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Live! - Opinion

This article is an opinion piece and should be taken as such. It is highly likely to be biased, but either the article itself or the ensuing discussion will probably be entertaining. Live! takes no editorial line on opinion pieces.

Don't follow the crowd...

Oct 18 2002 15:25
Suggestion for a fair top-up system that provides equal opportunities for everyone...
You get what you pay for...

I'm deeply concerned that this whole top-up fees issue has been blown totally out of proportion, and unnecessarily so. My view is that a large proportion of the students out there protesting this morning actually knew very little about the issue. Not that I blame them - how could one manage to attend College in the past couple of days and not notice the numerous posters advertising the "emergency" meeting of Union council and the protest? Very little factual information about the reasoning behind the introduction top-up fees, just an invitation to fight it.

And indeed that was the view shared by Mr Arif and many others at the meeting of Union council - that we should reject top-up fees outright without even providing some justification as to why we disagree with certain aspects of the Rector's paper. Thankfully, there were more sane individuals present and it was decided that the Union should provide a justified response, but it took a member of ULU to point this out! When you don't agree with something, simply saying "NO" and refusing to have a discussion about it is totally counter-productive. By doing this, you're likely to anger your opponent and achieve nothing.

I agree that the student body should have been consulted earlier about the top-up fees issue and the proposed merger, and we should make it clear to College why we are unhappy about this. As far as I am aware, we have already done this through a letter sent to Sir Richard a few days ago. My point is that we shouldn't let this issue distract us from the useful contribution that we can provide regarding the shaping of the College for future students. If we provide intellectually thought out comment, then College are more likely to take our views into consideration and we will all benefit from this. Conversely, we could sit back and just hold protests, and College Council would probably be distanced even further from the students.

Anyway, back to the issue of top-up fees. I hope that everyone reading this is aware that the cost of educating the average student at Imperial is approximately £10,500 per annum. Government funding is much lower than this and Imperial therefore makes a loss on every student. This clearly cannot continue. The College has been very fortunate to receive funds from other sources including some fruitful research grants, but we cannot rely on these. The College has a responsibility to ensure that it delivers quality education to its students, and it clearly cannot continue doing so unless it has the funds to invest in its own future.

Many of us get up and complain when we're unhappy with the quality of the lecture theatres or facilities around College. But how can we expect to have the best teaching and facilities in the country (and hopefully even further) when we're struggling to make ends meet? The external sources of finance we get should also be going into improving our research activities further, not into subsidising undergraduate students.

I was talking to someone who shares my views earlier today, and we both agreed that top-up fees are inevitable, as the government simply cannot afford to make up the shortfall for institutions such as ours. What we must look at is how to introduce such a system that will not disadvantage students with hardship. As I'm sure you'll agree with me, no one should be denied a place here simply because they can't afford the fees - the opportunity must exist for all to achieve their full potential.

On the other hand, it would be unfair to make the parents of a student from a financially well-endowed family have to pay more each year. Therefore the answer lies in a new loans system, whereby all students would pay perhaps between £1k-£2k per annum during the time they were doing their course, and the rest would be on "loan". This loan would be repaid once they graduate, and the rate and amount of repayment would be determined by their income - similar to the current loans system. Students would then be able to pay back the loan over a long period, and if for any reason they do not reach the threshold level of income then there would be no repayment. The reason I believe this would work, is that most Imperial grads fit well into highly-paid jobs, and therefore the debt burden to them would not be an issue. For someone earning £100k per annum, paying £5k per annum in repayments is clearly not going to be an enormous problem. This system would allow all students to afford education at Imperial if they are worthy of a place on the course they have chosen.

Similarly, if a student decides to choose a former polytechnic, then they'd also have to pay the £1-£2k per annum, but the "top-up loan" element would be lower or non-existent. So every student at University would STILL pay the same per annum when they are at University, but the top-up would be a loan, paid only when they graduate and subject to the threshold conditions etc. This gives students a choice - they could choose a degree at a "cheaper" institution or decide to come to Imperial (and other Redbrick institutions) and realise that what they will receive from Imperial is far greater than if they had chosen the former.

We must move away from this misconception that free higher education benefits our country. We cannot get something for nothing - there is a cost to everything, and as those who come to Imperial can expect to leave and use their acquired knowledge to obtain more financially rewarding jobs than those who leave non-Redbrick universities, surely they should be expected to pay for the education that got them in that position!

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Discussion about “Don't follow the crowd...”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Oct 18 2002 15:52

I agree. Just as both ICSU and UCLU are demanding transparency from their college management over top-up fees and mergers, so they must be willing to relay this to the students.

Don't patronise us nor imagine us like a flock of sheep that doesn't understand the intricacies of these issues. We're not students at the top two colleges in London for lack of neurones, and are more than capable of making a fair judgement.

2. poor   
Oct 18 2002 15:58


I would like one clarification from you? Do you mean that ALL students at college should pay 1-2K per year, regardless of income. If so, where are they supposed to lay their hands on this money?

Also, with the current system of higher education funding, the money provided to the college via HEFCE is from taxpayers. Therefore, in effect, if we introduce top-up fees, we are asking more financially well-endowed people to pay twice for the education of their children which is a morally indefensible position, I feel. However, if we don't tax them twice then the system of top-up fees will fail as the money from HEFCE will not be there to provide bursaries for poorer students.

You also assume that everyone who graduates from IC will be able to get a well-paid job and so can afford to pay money back afterwards. What about those who choose to work in the (chronically underfunded) public sector because the are needed there or because they WANT to, or, in the case of medical students (who, incidentally, will run up the highest debts) who WILL be employed by the NHS for most of their working lives, if not all of it. How do these people pay their educational loans back?

3. poor   
Oct 18 2002 15:59

Am a bit tired - I meant to ask in my first paragraph - where do they get the money from if they haven't go it in the first place?

Oct 18 2002 16:00

I think you misunderstood what Arif and the union council wanted. You accuse the students of refusing to have a discussion? Are you being sarcastic? When did the rector ask for the union's opinion on the matter? You said it yourself, fail to engage in discussion and "you're likely to anger your opponent". Which is precisely what our cowboy rector achieved.

The council HAD to organize the protest and come up with a forceful response.

Read the paper again: " To mandate the President and Deputy President (Education & Welfare) to request College Council

that it delay making a decision until a more exhaustive student consultation has been carried out

by ICU."

If it weren't for Arif, there would be ZERO opposition, ZERO debate, ZERO awareness on the matter - what Sykes intended in the first place. You do not have to give the rector supreme authority, just to prove you are not the union's sheep.

Oct 18 2002 16:05

I almost forgot. GBP 100K per annum after graduating? I knew us Imperial students were full of ourselves, but that number is ridiculous. Noone expects to earn that much straight out of school. Sure, you may reach that eventually, but it would take a few years... And with the loan payments, it'll be more than a few.

6. C!   
Oct 18 2002 16:17

Hmm, so when an Imperial student graduates and gets a job they will have to pay out of their wages:

income tax, living costs, tv license, other taxes, student loan repayments to banks, student loand repayments to government, fee loan repayment. You could be earning a negative amount

Oct 18 2002 16:18

To reply to poor's comments:

Sorry, I should have made it clearer (It's Friday and I'm obviously a bit tired too!). The ?1-2K per year would be as the ?1100 figure is this year - it is means-tested. So those on very low incomes would not pay it at all. It is the "top-up" loan element that everyone would have to pay, but again only once they graduate and can afford to do so. By doing this, we allow every student the same chance of coming to Imperial. As I said in my article, people are likely to choose institutions such as Imperial because a degree here provides much better job prospects.

You correctly mention that people who decide to work in the public sector may earn less than their counterparts, and that's where the "top up" loan system would work effectively - these people would simply pay the loan off over a much longer period of time. In the case where the person's income is below a defined threshold, then they wouldn't have to make any payments until such a time as when their income did rise about the threshold. Anyway, we should not be setting Imperial's tuition fees based on the state of the public sector - this is a separate issue entirely. The fees should be set based on what it costs to provide the education.

Oct 18 2002 16:26

I'm not implying that graduates will earn ?100K in their first few years of employment - it will clearly be a lot lower than this, and the repayment would then be appropriately smaller to start with. But we cannot deny the fact that as a whole, very many Imperial grads have highly successful careers and therefore would be able to repay the debt for their education when they are financially stable.

And as I've already mentioned several times, there should always be a safety net - for example, if economic conditions change considerably for the worse and people lose their jobs then we cannot expect them to make repayments at that time!

9. poor   
Oct 18 2002 16:30

I feel the state of the public sector is important when discussing this. We are not just talking about Imperial's fees here, we are talking about provision of services in this country.

Quite frankly, a system like this in the UK will mean people will look to the EU for comparable education with no top - up fee imposed. This is perfectly possible, and may result in a 'brain-drain'. This may also be caused by people leaving the UK post-graduation in search of a better job, that is better paid and (potentially, if their debts are severe enough) somewhere where they can't be found and made to pay their loans back.

Also, the state of the public sector is important to consider in this argument because if, as is the case in medicine, it costs a medical student ?15K a year to go to med school, there will be a knock on effect on the cost of providing a National Health Service as graduating doctors will eventually EXPECT to be paid more and, if they aren't, will leave the country just like everyone else who wants to be paid more. We are already desperately short of qualified medical practitioners without making this situation worse. Obviously I can apply this to many other fields of training, but I shan't as I am best placed to comment about this one.

P.S. If everyone HAS to pay the top-up loan, as you suggest, why not forget about the ?1-2K (a drop in the ocean) and just impose a graduate tax. That is basically what you are suggesting here in a round-about way.

