Export quality

July 10, 1998

Their Lordships are quite right ("Lead way to Europe, peers tell v-cs", The THES, July 3): studying abroad is deeply educational in the full sense of the term. Thus it is right to encourage British students to spend part of their time in other European countries.

It is, however, quite wrong to suggest that Britain should "cut its losses" because it is "a net importer of 45,000 students". The United Kingdom is a "loser" only because under European Union law we have to charge EU students the same fees as British students.

The solution is not to cut EU students, but to charge economic fees for all students. British higher education, despite the decline in quality over the 1990s, remains one of the country's most successful export industries. We should continue vigorously to promote it.

Full-cost fees, combined with generous access packages and income-contingent loans, would simultaneously improve funding (and hence quality), promote access and make clear that what we have is a leading export industry.

We did not, after all, wring our hands during Euro '96 because we were a net importer of large numbers of European tourists.

Nicholas Barr Senior lecturer in economics London School of Economics Iain Crawford Visiting research fellow, Centre for Educational Research, LSE

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