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Tuition fee concerns deter students

Thousands of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are likely to shun going to university due to a lack of understanding about the new fees system, it is claimed today.

A report by the Independent Task Force on student finance information concluded that many prospective students have misplaced fears over how tuition fees are paid – a situation it described as a "national scandal". Researchers polled nearly 2,000 young people, 59 per cent of whom said they had little or no understanding of the system, which will see tuition fees rise to up to £9,000 a year from next September. The findings come on the day of a central London march by around 10,000 protesters angry about the new system.

Only 37 per cent of those polled knew they did not have to pay any of the fees up-front. "The communication of tuition fees by all [political] parties over the past few years is a national scandal," Martin Lewis, chairman of the task force, said. "They've left us ill-equipped and uneducated as a nation about how this crucial and very different form of finance works."

He said the "myths and misunderstandings due to the focus on the politics and not the practical finances may well end up more damaging to prospective students' aspirations than the new fees themselves". He added: "It's likely many put off by big fees are the more debt-averse from non-traditional university backgrounds – a real threat to social mobility."