NEW RESEARCH reveals that working class students will be four times less likely to go to university than those from better off families if top-up tuition fees are introduced.
The study by Claire Callender, professor of social policy at London's South Bank University, strikes a blow at New Labour's plans to allow universities to charge extra fees.
She says her report 'illustrates the importance of debt as a major factor in young people's decisions not to go to university in a way that hasn't been done before.
'We know people from low income families have a greater fear of debt than those from well-off families. 'Fear of debt has, in essence, become more important than academic ability.'
A second study by the influential Institute for Economic and Social Research has found that six out of ten university students are already forced to take part time jobs during term time. It discovered there is now a 'Safeway factor' where students are picking courses not on the basis of what they want to study but on the availability of local jobs too.
Hilary Metcalf, who led the research, says, 'Term time working appears to reinforce disadvantage, with students from lower social classes more likely to work.'
At the highest status universities the report found that 27 percent of students had a job during term time.
That figure rose to 60 percent in the lower ranking universities, where students also worked longer in part time jobs-up to 30 hours a week. Around eight in ten working students in the universities analysed said part time working affected their studies.
But the government is determined to press ahead with top-up tuition fees, despite growing opposition.
Education minister Alan Johnson absurdly argues that because students are already struggling under a mountain of debt, the solution is to let universities charge them even more.
STOP FEES DEMONSTRATION
Sunday 26 October, assemble 12.30pm, University of London Union, Malet Street
Rally in Trafalgar Square. Called by NUS