An exclusive market

March 5, 2004

PA Consulting Group's survey of vice-chancellors shows that top-up fees will neither address universities' funding shortfall nor stop some vice-chancellors from focusing on balance sheets at the expense of good practice and social objectives ("V-cs can't afford poor", February ).

Most universities are funded primarily by the taxpayer through a government committed to improving access. Its message is that only fee income can improve universities' finances. If some students yield higher fees than others, the implications for underrepresented groups are bleak.

Has any vice-chancellor looked at how top-up fees will affect black and ethnic minority UK student recruitment?

If this government is serious about social inclusion and widening participation, it must recognise that university teaching is underfunded, and that market solutions always exclude the poor.

Roger Kline
Head of universities department

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