Leading article: Politics wins

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The Independent Online

This week, we describe the sad saga of the attempt to introduce top-up fees in Wales. It is sad because politics has taken over and Welsh politicians appear to have little grasp of the serious consequences for higher education institutions. One of the reasons why the USA is so far ahead in the international university league tables is that they invest much more in their universities. Some of the money comes from the public sector but a lot comes from private sources, notably students. And, interestingly, the more money American universities receive from better-off students the greater is their ability to recruit other students from poorer families. That is counter-intuitive but true.

This week, we describe the sad saga of the attempt to introduce top-up fees in Wales. It is sad because politics has taken over and Welsh politicians appear to have little grasp of the serious consequences for higher education institutions. One of the reasons why the USA is so far ahead in the international university league tables is that they invest much more in their universities. Some of the money comes from the public sector but a lot comes from private sources, notably students. And, interestingly, the more money American universities receive from better-off students the greater is their ability to recruit other students from poorer families. That is counter-intuitive but true.

If Wales continues to turn its face against asking students for a bigger contribution it will find that its universities lose out. The best academics and students will choose to move elsewhere and its universities will struggle to compete.

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