Top-up time bomb

May 25, 2007

Your editorial's rush to judgment on top-up fees may be premature (Leader, May 18).

As Zhou Enlai said of other events: "Too soon to tell." We do not yet have a reliable time series to test trends in applications, acceptances and, most importantly, withdrawals for financial reasons. Your "debt of thanks"

may lead to an ironic "thanks for the debt" in a society where financial overstretch threatens the economy. Do your values really support debt as a norm?

You ignore the democratic deficit, too. A clear majority of English MPs voted against the proposal. The legislation was passed only by Welsh and Scottish new Labour loyalists not affected by it. In Northern Ireland, it was imposed against the unanimous view of all political parties. The resultant shift there in student flows, north-south, is one immediate negative consequence. You ignore this evidence.

Your "essential truth" that high fees were an inevitable necessity is a myth belied by the GDP spend figures earlier in the editorial.

Even the capitalist US chooses to spend more on education than does the English Government, which has the lowest participation rate of the four UK countries. It is a question of what we value as a nation, and even in a marketised system higher prices do not encourage more customers.

Ian McNay
Greenwich University

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