Pay-your-way future: Essex

October 17, 2003

With nearly every university set to introduce some form of top-up fees from 2006, THES reporters take a look at who is planning to charge what and why

Essex University's students have lost patience with their vice-chancellor's wait-and-see policy on top-up fees, writes Caroline Davis.

They expressed "dismay" and "disgust" that Ivor Crewe had vocally supported fees in his role as head of Universities UK but had refused to take a stance on the issue as head of the university.

On Monday, they presented the university's council meeting with a strategy document, but council members gave it little support even though many had expressed sympathy to the more than 150 students lobbying members outside as they entered the meeting.

Darren Jones, president of the student union, said council members backed the strategy but did not speak up against Professor Crewe.

He said: "We tried to get clear policy last year, but were told to wait until the white paper came out. Yesterday we were told to wait until the bill goes before Parliament. There is little point having a policy opposing top-up fees if that policy is introduced after top-up fees come in."

The university has kept a low profile on the issue, choosing not to reply to The THES survey on fees this week. Professor Crewe - who enraged students nationally in September with his suggestion that graduates would need only to give up two pints of beer a week to repay fees - declined to comment on the council meeting.

A university statement said: "The university welcomes the government's recognition of the funding crisis in higher education but also understands student concerns and fears about increased levels of debt. We, along with all UK universities, await the publication of the government's new funding proposals."

The students proposed a return to the pre-1997 no-fees situation and called for a hypothecated and progressive graduate tax to fund the expansion of higher education.

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