Case for fee control

January 2, 1998

ALL MANY potential students wanted for Christmas was a cheque for Pounds 3,000 worth of tuition fees if they gain a place at university next year. Many would-be students will be unable to realise their ambitions of a university education because of the prohibitive costs.

As the student unions of the Russell Group of universities, a group of research-led institutions, we have even greater concerns about top-up fees. These are extra fees that individual universities could charge their students on top of the Pounds 1,000 tuition fee.

We do not share our universities' qualms about anti top-up fee legislation. We have long campaigned for a restriction on the creation of an elitist Ivy League of institutions. Indeed, we would like this clause of the Bill to claw back top-up fees automatically.

However, sincere this government is about using its reserved powers, a future government could allow extra fees through simple inaction. This Bill must provide protection for the students of the next century, not just those of this government.

We believe that charging tuition fees is wrong in both principle and in practice. Student hardship is a reality and the additional burden on students is unfair and wrong. The government could and should act now to outlaw top-up fees from the elite universities to provide some hope for potential students this year.

The Aldwych Group

(Alice Poole. University of Birmingham Guild of Students; Rob Walker, president, Exeter University Guild of Students; Andrew Keeps, president, Imperial College students union; Siva Ganeshanandan, president, University of London Union; Mike Ball, general secretary, Manchester University students union; Amy Jones, president, Nottingham University students union; Simon McDougall, president, Oxford University students union; Alex Bols, communication and representation, Southampton University students union; Jon Pycroft, president, University of Warwick students union)

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