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Plan will mean elite colleges for the rich

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Issue 1705

Student fees to go through the roof

Plan will mean elite colleges for the rich

FOURTEEN THOUSAND pounds. That is what it could soon cost you to go to university. And that is the cost of tuition fees alone, never mind your overdraft and your bank loan. A report last week recommended that universities should be allowed to charge tuition fees of up to 4,500 a year.

The report was commissioned by the Russell Group of top university vice-chancellors. They want the free market to run rampant, with different universities charging different fees for different courses according to how popular and prestigious they are.

New Labour’s education adviser Andrew Adonis has made it clear that top-up fees are on New Labour’s agenda too. The government encouraged the Russell Group to publish the report in the first place. It is planning another full scale “review” of higher education funding after the next election.

That means top-up fees. And once top-up fees are introduced, who is to say how high they will rise. Before the last election Labour promised there would be no university tuition fees.

When the government then introduced tuition fees of 1,000 a year they said there would be no top-up fees. They are liars. Their “vision” of higher education is to create a system like that in the US. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, tuition fees are 16,500 a year. Working class students are priced out.

US system is no model to follow

THE FEES report uses the case of school student Laura Spence to justify raising the cost of university entry. She was refused a place at Oxford University, but did get a place at Harvard in the US.

Harvard charges annual tuition fees of over 16,000 and is the world’s richest university. Last week’s report claims Harvard is an “elite but a socially inclusive university”. It claimed that because rich students pay big fees, the college could spend money on scholarships for poorer students. Harvard is not full of working class students living on generous grants. Its scholarships only cover basics, and students (or their parents) have to take out big loans to survive.

A journalist who does interviews for Harvard in Britain wrote recently, “As a rule, people just don’t apply to Harvard unless they are in the very top percentiles of the highest earners.” Harvard is a private institution. It refuses to publish figures on the number of students who come from private school backgrounds and those from state schools. The college’s entrance policy is to give preferential treatment to sons and daughters of former students. So people with money get in, and then they get their kids and grandkids in too.

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