Education: Warning over student fees

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The Independent Online
Universities were yesterday given a blunt warning not to try to supplement their income by charging students top-up fees.

David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education, made it clear that the Government was prepared to use reserve powers contained in the Teaching and Higher Education Bill to block any attempt by universities to create an elite British Ivy League. Institutions would gain nothing by introducing top-up charges, he said, because an equal sum would be withdrawn from their government grant.

The Bill, which received its first reading in the House of Lords on Wednesday, opens the way for the introduction of pounds 1,000 means-tested annual tuition fees from next September and the abolition of grants for living costs. There will also beloans to cover maintenance costs, repayable after graduation through the Inland Revenue, according to income.

Ministers were yesterday anxious to stress that, while fees were necessary to stave off a funding crisis in higher education, poorer families would not suffer as a result.