Ex-para jumps into fee debate

January 16, 2004

A former paratrooper who went from hating science at school to becoming a lecturer in quantum chemical dynamics says he would not have gone to university if top-up fees were in place.

Keith Hughes, 35, who has returned to Bangor University to take up a lectureship and a Ramsay memorial research fellowship after working as a postdoctoral researcher in the US, said top-up fees would have stopped his academic career from ever getting off the ground.

He said: "If fees were in place, I would have ended up working on a building site or stacking shelves in a supermarket rather than becoming an academic.

"I would have been too worried about the hidden costs of going to university, even if I had been told I would not have to pay the full fee or I would get a bursary. I think it's so unfair on young people to heap this much debt on them."

Dr Hughes left school at 16 with three O levels and immediately joined the army. After four years as a paratrooper, he decided to go back into education.

An access course at Coleg Menai led to him taking a chemistry degree at Bangor, where he won departmental and university prizes. He did his PhD in quantum mechanics and gained a post-doctoral post at the University of Texas in Austin, where he worked alongside leading quantum dynamics theorist Robert Wyatt.

Dr Hughes said he was lured back to Bangor by its reputation for high-quality teaching in chemistry and the prospect of using its new virtual reality equipment that will help scientists visualise what goes on at quantum level.

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