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Top-up fees: New Labour's next step
NEW LABOUR undoubtedly want to go even further in charging for education. There is plenty of evidence to suggest they will allow universities to introduce top-up fees after the next general election.
Advocates of top-up fees received encouragement earlier this year when David Blunkett implied that his current ban on top-up fees would probably not survive the next parliament.
First among such advocates of top-up fees are The Russell Group (the group comprising the vice-chancellors of the country's 19 most prestigious universities). They recently published a report which called for the government to allow them to charge top-up fees. Were they to do so students could end up paying £20,000 for a three-year degree.
What the Russell Group of vice-chancellors would like to see is the creation of a US-style, Ivy-League system. In the US, students who can afford to, pay as much as £30,000 for a degree at the most prestigious universities.
Less well-off students get a worse quality education at a more 'down-market' institution. Of course many millions of working-class, black and Latino young people in the US can not even afford to think of entering higher education.
Under New Labour, Britain is undoubtedly moving towards such a system.
However, the other main political parties offer no alternative. Despite attacking New Labour for planning to introduce top-up fees, the Tories have published plans to stop all state funding for universities. This would mean the complete privatisation of universities - and top-up fees.
The short-sighted, profit hungry nature of capitalism means that British business is unwilling to carry the cost of educating young people in this country through taxation. Through fees and the privatisation of higher education big business and their representatives in government intend to drastically reduce state support in financing higher education by shifting the cost onto students.
In The Socialist 10 November 2000: