Loans and fees do not aid access

February 4, 2000

David Blunkett declares there is a fairer system in place for fees, loans and grants. But students will be disappointed if they believe institutions are themselves fairly funded.

Looking at non-research income of institutions in 1997-98, while Surrey, Warwick, Heriot-Watt, Manchester and Cambridge received more than Pounds 9,000 a student, post-1992 institutions (like my own) fared less well. The worst funded is Luton University with Pounds 3,1 a student, little more than half the national average of Pounds 6,241.

The figures confirm what has long been suspected - that there is a very unbalanced system heavily favouring pre-1992 universities.

The system is unfair for students who receive their higher education on the cheap and it explains large classes, less teaching and high failure rates. Can the Quality Assurance Agency's subject benchmarks have any real meaning with such inequality? Without radical change a level playing field seems a long way off.

Michael Bennett Faculty of law Southampton Institute

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