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Top-Up Fees Will Increase Society's Class Divisions
IMPERIAL COLLEGE London plans to introduce top-up fees. That highlights the growing divide within the education system. At present all universities charge £1,050 a year - a rate set by the government.
These new proposals would mean universities could charge nearer the real cost of studying, thought to be around £5,000. But depending on the institution, department and course, it could be much more.
Greater loans would then become available to let students pay fees up front. The Russell Group, vice-chancellors of Britain's elite universities, favour charging top-up fees. Imperial's rector, Sir Richard Sykes, wants to introduce fees up to £15,000 a year! Warwick and Birmingham are also said to be looking into it.
Universities are looking at top-up fees because public funding of higher education has dropped so much over the last 20 years, that universities spend all their money on their requirements of teaching and research.
Non-essential work, such as building maintenance, takes second place. One recent example is in Sheffield where the university now plans to sell off outright, two of its halls of residence to the private sector.
The government flatly refuses to provide the money that the universities require. Top-up fees are another symptom of under-funding, the result being a two-tier education system.
One being of first class quality, the other being (in the governments' words) "bog standard". Even Frank Dobson has said that allowing universities to charge top-up fees 'partly to show how exclusive they are' is another 'elitist' solution that will deter poorer children from higher education.
Allowing universities to compete against each other in the market will only perpetuate the education system's exclusive attitude to people from working-class backgrounds. We must fight for a free education system and the only way to do this is to fight for socialism!
In The Socialist 8 November 2002: