Friday, 15 October 2010

Widespread Dismay at Plan to Change Fees System.

Graduating students of the future could be starting their working lives with debts of upto £100, 000

By Ben Aulakh

Students and student groups have reacted with anger and dismay to proposals to allow universities to charge unlimited fees for higher education.

A review into university funding by Lord Browne has recommended that the current cap of £3,290 a year on tuition fees be abolished, in favour of institutions being able to charge whatever they like.

However, Zach, 19, a first year student at University College London is totally against institutions being able to charge unlimited fees, he said “It’s very dangerous as this change would put many young people off going to university.  

“Education is a right and this could deny it to the less well-off in society, fees should not be put up, why doesn’t the government cut spending in other areas, for example not renewing the nuclear deterrent.”

The proposed change could mean that the annual cost of some courses could more than double, to around £6, 000 a year.

The recommendations of the review coincide with the comprehensive spending review which will be announced next week; funding to universities is expected to be dramatically cut, as part of measures to tackle the budget deficit.

There is a strong suspicion that these recommendations are an attempt to allow universities to fill that funding gap by charging astronomically high fees.

Dora Meredith, Student Guild President at the University of Birmingham thinks it’s wrong that students pay the price for the current economic climate.

“These proposals are far too situated in the current economic situation and if they are implemented I really think need to question how much we value education as a society.

“If we are going to invest in the future and a sound economy we need well skilled graduates, what are students going to do if enter an already saturated jobs market without the necessary skills development.”

Dora added, “I am also very worried that some students, especially those who leave university as couple, will be starting their working life with debts the size of a deposit on a small house ten years ago.” 

This sentiment is echoed by student Sarah Osafo, 19, who is studying Medicine at the University of Liverpool.

She said, “I think the government needs to put more money into supporting universities as many of the graduates will form the workforce of the future.”

The proposals do include a measure to offset the possibility of higher fees, increasing the level of earnings at which graduates would begin to pay back their loans form the current level of £15, 000 a year to £21, 000.

However Clare, 20, who’s also studying Medicine at the University of Liverpool disagrees that this plan will act to redress the possibility of astronomical tuition fees.

She said, “Most graduates will be looking to earn more than that as soon as they leave university anyway, and if they don’t end up earning more than that it will cost the government even more in unpaid loans.”

She added, “I will be leaving with a debt of £35,000, if they increase the fees that could rise to £100,000 which could mean I might spend years paying off my loan which would affect the rest of my life.”

 There is also a plan to provide financial assistance to families who earn less than £60, 000 a year.

Zach is again sceptical of these proposals, “I think they are a good idea but what exactly are they, can we see something concrete because in my opinion this won’t be acted on by a tory government.”

This sentiment is echoed by Clare, “I think it is right that there should be more financial help, although it is unfair that children from a non-separated family with two incomes contributing to their household income gain no financial help.”

Photograph by Mike Knell.

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