Universities may charge 'top-up' fees

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The Independent Online

Elite universities such as Oxford and Cambridge will be allowed to increase their tuition fees under controversial government plans, it was claimed last night.

Elite universities such as Oxford and Cambridge will be allowed to increase their tuition fees under controversial government plans, it was claimed last night.

The decision to allow so-called "top-up" fees would be welcomed by vice-chancellors, but spark huge opposition from students and parents.

To sweeten the measure, the Government's long awaited review of higher education finance may also propose the creation of a new maintenance grant of perhaps £30 a week for some students. This sum would only be available to those with a family income of less than £13,000 a year

The Department for Education and Skills dismissed reports of a new maintenance allowance as "pure speculation" based on assumptions from Gordon Brown's spending review. "The review will report in the autumn and has not yet concluded," a spokeswoman said.

The review was ordered by Tony Blair after the 2001 election when Labour MPs told him of anger over the Government's 1997 move to scrap grants for all but the poorest and introduce tuition fees.

A spokesman for the National Union of Students said: "We will oppose any plans for top-up tuition fees and continue to campaign for the abolition of them altogether. The reintroduction of some sort of grant would be a step in the right direction, but £30 a week is still not enough to live on."

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