Students put their case against the fees

The Dearing report
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End of first year: Zoe Keeler has a First in her economics prelims at Trinity College Cambridge - the richest of the Oxbridge colleges. Aged 20, she has no overdraft, but last Easter she took out the maximum pounds 1,600 loan.

Zoe does not qualify for any grant money at the moment, because her parents are "middle-income I suppose. The means testing of tuition payments is silly. It will affect people like me the most ... It'll mean nothing to the high earners ... It's quite stupid; I've got a younger brother who'll be going through university after me, and my parents will have to pay for him too. You could be quite well off, but have four children," and means-testing would take no account of this. She says if she earns a reasonable salary, she will pay more tax and thus be "refunding the taxpayers' money".

She has managed financially because her parents have given her "around pounds 50 a week for food and living", and she had pounds 800 in the building society left over from her year off. She has also worked in local pubs in the evenings and at Wimbledon during the tennis championships.

On Dearing's "quality assurance", she feels she can already dictate what level of "product" she gets. "Every week [at Trinity] I meet a supervisor on my own. Elsewhere you might have nine or ten other people in your supervision."

End of Second year: Kat Myers says: "Tuition fees shouldn't be paid for by students. The system they're suggesting is fair, but it's a step over the line in principle." Kat, 21, from Blackpool, has completed the first two years of a Politics and Social Policy degree at Loughborough University and is now at the end of a year's sabbatical.

Her parents' income suggests she would "be somewhere on the sliding scale", but would definitely have to pay something towards tuition. She gets some grant money, and her parents make this up to about pounds 3,000 a year; so far, she has taken out loans each year - pounds 600 in the first year, but the full pounds 1,650 in the second. She likes the flexibility of the current loans system. "In my first year, I had some savings from summer work, but in the second year, I accumulated an overdraft."

Kat has always worked in the summer vacation, earning around pounds 140 a week. While unhappy with the idea of paying for tuition fees, Kat is none the less enthusiastic about the other suggestions Dearing makes. "At the moment, there's a big problem about the level of information given to students by the college. They're not told about what to expect and what rights they have." Like Dearing, she hopes in future studentswill have more influence in such areas.

Graduated a year ago: Chris Fabby still has an overdraft of pounds 1,800. His History and Politics course at Huddersfield University went well, and, capitalising on his interest in the voluntary pressure group side of politics, he's spent much of the past year as President of the Huddersfield Union, earning about pounds 9,000 a year. This means he also has the Student Loans Company on his back. "They started jumping on me as soon a I got the job. I managed to get a deferral in the end, but they wanted all sorts of documentation and wanted me to prove how much I was earning. Trying to convince them was unbelievable," he said.

"You take out three years when you could be earning, and you expect a low standard of living, but the stereotypes of students are all wrong now. Your average student is now someone with two or three jobs, and on the breadline." Chris, 22, was on a full grant and took out the full loan each year. He thinks it was worth the sacrifices even though they are continuing. However, he says that many of Dearing's suggestions will make it much harder for the next generation. He opposes paying for tuition, which he says is the state's responsibility "if they want a well-educated society".