Why pay for tuition when the French do not?

August 23, 1996

Tom Husband's article (THES, August 16) once again raises the question of students' having to pay tuition fees as if it were self-evident that this is the only way that higher education can now be funded, and I am puzzled that no one has questioned this repeated assumption.

Having studied over the past 30 years in several continental universities, I can, reluctantly, accept that moving from our traditionally small proportion of the age group to the 30-plus per cent of French and other continental systems means that we can no longer, as they never have, offer maintenance grants to any but exceptionally disadvantaged students. However, it does not follow that this also means that universities must also charge for tuition, upwards of Pounds 3,000 per year, since French, and other continental, universities do not do so, rather making a charge for registration, which also covers social security entitlement. I recall being amazed to discover, just before universal grants were introduced here, that I could enrol at a French university for a very modest sum. Four years ago, my daughter was able to enrol as a law undergraduate at Montpellier for a similarly modest amount. Comment on why United Kingdom students should have to pay for tuition would be valuable.

MICHAEL E. MARTIN Oakland Close, Liverpool Tom Husband's article ("Take a Deep Breath") first appeared in the August edition of Fabian Review.

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