Letter: Confusion over student fees policy

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Sir: David Walker ("Why university is a journey too far", 11 August), is led astray by stereotypes.

His argument is that most students are middle class (true). It costs public money to allow students to live away from home (true). This represents a subsidy to the middle class (true - up to a point). Therefore students should live at home.

The conclusion is false.

If the "subsidy" were to be withdrawn, it would mean that students would live at home - unless, of course, they could afford to live at university and thereby gain the benefits that Mr Walker sneers at. (Getting a worthwhile degree requires more than nine-to-five commitment.)

For the wealthy, with a home computer, books, car, ample private living and working space etc, losing this subsidy would be a drag but not a disaster. For the working-class student the loss would make higher education all but impossible. They could certainly never hope to compete on level terms.

The social class distribution of university education is skewed enough as it is. Forcing students to study from home would make the situation worse.

P K BURGESS

President

Association of University Teachers

London W11

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