The next question is how much to pay

February 28, 1997

I have followed with great interest your detailed coverage of the current debate in Britain about introducing fees for university students ("Market forces and the charge of the fees brigade" THES, January 31; "LSE heads for fee crisis" and, "Local authorities prioritise access" February 14; "Strong words expected on full-time fees" February 21).

As an overseas student from the United States, I find the debate particularly compelling. It is a robust national discussion the likes of which American students never had the opportunity in which to participate. They have always paid university tuition fees. For us, it was never a question of if or when we would pay, but rather, how much we should pay. In recent years US student tuition fees have increased by three to four times inflation, at both public and private institutions. Only recently have universities begun to re-examine the increases. This move is long overdue.

Now that I am classified as an overseas student at Cambridge University, I find it ironic that my fees - which are three times those of my European and British classmates - are being used to subsidise students whose educations remain basically free. I am asking myself the same question I did back home: how much of my costs is my "fair share" to pay?

I urge British university students to ask themselves the same question. After all, it seems the debate in Britain is rapidly moving away from if and towards when tuition fees will be introduced. British students need to be prepared for the next, most important, level of debate when the issue will be how much they are expected to pay.

John Kael Weston St Johns Road, Cambridge

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