10. poor   
Oct 18 2002 16:36

Obviously I meant to say '...?15K a year to go to med school, which will be the case if what is proposed goes ahead will mean that medical graduates leave with a bare minimum of ?90,000 debt'.

And, obviously from my point of view ?1-2K is not a drop in the ocean, but in relation to government expenditure it is.

P.S. I am not pro-graduate tax either.

Oct 18 2002 16:44

"Thankfully, there were more sane individuals present and it was decided that the Union should provide a justified response, but it took a member of ULU to point this out!"

Actually I believe this point of view was vehemently put forward by members of the ICU Council - in particular the representative for IC Medics (unsure of exact title) and shortly afterward a vote was put forward to include the "justified response" as an appendix to the more important rejection of the concept of top-up fees in general and in principal. The votes were in favour. Incidentally I found the ULU interjection in the debate to be misdirected given the actual paper put forward by Arif.

"Therefore the answer lies in a new loans system, whereby all students would pay perhaps between ?1k-?2k per annum during the time they were doing their course, and the rest would be on "loan". "

How many students do you really expect can pay fees from ?1k-?2k pa outright? I know I can't. I had only saved almost ?500 before arriving here for my first year - and that was not an easy task given my local employment opportunities for the summer. Are you advising that all students should _require_ part time employment during term time to stay afloat? If you were not already aware, the poorer students (such as myself) will already be leaving Uni with a near ?20k debt, not to mention overdraft facilities throughout this period.

Is this 'Live! news' or 'Live! opinion'? This is a serious point. Whichever this article is purporting to be, it should be made quite clear that this article is not propogation of facts, but of opinion.

12. Jeremy   
Oct 18 2002 16:49

I agree that given the current state of the NHS, expecting Imperial medics to repay ?90k is quite unreasonable. But remember that this is a failing of the health system, and it is important that the College still receives the funds it needs to provide the course to students.

As we probably can't sort out the NHS, and as we all agree that we need people to go into medicine to avoid a shortage of professionals in this field, it would be up to the government to use taxpayer money to subsidise that specific course as necessary. Therefore the amount payable by the student would be much lower than ?15k per annum. The advantage of this is that those subsidies should be changed depending on market conditions - if the UK needs more doctors, then clearly there is a need to provide an increased subsidy. But either way, College would always receive the same funds each year for each student (what it costs to provide the course) - the combination of what the student pays and the subsidy.

I should make it clear that these are exceptions made to benefit society as a whole - in most other fields, a government subsidy is wholly unnecessary, and should be left entirely to market forces.

Oct 18 2002 16:50

OK, now I am aware of the layout of this website I request that this article is moved to the 'Opinion' section as it in no way represents news.

14. Jeremy   
Oct 18 2002 16:56

Dan: yes, it should be in the Opinions section - apologies. Can someone technical please move it?

Responding to your point re the ?1-2K, see my comments to "poor" - I should have made it clearer in the article that this would be means-tested as it is now. So you could effectively pay nothing at all until you graduate, at which point you would just repay the "top-up" element. Unless of course you choose a University that doesn't require "top-up fees" to provide its education, in which case you have nothing to pay at all. The ?1-2K portion is definitely not intended to be part of the loan.

15. Editor   
Oct 18 2002 17:00

OK, slight problem.

When we created the opinion section we made extract a subset of news.

We don't filter/mark opinion on the front page (yet). Nor do we filter it out of the News section (yet). I guess we need to do some more programming over the weekend.


External news feeds are, however, opinion filtered. So, for example, the feed on ICU's home page does not include any opinion pieces.

16. poor   
Oct 18 2002 17:03

Your implication then is that people who attend elite universities do not contribute to society in general, unless they are medics or some such.

I beg to differ. Many create, develop and reseach into things which benefit society in general. And if we take it down to the most basic level, they all pay income tax, NI, etc, and they are NOT claiming Jobseeker's allowance, income support, a council house, disability benefit etc etc if they are in work.

Oct 18 2002 17:04

OK, just as long as it is observed that this is in fact opinion. Thankyou.


18. Jeremy   
Oct 18 2002 18:42

What's wrong with opinions appearing on the front page? I think they should! After all Mr Arif's "straight talking" rant about burnt cookies was an opinion and it was displayed on the front page!

Oct 18 2002 18:47

I am not against the idea of a merger in principle. But using it as a mechanism to push unacceptably high levels of top-up fees through the back door, without proper consultation or discussion is grossly irresponsible! Not top-up fees per se. I agree that there needs to be reform and top-up fees are an element, but the debate has tended to place the acceptable level at ?4500 for the UK. What Sykes is doing is raising the level to an unbelievable ?10,500 or ?15,000 -making us swallow the American model without scrutiny. This assumes that all variables of the equation are the same as in America, without concern for longer term implications specific to the UK situation -all in the name of a vague faith in 'globalisation'. I can't believe such short-sightedness!

A linearity is assumed, where debt as a proportion of graduate income is seen as unproblematically 'manageable'. But we won't exactly be paying less tax, as we subsidise the large, aged baby-boomer generation.

In practice this would all translate to a debt of at least ?50,000 by the time we are 30 -a time when you normally seek to become self-reliant and start to put concrete structures in place to secure your future life. Only, this is relatively a much more expensive process here than in America.

For a start, the housing market could see a significant slump. Add this to economic and job uncertainty and you have the ingredients for a deep and lasting debt-driven economic crisis. Perhaps government will be pleased at the result. But what do they care? Their period in office will long have been over.

  • -------

I agree with the view that top-up fees constitute a regression to pre-war values.

Just because the situation is such in America (a far from equitable society), it doesn't necessarily follow that this is the inevitable or most desirable course for the so-called 'globalisation of education'!

Whether or not those who can afford to pay (and I am not in that position) should be made to is beyond the issue. This is the thin end of the wedge. It needs to be understood within a wider dynamic. If richer students are to subsidise their poorer counterparts, this requires a high level of 'haves' to compensate for the 'have nots', and entrance would have to be limited accordingly. Top universities will reinforce their priveleged position, but in a way that leads to a two-tier system at the national level.

Also, unable to compete with the 'ivy league', or attract sufficient numbers of 'haves' to support the 'have nots', other universities will not really be in a position to provide for students with no funds -something we currently see in America. Wide access to higher education would be severely compromised.

It seems we are increasingly importing some of the least savoury elements of the American way of doing things, as short-sighted, purportedly pragmatic responses to 'globalisation'; including a presidential style political leadership, which threatens de facto democracy, by circumventing channels of consultation and discussion -and this risks permeating to other levels (as we are currently witnessing...).

The rhetoric of 'Globalisation' is obsuring a great deal of common sense and eroding hard-fought values that have been at the core of the social progress achieved in the twentieth century -which we take for granted, but on which much of our economic growth has relied.

Other things being equal, as Jon Freedman points out (cf. 'Rector to face students on UCL and fees'), "throwing money at problems" is no miracle solution in itself! Think about the dynamism of a great number of continental higher education institutions that do not primarily operate under this logic.

  • ------

On a different note, I suggest that, as with the 'stand-alone' names of Cambridge, Harvard, Oxford, Sorbonne , Yale and Stanford, we should also seek a 'single-word' name that would be original and help to conceptually consolidate the new institution -rather than getting stuck in abbreviations. Let's face it: "University College" is quite bland. As for "Imperial", it's more solid, but it may trigger connotations of imperialism and as such is not sound either. Warwick has been quite successful at this. You now say 'Warwick', almost as you would say 'Cambridge' or 'Oxford' -as indissoluble from the university. But what 'stand-alone' name can we find in a city where the place names wouldn't really relate? Well, 'Harvard' bears no relation to place name, but rather to it's founder. Similarly, we could be called 'Bentham University', where eventually 'Bentham' would suffice (as with 'Harvard'). This would presumably be ok for Imperial, as Bentham was the founder of the University of London at large and not just UCL. Another suggestion would be 'Russell University', which could eventually become a 'stand-alone' name: 'Russell' (as with 'Harvard'). Sounds dodgy though. Any more suggestions?

20. Jeremy   
Oct 18 2002 20:36

I should also make it clear that I'm not in favour of just going along with the proposed ?10.5k top-up - I think that's ridiculously high. My suggestion is that a top-up should be just that, topping up the standard education subsidy provided by the government as it is now. So if Imperial are making on average a ?2800 shortfall on each student, then I would expect a top-up of no more than ?3k per year, or perhaps ?4k if College argue that the extra funding could significantly help us to improve teaching and facilities etc.

So hopefully people will appreciate that what I'm suggesting is not totally outrageous!

21. Seb   
Oct 18 2002 20:39

Oh please!

There is a time for discussion and a time for action.

I think that most people understand very well about top up fees.

Frankly, I thought necessity was the mother of invention.

There's the old joke "something must be done, and this is something, so it must be done!"

Top up fees are only one solution to the finance crisis that faces higher education. It happens to be the easiest one.

While it would be a good idea to have a wide ranging debate about alternatives (and there are: Look only as far north as Scotland for example rather than make spurious comparisons with America) to top up fees, the point was that by pre-empting the Government White paper on higher education finance, the rector would (intentionally or unintentionally) railroad top up fees through as the solution to the funding crisis. The other Russell Group rectors, provosts etc. would then follow suit and any student input would then be on how to tweak a top up fees system. Thus what needed to be done was to prevent the passing of the recommendation in the rectors paper shown on page 2 of Felix "The College will state publicly that it supports...?

