Poorer students may be left in cold

August 8, 1997

A MEMBER of the Dearing committee has called on the Government to back its tuition fees plan with figures amid claims that the proposal may hold no benefits for poorer students.

Diana Laurillard, a member of the main Dearing committee and pro vice chancellor for the Open University, fears that the proposals on fees were compiled hastily to coincide with the publication of the Dearing report and so may not have been properly worked out.

Professor Laurillard said: "It is not clear that the Government's decision on fees will benefit poorer students. As far as we know the Government has not modelled the figures on which they base their decision. Let's see the figures."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Employment said that the Government was still working on the finer details of its fees and loans calculations and would publish them in due course.

Members of the committee are also concerned by the Government's handling of the report, particularly the short post-Dearing consultation which is due to be completed on October 6.

Tony Millns, spokesman for the Dearing Committee, said: "It is not entirely good for one's self-image if, having spent 15 months thinking around all the possibilities to come up with a coherent package to best fit the future, it seems that more wisdom might be applied after two or three months of consultation."

There is also concern among committee members that the Government will base much of its Lifelong Learning white paper, due in the autumn, on Helena Kennedy's Learning Works report rather than on Dearing. Ted Parker, a member of the Kennedy committee and principal of Barking College, in London, said: "One cannot neglect the significance of higher education but I think Kennedy is going to control the agenda."

A senior Government source said that the final decision on the white paper, due in November, would be made by ministers with support from civil servants and advisers.

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