Class, fees and sin 1

February 14, 2003

The widening funding gap between high and low-status universities is as much an equity issue as students' access ("Poor jump fee hurdle", THES , February 7).

High-status universities with strong student demand are more likely to charge the full £3,000 annual fee than lower status ones, which may even drop fee levels. As the fees subsidise teaching, large funding differentials per student will occur. Lower status universities will become less attractive and under pressure to cut their fees further. The converse will happen for the higher status universities.

Lower-status universities teach the majority of working-class students.

They also often teach less academically able students who need more teaching time. But the new funding scenario will result in less money for teaching these two groups.

Just to put the boot in, the government proposes to fine universities with high dropout rates. These are, unsurprisingly, exactly those universities with the highest working-class intake.

Welcome to education secretary Charles Clarke's "market-led" university system.

Jamie Gough
Northumbria University

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