Any argument on *WHY* top up fees are wrong would merely bring in amendments offering more student consultation on the nature of top up fees rather than consultation on which method of meeting the finance crisis is chosen.

If Jeremy had half as good understanding of the issue as he seems to assume that only he and a few others have, he would understand why within Imperial that debating the pros and cons of top up fees is irrelevant. If we want the student body of the country to get a say in how to meet the funding gap, then we need to make sure that the debate actually happens by ensuring the rector doesn?t make that decision for us. As it stands unless there is nationwide student activity, there won't be.

Oct 18 2002 20:41

Yes, but 3K is not the same as 15K which is what Sykes is pushing for. Hence I don't think that this has been blown out of proportion at all. If we all stay quiet then Sykes will set the price at whatever he thinks is right - no discussion. Also, the 10.5K that everyone is throwing around, who decided that is the cost of educating an Imperial College student? It was Sykes, right?

23. Seb   
Oct 18 2002 20:42

"My suggestion is that a top-up should be just that, topping up the standard education subsidy provided by the government as it is now. So if Imperial are making on average a ?2800 shortfall on each student, then I would expect a top-up of no more than ?3k per year, or perhaps ?4k if College argue that the extra funding could significantly help us to improve teaching and facilities etc."

But then how are you going to afford to pay for the people that can not afford to pay the extra 4 K a year. Over a four year course, that's an extra 16K of debt. It still means that the university will be slowly going bankrupt, just less slowly than before.

So hopefully people will appreciate that what I'm suggesting is not totally outrageous!

Oct 18 2002 20:44

" If we want the student body of the country to get a say in how to meet the funding gap, then we need to make sure that the debate actually happens by ensuring the rector doesn?t make that decision for us. As it stands unless there is nationwide student activity, there won't be."

Well said, Seb. That is exactly what Jeremy missed.

25. Ersi   
Oct 18 2002 20:47

We all seem to be so american-oriented, that maybe (just maybe...) we forget a lot of facts like: in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece etc, higher education IS free (no fees and many more students discounts than in Britain)! In none of these countries is there a problem with student loans in a comparable scale to here. How do those countries manage it?

Secondly, according to what standards are we judging the level of a university, in terms of undergraduate studies? Is it for example irrelevant with out discussion that in all of the above countries engineering courses last for 5 years? In the american universities that we seem to be so fond of, it is practically the same, since the master is a two-year course.

Then, it looks like some of us believe that it is just a matter of arguments to make the rector "understand" that he is wrong. But, isn' t he practising politics, which means that he serves certain interests in this society (which ones, is something you should ask yourselves). I believe that the majority of us do believe that education is not a privilege but a right. The top-up fees are one first aspect of the privatisation to come. It is happening here, it is happening also in the rest of the european countries, although some of the social rights there have not yet been abolished. We claim to be amongst the best scientist, so let's think in a scientific way: understand the causes of the phenomena. Then, we can work out solutions?

26. poor   
Oct 18 2002 21:07

Just in reply to Jeremy - what is suggested is that the money the government already provides for student support for all to IC, THIS money will be used to provide bursaries for poorer students, and so introducing top-up fees that are ?2.8

  • 3K is not practical, as then there would be no bursaries at IC at all. Top-up fees, in essence, will involve richer students subsidising poorer students and is NOT simply a means by which those who are in a position to contribute to the defecit their education creates will be asked to do so.

Had you actually researched top-up fees fully, you would reallise this. As Seb says, you are not the only person who knows about top-up fees and it appears you do not have as deep and understanding of the situation as you claim to.

As Ersi and others have pointed out, HE funding in Scotland works at the moment and America's education system is vastly different to ours in the UK. We would be better off looking to the EU and Scotland for ideas than simply adopting the american way for ease of glabalisation.

Oct 18 2002 21:39

For insight on how top-up fees would affect the wider dynamics of higher education, let me refer you to:

[[BBC News]|*] & [[Varsity]|]

In particular, the following points:

"richer students would pay for their poorer counterparts; but this system would require a high level of "haves" to compensate for the "have nots", and entrance would have to be limited accordingly." (Varsity)

"(...) while Harvard and Yale could offer a range of scholarships and grants, there were many less prestigious universities which offered little to students without funds." (BBC)

28. Seb   
Oct 18 2002 21:55

Here is another thought:

The idea under the top up fees is that the "haves" pay for the "have-nots". Now firstly I?d like to say that this isn't strictly true. "Rich" students are not in fact rich: Their parents are rich.

Now I guess I qualify as a "have", my parents paid for me to go to Westminster, yet I know also they could not afford on top of that 50K of university fees. For the record, I want to go into research.

Anyway, the main point I was going to make is this:

Most of my contemporaries made serious thought about going to an American Ivy league university. Yale, Harvard and MIT sent recruitment agents over here to do interviews with several of them. At A-level age, English students slightly outclass the level of US high school education it would appear, though they catch up within the first year of university.

The only thing stopping them studying abroad has been the cost of attending an American university. Studying abroad has several advantages, the main two being:

1. MIT, Yale, Harvard offer superior networking opportunities, which will be ever more important as Americas global political, financial and business power increase (and it is increasing)

2. There is a "glamour" attached to studying abroad. Hell, we are talking about the class of people that go off and spend gap years travelling the world on their parents credit card.

By charging the so called "haves", rather than being able to compete with American universities, we are actually going to move into direct competition whereas previously we have been sheltered from the global market by an essentially protectionist government subsidy.

In short: We will not have these rich haves anymore. Given a choice between paying an extra grand a year for going to an American university with it's superior networking, kudos, the glamour of a four years abroad "broadening" horizons and of course, the better conditions, amenities offered to undergrads in America, and of course, relatively speaking lower academic entry requirements, or going to Imperial, which would you choose?

MIT every time!

The only draw back is that the legal drinking age is 21 rather than 18. I would rather trust 28k of government subsidy to keep people here.

We cannot use the "top up fee" model to solve the finance crisis until we have sufficient funds to compete with American universities on an even playing field when it comes to quality.

Therefore we would be better off with a graduate tax that goes to building endowment funds as Scotland has implemented.

Oct 19 2002 02:27

Frankly, Jeremy. I do not see how the idea of top-up loans would be more equitable. There would be some kind of loans system available to pay fees anyway. It would still mean paying the same amount. There is nothing new here. Worse, it denies poorer students the chance to be subsidised at all.

Saying to people "it's ok: just get indebted and, if you don't earn enough, you can pay for the rest of your life -unless you remain a low-lifer" is not exactly going to present university as an attractive prospect to those from poorer backgrounds.

There is a tendency to 'disconnect' income before and after graduation. Implicit is the assumption that everything will be ok afterwards, whatever your background. Our pockets will be large enough...

But understanding different risk scenarios shows that it's reasonable for those from lower income families to see themselves as exposed to more risk; and being deterred from applying to university under these conditions is quite rational (especially when talking about such large sums):

Top-up fees would make less difference to a rich student who goes on to earn a low salary, as fees would be paid upfront in a large number of cases. Those who do go on to earn good salaries will be able to pay them fairly promptly after graduation.

But if a student from a poor background then goes on to earn a low salary, s/he is faced with the prospect of prolongued debt. This is compounded by subsidies not being available. In this light, it is quite likely that a poor student will weigh her/his options and decide that the level of investment required for a university education is unlikely to pay off and is not worth the effort. This is not necessarily because s/he feels s/he is not competent enough (which is commonly assumed), but because s/he perceives the system as being skewed against her/him in terms of risk. For instance, there maybe a feeling that, by not going to university, you will be able to earn more than the repayment threshold anyway, and at the same time not be faced with such huge levels of debt. It is simply a different strategy, which could be seen as a safer route to a subjectively acceptable level of self-reliance.

It is true that your suggestion would remove the need for richer students to subsidise poorer ones -which means that universities would not be under pressure to attract enough rich students to provide for others, in a way that actually restricted access to those from poorer incomes. In this sense, there is no bias.

But it would mean a greater relative burden of debt on the workforce in Britain than in America:

In America, a small proportion of poor students (those seen as 'most able') are subsidised in a rather limited way, and more so by the top universities.

The larger proportion of the poor either choose not to or are unable to pursue a university education, choosing alternative careers -and so do not get into comparable levels of debt (even if this means accepting a lower social status).

Would this greater level of debt in Britain be desirable? It could potentially lead to a national debt crisis and economic stagnation. What's more, we see that debt is concentrated on those with low incomes (AND from low income backgrounds), in a way that serves to replicate inequality. Here there is bias. Eventually there could be a convergence with America, in that poorer sectors of society are increasingly compelled to look to more marginal careers paths, outside the university route.

What is unfair about the current system? The cost of education is spread cross-generationally (hence with fewer biases), through taxation; opportunities for social advancement through higher education are much more freely available to all. I believe this makes for a more dynamic society, which enables the development of human capital at more levels than in America.

At the same time, there is truth in the idea that 'free for all' does not produce a competitive climate. Perhaps the emphasis should be on finding a balance between these two logics: ensuring that top-up fees are not used by rich students to subsidise poorer students, but rather finance their own education; and different levels of subsidy (through cross-generational taxation) are available to poorer students, with a view to minimising burdens of debt. But without full subsidies. Behind this would be both a concern for optimal social inclusion, as well as for longer term macro-economic perspectives.

Oct 19 2002 12:08

There were actually a number of different issues being protested against yesterday.

