Fees battle continues

first_imgHelena Puig Larrauri, student union President, followed a defiant stand against top-up fees at last week’s Labour Party Conference by working towards the creation of an alternative White Paper with Cambridge student union. At a fringe meeting the OUSU President challenged the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, to explain what will happen if (or when) the White Paper fails. Clarke’s angry response simply asserted that the paper will pass, indicating that the government will yet again bring out the thumbscrews against the predicted 170 rebellious backbenchers. In the debate, Helena defended the position of students against Clarke’s claims that they do not understand the real economic choices faced by governments. Afterwards, an impassioned e-mail to campaigners said she was “tired of the irresponsibility of a government which refuses to consider alternatives.” With Cambridge University Students’ Union, OUSU will provide that alternative through an Oxbridge ‘White Paper’. Based on the belief that some changes are required to meet the £10 billion funding gap facing universities, the report will urge consideration of progressive taxation as the fairest means of regaining university costs. CUSU officer Jo Read declared “we must show that it is not cost-effective to screw us over”. A Rough Guide to the White Paper Top-up fees are part of a White Paper brought forward by the Government as a means for increasing university funding. Under current proposals, each academic institution would be able to charge its students up to £3000 per year as compared to standard level of tuition fees. Unlike the present system, all charges would be paid by the student after graduation with most students leaving with a debt of over £21 000 by government estimates. Although the legislation has been praised for removing the up-front charges loathed by parents, the allowance of Universities to charge differing amounts according to academic prestige has caused fears of the creation of a two-tier system of higher education. A clause within the proposals would remove the £3000 limit after 2012, effectively offering universities a back door to privatization. The Russell Group of elite academic institutions, which includes Oxbridge, broadly welcomes the proposals and their head has recently stated that if top-up fees fail in Parliament, it would consider privatisation. The legislation will come before the Commons in November, with votes expected in December and February. Compiled by Eleanor Jupp AARCHIVE: 0th Week MT2003last_img

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