THE ABANDONMENT of free university education has aroused little concern among the general public, according to a poll for vice chancellors published today.
The poll, conducted by MORI, found that 69 per cent of adults agree with the Government that students and parents should foot some of the bill for higher education. This compares with 42 per cent in a similar MORI poll for the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals in 1991.
It also revealed that 83 per cent of parents are prepared to contribute to their children's tuition, compared to 38 per cent in 1991.
The findings counter arguments from the National Union of Students and lecturers' unions that the introduction of fees in 1998 will lead to a mass rejection of higher education and will mark a return to elitism.
The poll found that only a quarter of adults now believe it is the Government's sole responsibility to find all the extra money for the higher education sector, compared to half in 1991.
"This poll shows a remarkable shift in opinion," said CVCP chief executive Diana Warwick. "People now accept it's only fair that those who benefit from a university education should make a contribution as the Government has proposed."
Of those prepared to pay, 46 per cent said that they would pay up to Pounds 1,000 a year, as proposed by the Government. But 37 per cent said that they would be prepared to pay more than the maximum of Pounds 1,000 laid down by the Government. The poll did find that 17 per cent of parents said they would not pay.
Ms Warwick said that demand for higher education was growing from all age groups. Among youngsters aged between 15 and 20, 46 per cent said that they were "very interested" in studying in higher education. Thirty-one per cent of 18-year-old school-leavers go to higher education. Thirty-four per cent of adults said they were interested in studying.
Over 2,000 people were interviewed in the poll, which was carried out in July, after the Government announced plans to introduce tuition fees. It will be debated at a CVCP conference on the impact of fees on Tuesday.