  • Many people objected to top-up fees on principle. Secondary education is free (except for those who choose to leave the state sector). Primary education is free. Why? Because society benefits from educating individuals! The argument that students are the ones being educated so must be the ones bearing the entire burden is an interesting one but is, sadly, complete tripe. The government spends hundreds of billions of pounds on giving money to the less well off members of society in the form of tax relief, benefits etc etc. Ditto health spending on the NHS. But hang on a minute, aren't they the ones benefiting from that? Shouldn't they be the ones paying for it? No. Because society has decided that it benefits everyone for these people be supported.
  • Many people do not necessarily object to top-up fees, but see them as one option amongst a range of others. It is no good saying that they are the "only way" and "inevitable" when Scotland has turned round and done something completely different as has the rest of Europe.
  • Finally many people were most incensed that no-one even tried to consult them. This plan was, most obviously, intended to be a secret. Unfortunately (for the Rector) that didn't quite work out. How reasonable is it that students hear about a plan on Monday which will be approved on Friday and have no chance to offer any input whatsoever? I notice Jeremy choose to illustrate this article with a picture of one of the signs held by the protesters yesterday. There was a second design as well, one which appeared much more prevalent actually I thought. It simply says "did you ask my opinion?"

I am not in debt. I think everyone who reads this article can reasonably guess that Jeremy is not in debt either. It is immoral for someone in such a position to declare that everyone else should be burdened with an enormous extra debt, secure in the knowledge that it won't be a problem for them. My parents could probably afford to pay ?10,000 a year - I certainly couldn't and what is supposed to happen if they decide they don't want to?

Top-up fees may happen. But that's not to say they are inevitable. If Jeremy really felt they were such a good idea he should have come along to the Emergency meeting on wednesday and made his case there. Out of the several hundred people present he might have found a few people who agreed with him.

In the end, the scheme he has presented is actually an option. But in presenting it he has completely missed the point. The Rector never asked him to present this option, the Rector never asked anyone to present other options. Sir Richard Sykes just thought he could go ahead and impose a scheme from on-high without any protestations. I was at the protest yesterday and it was an absolutely incredible experience to see nearly 1000 people turn up with basically under 24 hours notice and stand in complete silence. We didn't stop the paper, we knew we wouldn't, but we still made our views very clear. The Rector was wrong.

31. Sunil   
Oct 19 2002 14:47

I find it amusing that people are trying to quote the examples of Scottish and the once-great-but-now-crippled German universities.

Sorry, but these all-inclusive and fee-less institutions are not in the same league as MIT, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, are they? They're good but not that good. Being the best in Britain or Europe is bloody pointless if you can't compete on a level field with the best in the world.

In practical terms, the government has obviously told Imperial to p*** off when it (rightfully) demands the same kind of resources for teaching and research the MITs and Stanfords of this world have access to.

So... the money is needed, there is no doubt about that. The govt is not going to hand over taxpayer's money for providing high-quality technical education to a small minority of students.

Tell me, where else can Sykes raise the money? Is it good enough for Imperial to be just as good as or sllightly better than Aachen, Delft or the Ecole Polytechnique when the American univerisites are literally monopolising the best in hi-tech research and teaching?

Oct 19 2002 15:37

I don't know what the best way of raising money is. But there's more than one way. It would be nice to have had an informed debate before College went straight ahead with agreeing to the most inequitable option.

33. seb   
Oct 20 2002 13:05


"Sorry, but these all-inclusive and fee-less institutions are not in the same league as MIT, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, are they? They're good but not that good. Being the best in Britain or Europe is bloody pointless if you can't compete on a level field with the best in the world."

No, but then the top up fees as they stand are not actually going to improve Imperials undergraduate experience, merely cover the existing finance gap.

At this point I'd like to raise again the issue that Imperial dosn't offer as good an undergraduate experience as MIT, Yale and Harvard, the entrance requirements in these instiutions are a shade lower, and under top up fees they will cost the same.

The result will probably be that Imperial and the Russel group will not be able to attract the 30% of "wealthy" applicants when faced with superiour undergraduate courses in America.

As Oliver Pell points out, there are other ways this finance gap can be met without exposing ourselves overnight to competition that we can not hope to keep place with.

Other methods, say a graduate tax as is done in Scotland, could be used to build up some equivalent to the endowment funds. While Scotland may lack "world beating" reputations that Imperial has in the research (but not undergraduate courses) sector does not in fact invalidate it's finance model!

34. Sunil   
Oct 20 2002 21:43

You're right. It's easier to get admission to good US universities because students go up at 17 rather than 18. You just have to be willing to drop back a year. Also, for the same reason and also because students rarely specialise until the graduate level, undergraduate degrees are indeed far easier out there.

But quality of teaching and research still go together. The reputation of a university and its excellence and ability to attract world-class staff, top-level funding and the best students are determined by its research, not by its teaching.

If high-quality teaching for cheap is all you're looking for, you could go to India and study science or engineering (in English) for far, far less.

Oct 20 2002 22:03

Surely that's a good reason for not paying huge amounts to be taught in this country?

Oct 21 2002 11:27

In response to Sunil:

I agree that Indian education is of a high standard...

But to get into a decent university you have to sit entrance exams and sometimes exams to sit the entrance exam... which is crazy.

Number 10's policy is to get back to the issue of avoiding the issue of college fees...

Oct 21 2002 11:29

I thought that the approach was to bribe the relevant officials to let you sit the entrance exam :-) Is that your 10,000 rupee note on the floor, Sir?

Oct 21 2002 12:06

This is turning into a rather heated affair, what with the Rector spicing up all our lives: with plans to merge the universities with a side order of increased collge fees.

Strange that they should be introduced at the same time.

39. Seb   
Oct 21 2002 15:25


Uh, the teaching in America is not *cheap*, but unlike with the rectors proposal, you will get what you pay for. Students with the parents that can afford it will do one of two things: Go for the best they can buy (America?) or stay in the UK. I doubt they will shop around for the cheapest univeristy degree possible. Think of the HEFCE grant like a protectionist subsidy.

You get a greater flexibility in what you study, and your standard of living is higher. And I don't really think you can compare MIT et al. Lets face it, as good as Imperial is we rank slightly below the likes of MIT, and as such I don't quite see how we can compete for UG.

On top of that, with an MIT degree you are in a better position to get into MIT to do a PhD than on the other side of the pond.

Remember, the top up fees are only going to bridge an existing funding gap, not to improve our facilities. IT will be a few years before the extra money from an even higher top up fee (15K he proposes) translates into better accomodation, more sports facilities etc. etc.

On top of all of this, if you study abroad you can still get some HEFCE grant, so the taxpayer will be paying for the brain drain. Not a good idea.

40. Sunil   
Oct 21 2002 22:58

Well, we can't compete with the likes of MIT yet. Our research is not high-profile enough. But surely it's worth attempting to compete on level terms. Rome wasn't built in a day!

There's certainly the risk of losing a small section of the super-rich to the US universities. This actually already happens to an extent.

But a good number of these students will stay on in the UK at least at the under-grad level for all kinds of sentimental reasons. Why do rich and upper-middle-class British parents pay for decaying minor public schools when there are fine cheaper American and South African schools all too happy to take British pupils?

41. Seb   
Oct 22 2002 13:40


Top up fees will not affect research prowess one way or the other (in the short term): It only affects the undergraduate applications.

Imperial college can not compete with the American universities for the applicants to do an undergraduate degree from a wealthy background! This is because the American university have the level of accumulated funds to provide a better experience for undergraduates than any UK university.

The rectors proposal is that we will divert the HEFCE subsidy which protects the UK market from overseas competition (Why spend 10K more to send your kids to America when then can get a degree as respected in the UK, it's not worth it for the slight improvement amenities) from the wealthy applicants to fund the poorer ones.

So there will be a risk of loosing the rich to American universities, but it is THESE people that are supposed to finance the system here under the rectors proposal:

No rich people = no money to teach the poor people.

If a "rich" student is effectively paying for two other "poor students" (which is the case under the rectors proposal) each rich person lost to an American university means Imperial will not be able to take two poor people. The rector wants to charge 30% of people about 10K a year, equivalent to an American degree cost. That's 30% of Imperial students that might now consider (and we be mad not to) applying to an American university. What has Imperial got to offer an undergrad that MIT dosn't? NOthing. The same can not be said vice versa.

Therefore it will not work!

"Why do rich and upper-middle-class British parents pay for decaying minor public schools"

Because they are not decaying, because they provide a better education than the comprehensive system (largely due to their operational independence from the LEA's, and the lower class sizes IMHO), and because the children are minors and thus they want to keep them close, and because the British public school system is still considered better by the middle clases, though more expensive than those in other countries.

You keep bringing back the price motivation. If anything the middle and upper classes want and are happy to spend as much money as possible on their childrens education. They are not shoping round for the cheapest option. They will not send their kids to America because it is cheaper to do so, but because if they are going to have to pay 50K,they might as well pay 50K and get a better deal.

Any finance system that relies on the rich funding the poor is doomed to fail unless we can compete with the American universities undergraduate degree courses before we implement the system. The American universities have over 200 years of accumulated philanthropy.

IF we are going to move to a high fee system we need to have massive injections of investment into student facilities prior to implementing, and we need to ensure that the UK banks take the pro-student debt attitude that the American banks do. Come out of univeristy in the states with 100K debt and the banks will be happy yo give more credit. Come out of the univeristy in the UK with 20K debt and you need to have a good job and a good explanation as to why the bank should give you more money.

42. Dave   
Oct 22 2002 16:30

The majority of people on this page have become lost in the mindless "say no to top-up fees" rhetoric without considering the facts. A flock of sheep could probably think more independently.

