Leader: Cheap deals are costly

July 28, 2006

Vice-chancellors insist that they will not use scholarship and bursary funds to do deals in clearing if recruitment is poor, but that is not the impression given to prospective students at all universities. Even some vice-chancellors think that incentives may be offered elsewhere, despite the obvious dangers associated with an "Easyjet" pricing policy.

Sir Martin Harris, as director of the Office for Fair Access, has appealed to all concerned not to succumb to the temptation to discount in clearing, but universities have been offered no safety net to tide them over the first, unpredictable year of top-up fees.

The longer the confusion persists, the greater the likelihood of an unwelcome precedent being set. Students at US universities pay a variety of prices for the same course, and a similar system could take root quickly in the UK. If there is to be no funding council guarantee of protection during the transition to top-up fees, the only way to quell the uncertainty is for universities to state publicly that there will be no deviation from published arrangements.

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