University bullish over plans to increase tuition fees

GEORGE LOWTHER

GEORGE LOWTHER

The University of York has chosen not to criticise controversial new tuition fee plans that will lead to burdening students with increasing amounts of debt.

The University, as part of the 1994 Group, joined with other institutions around the country to back a new system of fees that would reduce bursaries for middle class students and charge higher tuition fees across the board.

This comes after a report by the Confederation of British Industry stated that students should bear the increasing financial burden of their higher education.

Suggestions include charging increased tuition fees and greater interest rates on loans. It also proposes that the system for allotting grants should be cut back.

The NUS have branded the report “offensive,” insisting that it will return university education to a privilege of the wealthy.

University Vice-Chancellor Brian Cantor has been earmarked as a likely supporter of tution fee rises by pro-cap groups such as the NUS, despite not publicly supporting any plans.

However, the University and Colleges Union (UCU) maintain that the CBI will not have the final word in this debate. Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the UCU, believes “to suggest that a rise in tuition fees is inevitable because the CBI favours that approach is quite incredible, particularly with the country in recession.”

The CBI believes the current tuition fee cap should be raised to £5,000 a year. Those who choose to have a student loan would pay for it at commercial interest rates, instead of loans being subsidised as they are now.

Furthermore, only students whose families earn less than £17,910 will be eligible for a full grant instead of the current £25,000. The number of students eligible for partial grants would also be cut.

The report comes after accusations from university heads that it is impossible to expand or maintain current levels of teaching and research with the money currently provided through tuition fees.

It maintains that the Labour party’s target of sending fifty percent of those leaving school to university is ridiculous and the country should focus on “quality not quantity.” The report suggests suspending this objective temporarily.

According to the 2004 top-up fees act, the government must launch a review before the end of the year. However, this will not report until after the general election, allowing all parties to ignore the issue in their party manifestos.

Universities Minister David Lammy released a statement saying the Government remained committed to its fifty percent aspiration, but that the CBI’s report would feed into debates about future funding.

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