Warwick hints at higher fees

May 24, 2002

University chiefs have given their clearest indication yet that they favour higher tuition fees for students, writes Alan Thomson.

Baroness Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, told MPs this week that there was no reason why students from wealthy backgrounds should not pay more than the current £1,075, about a quarter of the total cost, towards their higher education tuition.

Baroness Warwick was asked by Valerie Davey, Labour MP for Bristol West, in the Commons' education and skills select committee on Wednesday, what proportion of the costs of tuition the government should be paying compared with students and whether there was a case for asking individuals who could afford it to pay more.

Baroness Warwick said: "The answer is that there is no reason why students should not be paying a greater proportion of the tuition fee. We have not taken a view of what that proportion should be."

Earlier Baroness Warwick made it clear that any solution to student support, including a graduate tax, should produce more money for higher education. Anything else would be intolerable, she said.

Diana Green, vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University and chairwoman of the UUK students and staff strategy group, said: "The answer may be yes and it may be helpful to think of it in terms of the total cost of higher education."

Roderick Floud, provost of London Guildhall University and president of UUK, said: "I think that the division of that cost between different sources of funding is essentially a political question."

Professor Floud also told MPs that, in his personal opinion, a graduate tax would be a fairer and simpler system of student support. He stressed that this was not UUK policy.

MPs also heard that UUK is supporting a return to means-tested grants for student maintenance of, perhaps, £4,000 a year.

Professor Floud said that he favoured grants not only to provide more money for poorer students and reduce any financial disincentives but also to simplify the present system of support.

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