First of all college does not receive enough money from the government to educate every student that walks through the hallow gates of Imperial College. As a result college has, for years, been subsidising every British and EU student, resulting in college running up a considerable debt. This has to stop.

The question then arises: how do we fund this shortfall? I see 3 options:

1. raise taxes for all

2. charge top-up fees for the minority that will receive the benefits of receiving an education from Imperial (or other redbrick university).

3. Cut back the number of university places nation-wide and concentrate the money saved on the top-performing universities.

Personally I think the first option is morally wrong - why should people struggling by on the minimum wage who have not had the benefits of university education have to pay for our educations?

I would go for a combination of options 2 and 3 - charge top-up fees with the caveat that people who can't afford to pay don't have to pay. This is where means-tested bursaries would come in. By cutting back on the number of univeristy places nation-wide this would ensure that the bursary pool would be large enough to ensure that everyone who can't afford to pay doesn't have to.

As for the question of how much the top-up fees should be then surely ?15,000 is a bit too low. With London weighting surely we should be thinking of a figure nearer ?20,000?

In an ideal world we wouldn't have to pay a penny but what people have to realise is that it isn't an ideal world and if you want a top-notch world-class education it has to be paid for. I have seen no suggestions on this page or any other pages on how the shortfall could be paid up without the need for top-up fees. It's time to put up or shut up!

Oct 22 2002 16:49

Of course there are alternatives to top-up fees - and ones that don't mean a reduction in the quality of teaching.

Firstly, there's cost-cutting. IC can streamline its huge bureaucracy, which is pretty ineffective anyway. Reducing the amount spent on shuffling paper from one end of Sherfield to the other would release a lot of cash. Selling off Imperial's huge amounts of waste paper, cans and so forth (and it is a huge amount if you think about it) for recycling would also generate cash. Outsourcing some administrative functions would also cut costs.

These are just three examples I've come up with whilst writing this. I'm sure a team of dedicated experts given a month or two should be able to come up with a lot more.

Secondly, Imperial could merge with other HE institutions and share economies of scale. Oooh... look what's happening.

Thirdly, Imperial could raise more cash through donations and spin-out companies - something, again, that it is already attempting.

Fourthly, if you really want to charge the students, then what's wrong with a graduate tax that is paid by them (not their parents) at an affordable rate (not ?10,000 at a time) at a time when they can afford it (when working, not upfront)? After all, that is the proposal in Scotland at the moment.

Is this enough alternatives to be going on with?

If you absolutely insist on top-up fees, why charge ?10,000 anyway? In the Rector's paper, he stated that the College was losing an average of only ?2,800 pounds per student. Why should College charge more than this?

Oct 22 2002 17:04

Dave, those are not the only options for raising money. Two others that have been proposed are:

  • a graduate tax
  • a tax on employers who hire graduates

As for your assertion that increasing general taxation is 'morally wrong', I have to disagree with you. The whole of society dervies benefits from the contribution made by graduates (many of whom will not be well-paid). We need highly-educated qualified professionals to go about our daily lives. Sure most graduates will earn more money than most non-graduates but in case you haven't noticed, we have a progressive system of tax in this country (i.e. the more you earn, the more tax you pay). Furthermore, someone 'struggling on the minimum wage' would not pay much income tax as we have personal tax allowances and low rates of tax for those who don't earn much.

And it's not just a case of raising money. Its also a case of making better use of what money's available.

Firstly, there's plenty of money wasted in College. (Not to mention catering losses.)

Secondly, and more importantly, as you correctly point out HEFCHE currently allocates ?7500 per student to each institution (regardless of the calibre of the institution or the cost of the course). This situation is ludicrous. ?7,500 is the "average" cost of University tutition. It's probably a reasonably accurate figure across the country, but doesn't actually work if you are a specialist science / engineering / medicince College.

If HEFCHE don't have the balls to give more money to higher calibre institutions, they should at least give differential amounts based on the type of course being studied. (No offence to historians, it costs a lot more to teach medicine in a lab than history in a lecture theatre.) If HEFCHE did reflect reality (or as Sir Richard so aptly put it, recognise that "We are producing a Rolls Royce, not a Skoda!", than virtually all of the need to impose top-up fees would go.

BTW did anyone notice, Sir Richard was appointed to the board of HEFCHE last week?

45. Dave   
Oct 22 2002 18:20


  • "...IC can streamline its huge bureaucracy..."

Completely agree. Imperial admin is appalling.

  • "...merge with other HE institutions and share economies of scale..."

"...raise more cash through donations and spin-out companies..."

Once again completely agree that both of these are for the good. However, even taken these things into account there still isn't enough money in the kitty to maintain the sort of education that we deserve.

"...College was losing an average of only ?2,800 pounds per student. Why should College charge more than this?"

Fine, in principal. However, this would require charging EVERYONE an extra ?2,800 and as many people on this page have correctly asserted SOME students simply wouldn't be able to afford that. Remember it would only require charging 30% of Imperial's intake ?15,000 (along with the current HEFCHE funding) to be able to provide bursaries for the other 70%. 17% already pay fees of more than ?20,000 so it would only require charging a further 13%. This would provide the money to provide EVERYONE with a top-class education whilst not biasing against students from poorer backgrounds.


"If HEFCHE don't have the balls to give more money to higher calibre institutions, they should at least give differential amounts based on the type of course being studied"

Once again something we agree on - I hope that this is something that the rector is campaigning for, especially given his position on the HEFCHE board. Ideally, I would like to see (1) the top universities rewarded by giving them extra funding (this is what happens with the government's research funding); (2) differential funding for the 'real' cost of different courses; (3) the number of places on 'waste-of-time' and vocational courses cut back.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against vocational training, infact I am all for it. However, a university degree isn't always the way to provide it. In many cases apprenticeships would be far more appropriate. The country doesn't need 50% of its population to have degrees. Yes it needs a knowledge based society but knowledge can be acquired in many different ways.

However, in the event of the board not being persuaded by this arguement then the top flight universities need to do something about it for themselves. Even with all the cost-cutting, increased number of spin-out companies, etc suggested then the only feasible funding options that have been suggested are top-up fees (for those you could afford them) or a graduate tax.

I'm not completely against a graduate tax but this would have to be higher than the level currently proposed for Scotland - the level proposed will only provide the level of funding provided by the current level of ?1,100(ish) in fees that students have to pay in England and Wales. And as we have already agreed (I think!) this level of funding isn't adequate. Either way the student ends up paying for their education, the only difference between fees and a graduate tax is when they pay.

I hope that the union takes these comments into account along with yours Stuart and Mustafa as so far all I have seen from the union is "say no to fees". If you are going to 'mouth off' in this way you have to have some well thought out alternatives to offer to the debating table. Otherwise say goodbye to any student voice in any further policy making.

46. seb   
Oct 22 2002 18:21


I don't know where you get the idea that people are acting like a flock of sheep. It seems most people have given a good reason for why they oppose top up fees. On top of that, as has been pointed out there are more alternatives than you point out.

Precisely why raising income tax is imoral but effectively taxing wealthy parents to pay for other people to get a good degree and in turn become even more wealthy themselves without having to pay for their education, even after becoming high earners, remains unclear to me.

47. Seb   
Oct 22 2002 18:25

"Fine, in principal. However, this would require charging EVERYONE an extra ?2,800 and as many people on this page have correctly asserted SOME students simply wouldn't be able to afford that."

Never mind that no where near 30% can afford to pay 10K

"17% already pay fees of more than ?20,000 so it would only require charging a further 13%."

False. If you look at the rectors figures he is talking about Home/EU students only. That's 30% of Homes students, not the 17% overseas students. They are not part of the equation.

"This would provide the money to provide EVERYONE with a top-class education whilst not biasing against students from poorer backgrounds."

Except of course that it would, because Imperial would have to set asside 30% of places for people from a welathy background. And of course it would bias against the students from a rich background. Anyone with a degree from Imperial has the potential to become exceedingly rich, I fail to see why they can not contribute to their education with their future earnings (i.e. by a graduate tax).

48. Seb   
Oct 22 2002 18:45


Look at it this way, over a four year course (Medics excluded) 3k a year adds up to a 12k of debt that needs to be paid off. Now it seems to me that if the banks in this country had the attitude they have in the states (and wern't terrified of taking a look at your degree and deciding credit risk on the basis of the awarding university) then actually there would be no problem at all: everyone, rich or poor as their parents are, could get out a loan, and pay it back.

All Imperial graduates have equal career opertunities.

A graduate tax on all of IC's graduates would not actually cost very much to the graduate. The average starting sallary from Imperial must be something like 35K after a few years. 1% of that is 350 pounds. So over thirty years they could pay for their education themselves, even assuming the laughable idea they never get more than 35k. That's ignoring a potential contribution from corporation tax.

Oct 22 2002 22:03

[*embarrassed* ...this is what that post SHOULD look like:]

What worries me is: what's going to happen to the current HEFCE ?7500 per student subsidy? It's not like we're going to get it back, if we're all simply made to pay top-up fees (whether upfront, or through a loan); it won't mean lower taxation. It will probably go to subsidising government bureucrats instead!

But if the government continues to provide the same level of subsidy, and this is combined with a top-up fee system, where the richer students pay the full value of their degree (and not anything extra to subsidise the poorer students -who instead will continue to be subsidised by HEFCE), there is a real chance here to draw from the benefits of both the American and British systems and develop a more equitable one, which places us at an even more advantageous position than America in terms of wider access & acquiring brilliant people, whatever their background.

