Concern over fee report's low profile

October 28, 2005

Fears were growing this week that an official report on graduate recruitment to the professions will "fudge" the issue of the impact on the jobs market of variable tuition fees and student debt, writes Paul Hill.

The Government is expected to publish early next week a report by Sir Alan Langlands, vice-chancellor of Dundee University, on "sustaining and improving" graduate recruitment to the public and private sector professions.

When Charles Clarke, Education Secretary at that time, appointed Sir Alan to compile the report in February 2004, it was intended to look at how bursaries, "golden hellos", tuition-fee discounts or writing off student loans might encourage graduates into careers in medicine, teaching, social care, law, engineering and architecture.

The report was seen at the time as a means of appeasing Labour backbench concerns about plans for £3,000 fees and bursaries in the Higher Education Bill.

But one member of Sir Alan's consultation panel told The Times Higher that "the report has rather faded away".

Another panel member added: "This was supposed to be a way for the Government to reassure the Labour rebels that ministers would be closely monitoring the impact of the fees regime.

"If it is now the case that the issue of fees has been downgraded or hardly appears in the final report at all, as I expect, I imagine that some MPs will be quite angry about that. I do expect that the report will fudge the issue. But to be fair no one would be in a position to assess the impact of fees before 2006 - there's no data."

The dean of one medical faculty said: "It has been presented to us as pretty low key. The whole thing was a throw to backbenchers and we aren't expecting much."

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