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The Independent Online
Tuition fees not an innovation

My husband and I were both university students in the late 1960s and remember that tuition fees were then paid by parents who could afford to do so. These fees were abolished by a Labour government in the 1970s. In the 1980s a Conservative government proposed re-introducing them, but the outcry this provoked among the middle classes was so effective that it abandoned the plan.

It is therefore wrong for people to be speaking of the current idea of the pounds 1,000 per annum tuition fee as an innovation. The precedent for these fees already exists.



Teaching's status must be raised

I am a student at the University of Leeds and will be starting my final year of study in September. For many years I have been considering entering the secondary school teaching profession after graduating. However, over the past year my previous enthusiasm at the prospect has turned into trepidation.

There are many reasons for this, not least the prevailing consensus among the undergraduate population that those who want to pursue teaching must be habitual under-achievers, lacking the intelligence and the ambition of those high-fliers who choose to seek employment with a privatised utility in a managerial capacity. Some of the replies I have had from friends upon telling them about what I hope to do - "you must be mad", "you have the ability to do something so much better" etc, etc, - bear testament to this. As does the level of examination marks required by some universities for a B Ed course, sometimes as low as two E grades at A-level.

If the Government's priorities really are "education, education and education" it will need to do something positive to revitalise a profession which has become so maligned that the brightest and the best, despite their idealistic leanings, will not even consider it.

News that Mr Blunkett is now pushing for the right to sack incompetent teachers after only four weeks, though right in principle, is hardly the way to inspire confidence in young people considering the profession.


Wembley, Middlesex

A lesson in behaviour

A friend and myself were having our usual afternoon beer last Friday when the pub was suddenly filled with an agglomeration of young people from the nearby sixth-form college. Of course, school had broken up for the summer holidays. We sat and observed from the corner into which we had been crammed as the place gradually filled with smoke and loud conversation. The air was foul and so was the language. They shouted at each other from one side of the bar to the other, creating so much noise that we could barely hear ourselves speak. Their dress was a sight to behold, ranging from hippy to punk to skinhead. To be fair, some were neatly dressed, but the majority looked bizarre. It was an unexpected entertainment to watch and listen. And these people were the teachers.

With the current debate about teaching standards, it is difficult for me to understand how people whose public behaviour is so bad can possibly command the respect of their pupils. I guess I am getting old.


Hornchurch, Essex

Oxford in the Nineties

In his article, "The logic is: parents must pay" (Education+, 17 July ), Chris Price gives a rather misleading view of Oxford University. Oxford abandoned its fourth-class degree, which Mr Price suggests was designed for "intellectually frail young sportsmen", as long ago as 1967.

The Oxford of the 1990s has no interest in elitism. Its entrance procedures are rigorous and fair, with the sole aim of selecting students with the highest academic potential, regardless of background. The entrance exam no longer exists; all candidates are considered on the same basis.


University Press Officer

University of Oxford

Building an alternative future

A word of encouragement to students entering higher education other than by A-levels ("A Tilted Playing Field", Education+, 17 July). My son, after gaining 9 GCSEs at C and above in 1990 chose to study for a BTec National in construction at a technical college rather than go down the traditional A-level route. In 1992 he gained a place on a four-year BSc in building management at Northumbria University. He graduated with first class honours in 1996 and is now working successfully in the industry.

There is indeed more than one way to skin a cat!



near Swadlincote