Master stroke

September 26, 1997

Robert Stevens, master of Pembroke College, Oxford, is a vociferous champion of top-up fees. "Quality comes at a price," he argued in The Guardian this week, and universities must be given autonomy over setting their own tuition fees. He has been setting the pace with an earner which brings in top-up fees with no political backlash, in use at Pembroke and expanded this week - cornering the market for visiting students.

North American visitors will soon make up over 10 per cent of Pembroke's undergraduates. Numbers are rising from 25 to 30 and the college has just signed new deals with the universities of Duke, Columbia and Illinois Wesleyan to take undergraduates for a year. Although the deal is openly a "revenue-generating" plan, admissions requirements are tight, the extra students are in addition to usual undergraduate numbers, and all the institutions involved are rather reputable. Original members of the scheme in 1995 were Brown, Pennsylvania, Cornell, and George Washington as well as Haverford College, of which Mr Stevens was once president.

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