Scholarship key to equitable system

February 17, 1995

Professor Griffiths asked "what I had in mind" when advocating top-up fees to "distinguish between the different income groups without injustice" (THES, February 3). Can it be that Professor Griffiths regards the present fee system as just? It is described by some of my colleagues as constituting one of the most perversely unfair systems of finance ever imposed in the United Kingdom (Glennerster, Falkingham and Barr in The Dynamic of Welfare to be published on February ).

However, I have always made it clear that I would not wish to advocate any such change in fee structure unless, as the paper to the London School of Economic's academic board in 1993 put it ". . . scholarship provision (is) greatly enhanced in order to ensure that the tradition of access to the school is maintained". At present the LSE sets aside a sum (Pounds 848,000 in 1993/94) derived from the fees paid by non-European Union students (Pounds 13,717,000 from 2,000 students in 1993/94) and this is then distributed to those students in the form of scholarships awarded on the basis of need (136 benefited in 1993/94).

I have always assumed that this scheme could readily be extended to European Union nationals since such countries have, on average, among the highest per capita incomes in the world. In the particular case of British students we would be greatly helped by the fact that the student maintenance grant is means tested and we would be able to use that as an index of "need" since the assessment of that, as Tessa Blackstone pointed out in the article that gave rise to this correspondence, is always the most difficult aspect of such arrangements.

As well as being more equitable than the present arrangements, such a scheme has always appealed to me on moral grounds since it would involve treating individuals on the basis of their personal circumstances and not, as at present, differentially on the basis of their nationality or mode of study.

John ASHWORTH

Director

London School of Economics

and Political Science

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