Student levy plan attacked by Major

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The Independent Online
John Major said yesterday there was no need for universities to introduce a pounds 300 levy on first-year students.

The Prime Minister defended Government funding of universities in the face of claims that planned 9.4 per cent cuts over three years threaten the quality of further education.

The levy has been proposed by the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals in response to a pounds 176m cut in Government funding, a 7 per cent drop on last year.

Mr Major told the Commons at Question Time: "I see no need for universities to introduce top-up fees. They certainly cannot complain about how they have been treated by the Government."

He said university funding had risen 23 per cent over and above inflation in the five years to 1994-95.

But a CVCP spokesman said: "The resource for teaching each student has fallen by 25 per cent in the same period because of a massive 45 per cent increase in student numbers.

The levy, which would hit about 140,000 first-year undergraduates, raising more than pounds 40 million, was denounced by students and university teachers.

Sir Derek Fraser, vice-chancellor of Teesside University, Middlesbrough, said he opposed a levy, which he feared could discourage young people from applying to university.

"There could easily, we think, be a 10 per cent drop in student numbers on the basis of top-up fees," he said.

Sir Derek said: "The Government should be biting the bullet and funding higher education properly or finding a new funding system through loans."