If HEFCE no longer subsidises the 30% who are able to pay 11,375 (1,075 + 7,500 + 2,800 shortfall), this leaves an extra 2.25K per student for the remaining 70% -bringing the total subsidy to ?9750 per poor(er) student. This still leaves a shortfall of ?1625 per poor(er) student. But 3 x ?1625 = ?4875, as the tuition cost of a degree to a poor(er) student, is a reasonable amount for her/him to pay off: it's manageable debt. This means that 70% of students will have ?4,875 (+living expenses) of debt, instead of ?34,125 (+living expenses) for 100% of students (3 x 11,327 -a level of debt, which in the long term could weaken the economy!); PLUS the true cost of education will have been met!

So my proposal is: charge the richest 30% the full value of their degree (?11,375), and the remaining 70% pay ?1625 (with a ?9750 HEFCE subsidy). At the more simple level, there will be 32.65% extra cash in the system -and the immediate ?2800 shortfall per student would disappear. I am not suggesting this should be so 'cut-and-dry' between the rich and poor students. This model could be refined and different levels of subsidy available at different levels (say, only 15% pay the full ?11,375 fee; a further 25% pay 50%, and the extremely poor pay only a nominal amount). But where, all in all, there is an extra ?2800 per student. In fact, even better, it could be proportional -where there are no definitive income 'thresholds'.

IN ADDITION, there are a variety of different ways (as has been pointed out above) for universities to make a fat sum, which have not been fully potentialised in the UK. This is particularly the case with 'spin-off companies'. Oxford, the UK leader in spin-offs has commercial activities worth just ?2bn. This is pathetic when compared to MIT, whose related companies clocked up global sales of $232bn in 1997 (CF. There needs to be a cultural shift here and we should proactively foster entrepreneurial spirit in our universities. Not only could it contribute huge amounts to universities themselves, but can provide graduates with more jobs in a time of uncertainty, and generally contributes masses to the national economy. This is where IC & UCL could eclipse Oxbridge.

BUT, we have to strongly lobby every thing out there, so that the HEFCE subsidies don't just disappear into government coffers, behind the screen of 'top-up fees'. THIS IS WHERE THE STUDENT EFFORT SHOULD BE FOCUSSING THEIR ENERGIES! Making sure the current government subsidy of ?7,500 per student STAYS IN THE SYSTEM!

One thing is finding ways to alleviate the shortfall; it's quite another to suddenly make individuals shoulder the FULL cost of education, thus negating the benefits of higher education to society at large & dissolving the logic of subsidising it through general taxation. This is an unacceptable prescription!

50. Seb   
Oct 23 2002 11:26


You just gave us a synopsis of Paper M.

The universities want the HEFCE grant to stay, we have no need to loby for that. They do want to re-divert it, and what students ought to be focusing on is making sure that this grotesquely unfair, (even Sykes calls it "potentialy invidious"), poorly thought out and potentialy catastrophic system isn't imposed to bridge the finance gap between the true cost of education and the HEFCE teaching grant.

As long as you rely on rich people funding the fees, you make the viability of the system as a whole subject to attracting the rich. That means you will need to spend more money attracting rich undergraduates by paying for amenities and less on accademic funding, which means higher fees. We will loose people to overseas uinversities, Oxbridge will also benefit best in this system (sykes acknowledges this also in paper M).

Failure to attract enough rich people will result in an inability to fund places, a reduction in places results in a reduction in the HEFCE grant (which is decided on by the number of taught undergrads, not by how much they contribute, so there is no current danger unless there is a cahnge in policy on HEFCE's part), which is

a vicious cycle.

So either there needs to be increased funding to plug year to year gaps in finance, and we will probably also need to set asside places ONLY for the rich with seperate entrance requirments.

Given that every graduate from Imperial and similar instiutions have the same career opertunities, a graduate tax would be far the fairest alternative, unlike a direct debt it has less knock on effects to credit ratings, it will keep the UK univeristies sheltered from their obsceneley rich foreign competition, and easily generate the required funds.

Given that all graduates from Imperial have a

Oct 23 2002 18:25

Sorry, but the whole point is that richer students WOULDN'T be subsidising anything. They'd be simply paying for the true cost of their own degree -which leaves HEFCE with a surplus (not having to provide ?7500 for, say, 30% of students). This surplus is diverted to providing a larger HEFCE subsidy to the remaining 70%. There would still be a shortfall (?1625 per year), but this would be a reasonable amount of debt to manage. Under this logic, there will be no need for universities to attract enough rich students, in order to provide for their poorer counterparts.

52. Seb   
Oct 23 2002 22:42

"Sorry, but the whole point is that richer students WOULDN'T be subsidising anything."

semantics: The HEFCE is a grant supplied on the basis of the number of students taught, it's currently an entitlement (non means tested): you can claim some of it even if you study abroad. You could say that rich parents are being asked only to pay full cost of education, but in fact what is actually happening is that money is being taken off them in taxation in order to pay for higher education (which benefits the entire of society) and then more is being taken off them again. Either way, the rich parents of some students are subsidising the system because if their children are not attending a given unviersity, then the HEFCE grant assigned to that university decreases. I.e. the 7K odd that the government pays is currently intended for each and every student individualy (albeit calculated as a bulk)

"Under this logic, there will be no need for universities to attract enough rich students, in order to provide for their poorer counterparts."

Not true, because HEFCE is still going to be assigned on the basis of the total number of students, not the total number of students unable to pay their way. It will still be necesary to have those 30% full fees payers or the HEFCE grant gets reduced. Check out Risks, point 15 in paper M:

"If a significant reduction of numbers did follow the introduction of full fees then, under the current HEFCE methodology, we would be liable to have our grant reduced which, in turn, would reduce the resource available for bursaries".

As far as I am aware, no one has proposed changing HEFCE to a government hand out to pay for the entire cost of a students education if they meet the means test requirments. Basicaly, the one thing the government is looking to avoid is any potential increase in costs because it's already having a hard enough time funding 50% of people to do a degree, and it can't consider differential fees because that's elitest (and everyone must win and have prizes!).

So in effect, it will be necessary to have a "rich" student in order to get the 7K from the government to redistribute to pay for the other two, or HEFCE will reduce it's funding accordingly, leaving a shortfall of around 2.8K for two poorer students.

Net effect: In order to maintain a steady state, 30% of the home/eu undergrads need to be paying full fees or a larger proportion higher fees. If the figure drops below 30% significantly and for a noticeable period of time, then the HEFCE grant gets reduced accordingly and we end up moving back to an equilibrium of 30% full fee payers by loosing two places.

53. Sunil   
Oct 24 2002 00:06


American banks love student debt because they can feed off much higher interest payments, but also because your average graduate out there earns a good bit more and pays less of it as tax than here.

Not all British public schools may be crumbling, but the vast majority of the minor ones have serious problems - they compete with good comprehensives more than other public schools, for a start. Talk to any bursar or headteacher from one of these. But still there is a big incentive for British students to stay in Britain for schooling - physical proximity. You forget that the really seriously rich you are so worried about is precisely the class that is least concerned about the kind of degrees pursued since papa's wealth is all in the trust fund already.

You haven't convinced me that upper-middle-class students will decamp to the likes of MIT en masse if forced to pay fees. I'm inclined to think they'll stay on - just as they pay higher house prices, higher fuel prices and higher everything for the dubious privilege of living in Britain. 10k a year isn't that much for this lot, in perspective.

Do the sums! 10k a year from, say, 25-odd per cent of home Imperial students who really can afford it (many more can, trust me!), even allowing for a large number of such students slippage abroad. Works out to an extra 2.5k per student. Where have we seen that figure before?

Oct 24 2002 02:25

I increasingly get the feeling that the campaign against top-up fees is actually being spearheaded by the richer students. The point is, the ACTUAL proposals would involve only the richer students paying the full cost of their degree, but people of poorer backgrounds (like me), would NOT have to pay anything like the huge sums being banded around. We would continue to be subsidised. But we're trying to be fooled into thinking that we'd all have to pay full fees, of upto ?15,000. Note the 'upto' here. What fails to be mentioned is that this maximum amount would only be payable by the richest students. This is why we haven't been informed of the DETAILS of the proposals. Stop to think for a minute: would the government be so stupid as to charge EVERYONE fees of ?15,000 overnight? I think not. There would be huge nationwide furore -which there isn't; and it would not be economically viable. Of course, I am wary of the government, and there is a risk that they could use top-up fees to reduce their level of spending in higher education. IT IS HERE THAT WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THERE IS NO CHANGE, so that adequate levels of subsidy are available to those students with limited means (the majority).

The idea seems to be to make everyone believe (falsely) that everyone is equally vulnerable to top-up fees; that top-up fees are just 'bad'. No doubt it would affect everyone in some way, but especially concerns the richest students.

It may sound paradoxical, but by blindly opposing current top-up fee proposals, without the facts, we are effectively defending the interests of the richest segment of students (as it would not make much difference to the poorest either way). Of course, no top-up fees = no change for anyone, and both rich & poor students would be happy. But this amounts to being REACTIONARY.

The shortfall in funding clearly needs to be addressed and it's not going to be solved by further general taxation. A combination of top-up fees (concentrated on the richer students, who are ABLE to pay) and continued government subsidy are a viable solution -AS LONG AS CURRENT GOVERNMENT SPENDING IS NOT ROLLED BACK!

Poorer students would not be directly subsidised by richer students (but by the government), so that the argument of top-up fees restricting access to poorer students ('because you need enough rich students to provide for the poor') is redundant.

I find that this would not amount to an American-style system and would present a far more equitable alternative, which would not bias access. High middle class students would also not abandon the UK for American universities, as the yearly cost of a degree there is far higher than ?11,375! More like twice that... (this is because richer students in the US directly subsidise the poorer students.

