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From The Socialist newspaper, 26 May 2010

Students must pay, say the rich

On Friday 21 May, the Independent Review for Higher Education Funding and Student Finance came to Leicester as part of its 'public hearing' stage of inquiry.

Becci Heagney, Leicester Socialist Students

This 'public' hearing was widely known about among neither public nor students. University of Leicester student union representatives attended the hearing but did not inform students.

Socialist Students members found out about the hearing and went along to hand out leaflets calling for free and high quality education for all and for the building of a mass national campaign to fight cuts and fees.

Eventually, despite security trying to exclude us, I was allowed into the meeting, provided I did not take any leaflets with me or "over-articulate"!

Ex-BP boss Lord Browne, who chairs the hearing, began by stating that there is "strong evidence that fees do not deter those from disadvantaged backgrounds from entering higher education".

Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group of 20 elite universities, threatened that if fees do not increase the Russell Group would consider privatising their universities, freeing them to increase tuition fees to whatever they want.

All those who presented evidence spoke of student finance purely in business terms of how the "market should control it" and that "any discussion of the quality of student experience must be related to business".

One professor said: "Students get massive private benefits and it is hard to see what the social benefits are".

Pam Tatlow, the chief executive of the Million+ think tank, called for more funding to be put into part-time study at the expense of full-time students. They predict an increasing market in part-time courses as more and more students are forced to work as they study in order to afford the rising costs of university.

The general consensus of the hearing was that fees should rise, claiming that students contribute "very little" to their education at the present time.

For multi-millionaires such as Lord Browne, an average debt of 20,000 may be "very little" but for students in university and those planning to enter higher education, it is a huge burden.

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