Analysis: The great fee debate

January 10, 2003

Tony Blair, prime minister

"Are we to have a flat fee for all universities, or will there be a variable fee, with different universities charging different fees?

"Secondly, if we have a variable fee and agree that all universities should not be treated the same, where do the additional sums of money necessary for universities come from? I am afraid that it can come from only three sources - the taxpayer, the parent or the student.

"What is important is to put together those elements in the fairest possible way."

Charles Clarke, education secretary

"Students will not be paying fees upfront, which is a massive disincentive for people wanting to go to university. What will happen is the present £1,100 tuition fees could go up and vary university to university, but students will pay after, not before, they have finished their studies.

"Two systems are being considered. Option one is a deferred payment with students taking a loan then paying it back over 15 years, or immediately if they want. Option two is a graduate tax with money collected via tax codes."

Diana Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK

"Any new funding system for the sector that involves additional fee payments should deliver substantial additional investment immediately. However, we acknowledge that charging high up-front fees to students would be damaging to widening participation. Students should therefore have the option to defer fees until after graduation.

"Any new funding system must apply to all higher education institutions. It must also be fair to all students - the problem of debt aversion among the lower socioeconomic groups means that any new funding scheme will need to include a transparent national bursary scheme."

Mandy Telford president of the National Union of Students

"Ruling out top-up fees cannot be an excuse for actually increasing the cost of studying for students but making them pay it back after they graduate. Forcing students to pay greater fees and take on larger loans to survive while at university is going to leave them in even greater debt when they graduate.

"Any system that increases the cost of going to university and forces students to borrow more will hit the poorest students the hardest. Those students from privileged backgrounds will be able to call on parental support."

Richard Delahaye, UK student recruitment and widening

participation manager, London Metropolitan University "Negative press about the introduction of tuition fees and the abolition of the grant put a lot of people off going to university. It has taken years to try to redress this balance. People from lower participation groups, including mature students, will look at this new system and think that they will have to pay more and make greater sacrifices."

Dan Strutt, second-year cultural studies and communication student, Goldsmiths College

"The deferred option is much better than paying upfront. You have to pay back your fees later anyway. I think many students would go for this option.

"It is obvious what the differentiated fee will lead to. People will be buying better courses and better universities. In a time when a degree can be worth very little if it is done at the wrong university, some people might only be able to afford a degree that in the end is useless."

Laura Brown, first-year English and American studies student, University of Sussex

"Any sort of top-up fee would have put me off going to university. If I had known before starting my degree how much it would cost, I would have considered my options more carefully. At the moment, I have to work a lot to keep supporting myself."

Elena Ioannou second-year medicine student, King's College London

"I have two brothers. If top-up fees had happened when we started university, the fees for us together could have gone up to about £100,000. How many parents can afford that?"

Electra Arzimanoglou, second-year communication and marketing student, London Metropolitan University

"Top-up fees would have definitely stopped me from going into higher education. To be able to compete for jobs today you need to do a masters degree.

"If I had had to think of how to fund my undergraduate degree before moving on to pay for a masters, I don't think I would have managed."

Paul Brown, third-year film and broadcasting student, London Metropolitan University

"Top-up fees are definitely a deterrent but wouldn't have stopped me from going to university. However, I would have thought more about my options before going to university. I might have been better off finding a job than paying off high tuition fees for a long time."

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