Oct 24 2002 13:05

Dear Mr. Azariah

You seem to think that only rich students are campaigning against top-up fees. I hate to tell you that students from poorer backgrounds, and international students, are helping fight this fight.

Having seen the Rector's paper to IC council. The sums only add up if 30% of Home/EU students pay full fees. What this shows, is that this 30%, instead of coming to IC on ACADEMIC MERIT, will come here on ECONOMIC VIABILITY. This will devalue the degrees of everyone at IC, both past, present and future, poor and rich alike.

What you also fail to realise, is that whilst top up fees would be one way to solve the HE funding problem, there are countless other ways to do this, all at no extra expense to the tax payer, and removing the economics from university admission. We should make our displeasure known that these options have not yet discussed, whilst IC are publicly supporting only one.

And what of the middle ground students. Those who are deemed rich enough to afford it, yet whose economic means dictate that they are unable to afford it. Should we forget about these people just because "It doesn't affect us". Many people have said this about things in the past, and with disastarous consequences.

I would like to finish on a small note. During my time here at IC, surrounded by people from different social backgrounds, I have gained knowledge and understanding of other ways of life. I have learned to appreciate what everybody has to offer. If we penalise the rich, they will probably not come here, and so we ourselves (the poor ones) will not grow.

56. Seb   
Oct 24 2002 13:56

"American banks love student debt because they can feed off much higher interest payments, but also because your average graduate out there earns a good bit more and pays less of it as tax than here."

On average yes, but given top up fees is intended to be limited to Russel Group universities, I'd challenge your statement.

"You forget that the really seriously rich you are so worried about is precisely the class that is least concerned about the kind of degrees pursued since papa's wealth is all in the trust fund already."

Complete CRAP. I'd say of the 40% people that come from independent schools DO NOT come from the overclass of the filthy rich. I'd say that would be more like 4%.

As for Physical procimity, it is already a trend amoung the super-rich to send their kids to the states (they want their kids to have good conections)!

"You haven't convinced me that upper-middle-class students will decamp to the likes of MIT en masse if forced to pay fees."

Do you realise that MIT, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Caltech already send recruitment officers over to all the top indpendent schools? Physical proximity works for minors, students are not minors.

"I'm inclined to think they'll stay on - just as they pay higher house prices, higher fuel prices and higher everything for the dubious privilege of living in Britain. 10k a year isn't that much for this lot, in perspective."

There is a diference between emmigrating and going to the states for four years to get a degree!

"Do the sums! 10k a year from, say, 25-odd per cent of home Imperial students who really can afford it (many more can, trust me!)"

Trust me they can not. I should know, I'm one of them.

57. Dave   
Oct 24 2002 14:02


You say that we should be "removing the economics from university admission". I don't know of any present or proposed economics in the admission process. If Imperial's proposal to introduce fees went ahead then all admissions would be 'economically-blind' and on academic merit only.

I am also confused by why you think that the poor students would keep coming to Imperial and that it would be the rich students that would stay away. Interesting theory. Fees to overseas students of over ?20,000 hasn't stopped them coming in thousands, has it?!

58. Seb   
Oct 24 2002 14:05


"The point is, the ACTUAL proposals would involve only the richer students paying the full cost of their degree,"

There are no rich students. Only rich parents.

"But we're trying to be fooled into thinking that we'd all have to pay full fees, of upto ?15,000."

By ULU and their crap advertising campaign possibly, but ICU's been more than clear about the issue.

"Note the 'upto' here. What fails to be mentioned is that this maximum amount would only be payable by the richest students."

The Rectors proposal is that 30% at full fee or a sliding scale applicable to more students.

Besides which, while you come from a poor background, you could well end up earning more than anyone from a rcih background. Why should you not pay for your education when you are rich?

"This is why we haven't been informed of the DETAILS of the proposals."

You may not, we have, we have seen the rectors proposal. Interestingly he's also advising the government (i.e. writing) the government white paper that comes out next month on higher decuation finance.


The government isn't going to make that change! It's not even being talked about.

"No doubt it would affect everyone in some way, but especially concerns the richest students."

No, it affects the richest students parents.

"The shortfall in funding clearly needs to be addressed and it's not going to be solved by further general taxation."

Why not a graduate tax? Or do you object to paying for your degree when you can pay for it?

" and continued government subsidy are a viable solution -AS LONG AS CURRENT GOVERNMENT SPENDING IS NOT ROLLED BACK!"

No, it's clearly not viable!

See above arguments.

"('because you need enough rich students to provide for the poor') is redundant."

HEFCE is assigned on the basis of overall student attendence. Get that through your head! If 90% of the studnet intake need full fees being paid by the government, the government is not going to provide the fee to pay them all!

" High middle class students would also not abandon the UK for American universities, as the yearly cost of a degree there is far higher than ?11,375! More like twice that..."

But you can still get a HEFCE grant from the government to study overseas. And you can win some form of scholoarship irrespective of your background. And though it's twice as much, the whole point is that those that can afford it arenot going to be worried by a factor of two increase. And the living cost is lower than in the UK (particularly in London).

Oct 24 2002 15:50

No one at UCL is informed about the rector's proposals... I came to it by deduction. You may call it a perverse convergence of opinion. I first went through a phase of total horror -thinking everyone would pay the same ?15,000. Then went about seeking ways to avoid restricted access, given this predicament -and remembered the ?7,500 grant... which eventually led me to my (unoriginal) 'proposal'.

Is it possible to access 'paper M' online? There's a lot blind hysteria at UCL. For example:

  • ----




  • ----

In the light of your arguments, perhaps a graduate tax would be the more equitable solution after all -where payments are proportional to income (after graduation); as long as there also remains an important logic of funding higher education through general taxation (recognising that it doesn't just benefit the individual). The problem with a graduate tax is that it won't deliver immediate results and investment -so that raising the UK's academic profile on a world scale would be postponed for more than a decade. It would only fill the shortfall very gradually. The government could fill the shortfall in the meantime, by increasing taxes. But that is unrealistic. So the next best thing is Syke's proposal, if we assume that global competition is a pressing concern...

60. Seb   
Oct 24 2002 17:22

Sadly, paper M is not available on line. It was supposed to be confidential. ha. ha. ha.

The second example of hysteria is actually quite relevant: The rectors rule of thumb in paper M is that anyone who has been to an independent school probably can afford to pay full fees. In order for top up fees to work at all, then the bare minimum is about 30% paying full fees (obviously you can charge less than full fees on a sliding scale, but then that leaves fewer and fewer full bursaries). However, very few people actually pay out of their income to put their kids through indpeendent schools. Mostly it's out of carefully planned trust funds and so forth.

You couldn't switch to a top up fees system overnight either. Paper M sugested a 16 year implementation time with the hint that if the government were to cover the 16 year gap then he could gaurantee an eventual reduction in the overall level of sending by government.

Bare in mind that the Rector has lots of links with Labour, was on the Dearing comission, is adivising them over higher education finance, and last week ended up on the HEFCE board. So the rectors proposals might be seen by the cynical to merely be the government getting the russel group to propose what the Government wants the final solution to be in order to present a picture of dialogue.

In truth, most universities do not care where they get the cash from, as long as they get it, and government probably thinks rich parents are the least powerful loby group, where as income tax would be lobied against by the tories and graduate tax would be more difficult to implement for them, despite the fact that this is what Scotland has done.

Thus if we could get the student body of the country to move to a pro-active stance supporting an alternative other than general taxation to the problem, then we would be better off. It's a pity ULU decided to blow 60% of it's fighting fund on a purely negative advert.

61. Seb   
Oct 24 2002 17:26

As for global competition, that's just the universities talking things up.

There is no competition in undergrad degrees: only in research prestige. The pricing system for the UK ensures that no one will look outside the EU, the language barrier stops people looking much of anywhere outside the UK inside the EU.

The problem is that every degree taught leaves most of the russel group universities loosing around 8K.

62. Sunil   
Oct 25 2002 02:29


Of course it would be facetious to argue that the parents of anybody who went to an independent school would be able to afford top-up fees. Just because yours possibly cannot is no indication of the genral trend. Many can. Indeed, the parents of many state-school pupils can afford the top-up fee amount too. "30% of parents" suddenly begins to sound like a very conservative estimate.

It takes the parents fewer than one out of three students at Imperial to be able to afford what is a modest sum (compared with average professional incomes) for the whole top-up fee scheme to work the way Sykes wants it to.

Not that I'm in favour of top-up fees.

63. Seb   
Oct 25 2002 10:24

If you think most families with two children to send to university can afford

11-15K a year out of income you are deluding yourself.

11-15K is not and never will be a "modest sum", especialy as there will be a few years of overlap when they are paying something like 22-30K.

Oct 25 2002 10:47

The current average income in the UK is ?23,200.


65. Sunil   
Oct 25 2002 12:27

Are you suggesting that the average income of the top 30% of earners among the parents of UK-based Imperial students is just 23k?

66. Rob   
Oct 25 2002 13:07

So anybody who went to an independent school can afford unversity fees? I went to an independent school, and my place wa kindly paid for by the (Conservative) government under the assisted places scheme. They thought that independent education should not be just for those who could afford it, but for those who whould benefit most from it. Equal opportunities for all. Thankfully the Labour government quickly got rid of this scheme so only rich parents can send their kids to independent schools. Let's not forget which government got rid of student grants. Sykes is just a Labour poodle implementing their ideas of education for the rich. Forget those less well off. This country needs more manual labourers.

