Top Up Fees

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As you are no doubt aware the Labour Government got its way (just) and the white paper for Top Up Fees passed through Parliament. It will now be analysed by a committee before returning to Parliament for a second reading. However most agree that the bill will be passed by the summer and despite opposition we will ultimately have to start paying top up fees. But when, and how much? We have tried to outline the facts surrounding top up fees as well as offering our view of the situation. Remember the changes will take place in 2006 so this will affect years 12 and below; but not year 13.
The current plan is for fees to become variable, this means Universities can charge anything from £0 to £3000 per year. This means Universities can be more independent however it also means universities will have to ompetewith each other even more and that we could see some universities charging higher fees for popular courses unnecessarily. It also means that some universities in poorer areas may charge less but offer a econd ratedegree with poorer quality of teaching and insufficient equipment.

The plan also says that students will only pay their debt off after they start earning £15k or more, this would seem to be a good idea, but all it is in fact is doing is putting off the debt, at present most students take out interest free student loans anyway so this is actually not a great gain.

The new system would mean any student whose parents earn less than £32k would have their fees paid by the state, and receive more bursaries for living costs, they will come out of university with little or no debt. On the other hand middle-class families will have to pay everything without support, with estimated debts being shown below:

Tuition Fees; £3000 x 3 years
Student Loan; £4000 x 3 years
Total Debt £21000

Then consider coming out of university and looking for a house, getting married and trying to lead a normal life - Of course our figures are only for an average student taking a three year course; lawyers, doctors and vets could be looking at debts of up to £30k.

Although we appreciate disadvantaged students need support, under the new system they will get most fees paid while middle-class students pay for this in their fees and their taxes.

The view taken by many is that all this palaver is just about figures, someone somewhere has said at least 50% of university students should be from impoverished backgrounds with no regard for anyone else and this, in our opinion is not how education should be. If a student is able then they should have the option of going to university; instead we see a system where you are in fact advantaged by being from a poor background and many less-able poor students are taking the place of middle class able students.