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Top-Up fees a grim reality for 2006

Protest March What are 'top-up fees'

How will the money be spent?

Is fair access still possible?

Wednesday 22nd January 2003 brought confirmation from the government that from 2006 universities will be given the power to charge 'top-up' fees. These new fees come as part of the governments drive to shake up the HE system and will replace the current 1,100 'tuition fee' set by the government and paid up front at the beginning of each year. In contrast to this, 'top up fees' (set by each individual institution) could be up to 3000 per year, and will be repaid after graduation, at a rate depending on the earnings of each student.

Supporters of the initiative hope that because fees no longer have to be paid up front, it will enable a greater variety of people from all backgrounds to gain a University degree. To help maintain this diversity a variety of financial support will be available, and inclusion targets will be set along with the appointment of an 'Access regulator, whose job it will be to monitor their achievements.

"Students are footing the bill"

Mandy Telford
NUS

Not everyone, however is for this change, and many people are worried that it will be the students who will feel the effects the most. It has been estimated that students who go to University under this new scheme will leave with an average debt of 15,000, however it is possible that this could be higher at 18,000 -21,000 depending on the institution chosen.
People against this proposal, including the student's themselves are warning that this new scheme could also create an elitist system where students are forced to choose institutions that they can afford rather than those that they wish to attend. Another argument against is that applications may also be dependant on ability to pay rather than ability to learn.

There is also an argument, that it will be students that will pay the price for the state of Higher Education in this country

"Britain's universities will become a two-tier education system, with universities separated what they can charge and students split by what they can afford

Phil Willis, Education Spokesman - Liberal Democrats

Another change to the Higher Education system is the re-introduction of maintenance grants, which were initially scrapped by Labour in 1998. Families with an income of less than 10 000 will qualify for a grant of 1,000 from 2004 on top of their existing loan entitlement.

All the proposed changes to Higher Education can be found on the DfES website (follow link on "links" page)

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