Oct 25 2002 15:01

Top-up fees are not ideal.

But, tacitly, I feel a better sense of proportion emerging.

Seb, most families +wouldn't+ be paying the big sums. Where a family is subsidising more than one child, this would clearly be taken into account in their financial assessment. The sliding scale would ensure that ONLY THOSE WHO CAN PAY ARE MADE TO PAY. The actual average paid by the student or their family would be around ?4,550 a year. So the average degree would cost ?13,650. It is these figures that we should be using as a benchmark for discussion -and not the disproportionate ?15K and ?50K that are being banded around! It's making students look stupid and causing hysteria among the less well informed. It generally doesn't help reasoned debate. Also, from the point of view of representation, a fixation with '15K' and '50K' amounts to being preferential to the richest 30%. There should be no bias.

?4,550 per year may still seem like a big sum (it is for me). I can already hear you moaning "I/ my family would never be able to afford THAT!"... But pause a second. This is NOT a standard. If you're poorer than average, you may just be paying around ?1,625 a year; and if you're really poor, you may not be paying anything anyway! So stop moaning about 'not being able to afford'. It doesn't hold up.

Only the question of principle, and the government's responsibility provides substance to this debate.

Oct 25 2002 15:54

I agree that a graduate tax would be a fairer solution. But the problem with a graduate tax is that it won't deliver immediate results and investment. It would only fill the funding shortfall very gradually. The government could fill the shortfall in the meantime, by increasing taxes. But that is unrealistic. So the next best thing is Syke's proposal, if we assume that resolving the +immediate+ issue of underfunding is a pressing concern.

In other words, a graduate tax (unlike Syke's proposal) is not a viable way of resolving the +immediate+ issue of underfunding.

Perhaps a good way forward is to convince the government to adopt Syke's proposal only as a short-term measure, in order to resolve the immediate gap in funding. But gradually phase this out and introduce a graduate tax, once the funding gap has been adequately met. Fees could gradually decrease as a graduate tax is implemented and starts to provide sufficient revenue.

69. Sunil   
Oct 25 2002 16:42

Graduates already pay income tax, more than non-graduates on average since their average incomes are greater.

70. Seb   
Oct 25 2002 18:28

George, I don't know where you are pulling these factoids from, but it certainly isn't from the choir sheet the rector is singing from, and given the Rector seems to have already had a "meeting of minds" with the rectors and provosts et al of the other Russel Group unis, including your own, I'm not sure if your facts are the ones *anyone* is making decisions from:

"Seb, most families +wouldn't+ be paying the big sums."

The bare minimum percentage of people being afected by top up fees is 30% paying full fees. That dosn't leave you much room for a sliding scale. Either 30% of families would be paying these big sums, or the sums simply don't add up. The alternative is then that fees would rise significantly for a majority of students (i.e. over 50%). The fact remains, as long as HEFCE is assigned on the basis of the number of people (and this will not change as it would imply a differential funding system which the government will not countenance), then it's either 30% at 10K or substantialy more at a range of higher fees.

"Where a family is subsidising more than one child, this would clearly be taken into account in their financial assessment"

On what basis do you say this? It most clearly would not be taken into account. Means testing is done on the family income, not the family income divided amoung students. Whats more, the rector announced today (see live) in his presentation was that means testing would be centralised. The current means testing would mean that you could only charge families with an income of over 200K a year full fees. He points this out and states that this needs to be re-assessed. I.e. the means testing will be moved down to encroach more on people who currently pay reduced fees.

I have no idea where you got the impression that means testing took into account the actual burden on the family. It dosn't, it assumes what the burden on the family will be, and then decides which income bracket the family falls into. It's done PURELY on income.

The sliding scale would not assure that only those who need to pay would pay, as I've already pointed out, the system will be rigged on the basis that a fixed percentage of the income MUST be their to support the rest. Whether that's 30% paying 10-15K or 60% paying half of that, or a sliding scale between the two, it's still a fixed percentage of places that actually need to be set asside for people who can afford to pay vs. those that can not or the system simply will not be able to finance itself. Sliding scales won't magic that away, draw a graph if you like.

"and not the disproportionate ?15K"

that's the figure the rector brought up. It's not disproportionate: he rightly points out that people paying 10k will want to see improved facilities, and that will further increase the cost.

"and ?50K that are being banded around!"

10K x 4 years + 10K living costs we currently have = 50K. How is this disproportionate?

"Also, from the point of view of representation, a fixation with '15K' and '50K' amounts to being preferential to the richest 30%."

With all due respect, Bollocks.

The 15K is not being preferential at all.

1. For a start it is inquitous that people who benefit from an education should not contribute at a later stage if they have the ability, as is the case under top up fees.

2. There is no 30% that can afford 15K, so the system will not work on a financial level at the current entry system which is truly on the basis of accademic merit alone.

3. If it becomes a requirment to find 30% (or some larger figure) of fee payers, then clearly Imperial and other universities will need to start informally or formally setting asside space purely for fee payers. Access for people from a poor background will then be restricted. I don't know about you, but I think that is an issue for less wealthy students.

4. While there are principles to be taken into account, the government will ignore arguments based on principles. They will however, be argued over if the proposed system is shown to be unworkable and a workable one offered in it's place.

If your primary issue here is class warfare, and you seem to be less concerned with the failings of the system but fixated with the idea that rich parents deserve a good kicking in the form of a whipround for higher education.

Let me make my background clear at this point: My mother went to a grammer school and worked hard, got a degree. So did my father. They both ended up being the seniour legal advisors to BP and British Steel. I suspect very strongly that they would definitely fall into the proposed "rich enough to pay near full fees". You may call it moaning, but it happens to be true: They could not afford it. Again, I don't know where you get the idea that "this dosn't hold up." I'm affraid it does. I doubt there are enough people in the system to allow for significant 0 fee contribution (as needed to maintain a truly accademic merit only entrance system) however you distribute the burden. Even with a simple model of a sliding scale, a plot of cost Vs. % paying cost (ranked in order of income), the area under the graph must be constant in order for the college's break even to be attained. That graph can be expressed as a rectangle with 30% paying 10K, or a triangle with some form of top up being required for anyone but the poorest 40%. That means the median income family (WHICH IS NOT THE SAME AS THE MEAN, AND IS CERTAINLY LOWER THAN THE MEAN: The income distribution for the population is not linear, it would be interesting to see what it is for students families) would be paying ?1.6K. People who sat at the upper quartile (i.e. 25% of people have higher income, 75% lower income) would be paying around 6K.

However you do the sums, either a small number of people are going to have to pay way more than 10K, or a very large number of people need to be paying a smaller ammount. I do not think there is enough disposable cash sloshing around the combined student population to pay for this in the current system. Thus the disposable cash of the student population needs to be increased, the only way to do that is to ensure that there are more rich people in the demographic than there currently are.

"But the problem with a graduate tax is that it won't deliver immediate results and investment."

Didn't you read waht I said last time? The rector (and therefore the russel group)is sanguine about this issue: people will not be able to afford this out of income, even the mythical rich who clearly live in houses with gold plated toilets. They will need to build up trust funds. Full implementation under the rectors proposal will take *16 YEARS*. In short, the gap exists in top up fees and in graduate tax. Top up fees offers no special advantage in this respect.

If the graduate tax is not implemented now, then it will never be implemented. You can't charge people twice: Once for up front fees and then once they graduate. There is going to have to be a gap with either system, the rector appears to be lobying for a short period of increased funding to help in the transitional period in Paper M.

You might find this second source usefull:

and this:

"They recommend keeping means-tested contributions to the cost of tuition - currently up to ?1,075 a year for the better off, with about 42% of all students paying nothing."

That means with the highest fee being 10K, then the best possible distribution for minimising the spread of burden would be linear, which validates my line model. Anything that more closely matched the reality of income distribution wouldn't generate the required amount unless the maximum fee were higher than cost. In your words:

It dosn't hold up.

71. Tom T   
Oct 25 2002 20:29

Yep, this is really a GOOD DEBATE! But I'd just like to stick my oar in: Does anyone realistically believe that the governemtn is going to steadily increase teh HEFCE fund for bursaries over 16years, or will it dwindle to bugger all, as it did for schools, railways, and hospitals to name but a few public services? Government only changes stuff if it makes it cheaper for the public purse, because they want to win votes by lowering taxes. Therefore it seems to be a fair assumption, that once Unis are not funded by the governemtn, but by the student with government assistance for the poorer students, the government assistance will gradually dry up, as other issues are prioritised for spending. And that leaves us where? In a quasi-privatised further education system. Who pays for that? Those that can afford it. George, I take your point, but can't you see beyond all the social justice bullshit? It's not about making it fairer for poorer students, it's about introducing the private American model to an economy which is not set up to handle it. And that will mean rich = educated, and the class difference will be perpetuated even more than it currently is.

That certainly doesn't hold up, and we should oppose as much as possible. Only a few months ago, talk of reintroducing grants was around. Now pay as you go seems to be the only option.

But a tax (graduate tax) is a distinct possibility. it taxes those who are earning well as a result of their degree, not htose who have an 'increased earning potential', and is relatively easy to implement. the only reason why government is so keen to oppose it is, well, all in the name. Graduate TAX - who'd vote for that?

The rector is already on all these governemtn committees, he is already steering policy and angling for a peerage. he toes the new labour line, and can't be trusted as far as you can smell his breath from. This is one of the most undemocratic movements I've seen in modern times, and if we sit back and do nothing now, you will be a poor man if you think your kids might benefit from a decent education.....

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