V-cs fear government power over fees

December 12, 1997

MINISTERS will have the power to control fees charged to post-graduate and part-time students unless wording in the new teaching and higher education bill is changed, vice chancellors have warned.

The Committee of Vice Chancellors is seeking urgent amendments to the bill, which received its second reading in the House of Lords yesterday. It wants assurance that student payments for board and lodging and extra course charges such as field trips and photocopying will not fall under the scope of the bill's clauses 18 and 20, which are designed to stop institutions charging top-up fees.

Vice chancellors are also worried about Clause 18(8), which exempts the new powers from limitations placed on the secretary of state's ability to impose conditions on funding councils by the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act. These limitations were secured, in the face of opposition from the then government, by an all-party group of peers.

CVCP chairman Martin Harris said: "If the secretary of state will not give up these powers altogether, they must be confined as precisely as possible to the exact categories of students whose fees he wishes to control." Although no university plans to charge top-up fees in the immediate future, the CVCP vehemently opposes the principle of increasing government control over university fees.

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