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Welfare Reform on the Web (February 2004): Education - UK - Higher

BLAIR SCRAPES HOME IN FEES VOTE

J. Blitz

The Financial Times, January 28th 2004. P.1

Tony Blair's victory by just five votes in the crunch Commons vote on university fees raised new questions about whether the prime minister can press on with his plans to reform Britain's public services in the run-up to the next general election. 72 Labour MPs voted against the second reading motion of the flagship Higher Education Bill. The government won by 316 votes to 311. The tiny margin of victory compared with Labour's 161 Commons majority was depicted by Tories as a setback to Mr Blair's plans for public service reform.

(See also The Guardian, January 28th 2004, p.1; The Independent, January 28th 2004, p.1; The Times, January 28th 2004; p.1; The Daily Telegraph, January 28th 2004, p.1)

BUCK THE MARKET

P.Kingston

Guardian Education, January 20th 2004, p.16

Just as universities are set to win the right to charge different fees for courses, colleges may lose it. For a decade colleges have been free to set their fees, a right which universities are keen to have. However colleges now risk a reduction of their right to set fees, because, in the opinion of the government, they have not been pegging them high enough.

COLLEGES TO CHARGE FULL TOP-UP FEES

P. Curtis, L. Ward and M. White

The Guardian, January 13th 2004, p. 1

Universities are planning to charge £3,000 top-up fees for all or most courses, according to a Guardian survey, throwing into doubt the higher education market promoted by the government. Three quarters of the universities that have already decided their fees policy plan to levy the maximum permitted under the new Higher Education Bill.

CRUNCH TIME

D. MacLeod and P. Curtis

Guardian Education, January 13th 2004, p. 2-3

The plans for top-up fees unveiled by Charles Clarke last week are poorly explained and hugely contentious. But the authors believe they have bought British higher education to a defining moment in its history. The article asks vice-chancellors if top-up fees are the best way to finance universities.

DEFEAT STILL LOOMS FOR BLAIR ON TOP-UP FEES

B. Hall and M. Green

Financial Times, January 9th 2003, p. 1

Labour rebels warned Tony Blair that he faced defeat over his flagship legislation on university fees despite the list of concessions the government unveiled. At the end of several weeks' consultation over plans to allow universities to levy top-up fees of up to £3,000, Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, produced a package of student support measures designed to head off a rebellion at the end of the month.

The main points are:

  • from 2006-7 students will be charged up to £3,000 a year but will start paying only when earning more than £15,000 a year;
  • the poorest 3% of students will have fees reduced by £1,200;
  • bursaries, as well as grants of £1,500, will be paid to poorest students;
  • fees will be capped at £3,000 for the next parliament;
  • graduates will have debts written off after 25 years.

(See also Financial Times, January 9th 2004, p.5; The Guardian, January 9th 2003, p. 4-5; The Times, January 9th 2004, p. 12-13; The Independent, January 9th 2004, p. 6-7)

OVERSEAS STUDENT NUMBERS JUMP 23%

N. Timmins

The Financial Times, January 22nd 2004, p.3

The number of international students studying in UK universities and higher education institutions has jumped by 23 per cent in just one year. Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show the total of non-European Union students rose to 174,575 in 2002-03, up from about 142,000 the year before. The increase reflects a drive by the government to recruit international students as a way of building long-term sustainable relations between the UK and other countries that can benefit trade. But the rise almost certainly also reflects universities' growing desire to take full fee-paying international students to help overcome their financial difficulties.

TAXPAYERS FACE £900M TUITION BILL FOR EU STUDENTS

T. Halpin

The Times, January 29th 2003, p. 4

Taxpayers face a £900 million bill to pay the tuition fees of European Union students who are accepted at universities in England. Students from other EU countries will benefit from the same fee remission arrangements as those in England under the government's reforms. This means they will be liable to repay tuition fees of up to £3,000 a year once they have graduated. EU students currently pay the annual £1,125 fee at the start of each year in the same way as English and Welsh students.

TOO MANY GRADUATES ALREADY, SAY TOP RECRUITERS

M. Green

Financial Times, January 20th 2004, p.1

Employers warned that Tony Blair's policy of seeking to put half of Britain's school leavers through university by 2010 will dilute the talent pool of graduates available to business. In a membership survey from the Association of Graduate Recruiters, which represents companies that recruit straight from university, 53% found that the UK was already producing too many graduates. Expanding higher education was having an adverse effect on the quality of graduates, according to 60 per cent of respondents.

TORIES REVEAL PLAN TO PRIVATISE UNIVERSITIES

S. Hall and R. Smithers

The Guardian, January 22nd 2004, p.1

The Conservatives are planning to privatise Britain's universities within 15 to 20 years as the central plank of their long-term alternative to top-up fees. The party - under fire after Michael Howard admitted at the weekend having no proposals to tackle the higher education funding crisis - is determined to stick to a commitment to abolish top-up fees. But in contrast to its previous policy, it says it now recognises the £10bn higher education funding crisis and is conducting a review - to be completed by the end of the year - to resolve it. Central to the Conservative plan is building on a promise in the 2001 manifesto to create permanent endowment funds for universities, which would provide an alternative source of income to student fees.

TUITION FEE PROPOSALS HAILED AS 'ROLE MODEL FOR EUROPE'

M. Green

The Guardian, January 21st 2004, p.3

Charles Clarke's university tuition fees have been hailed as a role model for the rest of Europe. A survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development praised as 'commendable' the plan to allow universities to charge annual fees of up to £3,000 to be paid back once graduates are earning above £15,000.

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