Fees protesters put futures on the line

December 4, 1998

At least three Oxford University students staked their academic futures in protest at the introduction of tuition fees this week.

Two Balliol College undergraduates faced suspension as The THES went to press, vowing to withhold tuition fees "indefinitely" despite today's end-of-term payment deadline.

Balliol junior common room president Ricken Patel has now vowed to withdraw from the university if his colleagues Kate Atkinson and Alice Nash are sent down for their stand.

Mr Patel said he and his colleagues faced an "incredibly tough decision". He said they had a few months' leeway before they faced being expelled.

He said that the university is not legally obliged to act against the students and he expects it to back down.

Balliol's JCR, he said, had led lobbying campaigns to scrap fees and implement a means-tested graduate tax instead.

Oxford student leaders were this week expecting many more students to join the protest.

It is understood that the Balliol students were in contact with a small group of students at St Hilda's College, who have also vowed not to pay fees.

Forty-four students at St Hugh's College, who had been withholding fees in a non-payment campaign all term, backed down at this week's deadline.

They wore black "to symbolise the death of free education" as they paid their fees at the last minute.

The situation has come to a head at Oxford because of the university's deadline. An NUS spokesman said the national picture is unclear as no union branch has formally endorsed non-payment campaigns, after taking legal advice.

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