Pay-your-way future: Leeds Met

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

Simon Lee, vice-chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University, is bemused by universities that see top-up fees as a simple issue, writes Anna Fazackerley.

"Those universities that think it is all about what the market will bear and how they will be perceived if they charge a certain level have got the wrong approach," he said.

His university will evaluate the cost of courses and seek to obtain a reasonable surplus to invest in the institution. The governors have arranged an away-day in February to debate the issues.

Professor Lee agreed that the university would probably have to charge higher fees for more expensive subjects. He said the university did not have a large number of high-cost subjects such as medicine, but, he added, there would need to be a great deal of thought about disciplines such as engineering that traditionally struggled to recruit.

The university was a strong supporter of widening participation, and the fear of harming that was the reason why "the average governor is not very comfortable with the idea of charging high fees", Professor Lee said.

He fears the further and higher education markets will be driven apart by top-up fees. "There will be more incentive to get a degree in the quickest, most convenient way rather than going to university and paying high fees," he said.

The university has 37,000 students, and its annual turnover is £120 million. Professsor Lee has calculated that the absolute maximum it could gain through top-up fees is about £40 million, but the figure is more likely to be about £10 million. He admitted this was "a lot of fuss" for a relatively small sum.

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