from the lower income groups, a university education will once again become the domain of the wealthy.
Pat Vincent, UK

As a teacher in Wales for three years, I saw 18 year old students applying for university places, but they were concerned about how to fund their education. Most stated that they would have to remain at home with their parents, as they simply could not afford course costs and accommodation fees in Britain's larger cities. So much for choice.
David Gibbs, Hawally, Kuwait

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