Public address

October 13, 2000

Your article "Blackstone rules out top-up fees" (THES, News, September 29) accepts that higher education funding faces an inevitable spiral of decline, given that top-up fees have been ruled out. The idea of some universities going private may start to appear attractive to a few people. We must remember the reasons why universities should remain in the public sector:

If people are forced to borrow large sums of money to pay for their degrees, it is only a matter of time before we will have to borrow large sums of money to pay for the very houses we live in Academics have a profiteering instinct and would recruit only those students who could pay the highest fees In the US, where many universities are private, the sector is notoriously ineffective The market is a fickle paymaster, but politicians ensure a crucial long-term stability of funding levels Public ownership has become fashionable over the past few years If degrees from university A are more expensive than those from university B, that is unfair on those at university A Or alternatively, it is unfair on students at university B We have already had a debate on the merits of privatisation Universities are intrinsically national organisations. We educate exclusively British students and our staff are British citizens with standard British qualifications The man who delivers my milk and the man who cleans my drains are united in their appreciation of paying high taxes to educate middle-class people at university.

Paul Goldberg

Department of computer science

University of Warwick

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