LETTER: Student loans are uncivilised

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From Ms Alison Brown

and others

Sir: We are writing in response to your leading article "Let students pay - its only fair" (24 November).

The article claims that the principle of making students pay is "sensible". Well, the only sensible option or principle is one which does not exclude anyone from any part of the education system and "pay-to-learn" schemes most definitely do that.

Any loans system will be unfair as it will dissuade those from working- class backgrounds from going into education as they will be unwilling to accumulate what will be thousands of pounds of debt.

Most mature students, and specifically those with children, would be in no position to get into debt and mature students are an ever increasing section of the student population.

The article is correct in pointing out that up to 70 per cent of young people do not go on to university. For a lot of them this is for financial reasons, and bringing in a graduate tax or expanding the students loans system is not going to ensure access for those thousands of people. The only way to have an inclusive education system is to provide full maintenance grants to all in post-16 education and provide students access to the benefits system. Those students who do go on to be high earners should pay back to society through higher taxes in a progressive taxation system.

Any civilised society should provide education in this way - as a public service, like healthcare, available to all at any time. Britain is one of the world's richest nations and can most certainly afford this. It is about time we started to recognise the value of education and the right of each individual to have unobstructed access to it.

Yours faithfully,

Alison Brown, NUS Women's Officer; Clive Lewis, NUS VP Education; Graham Hellawell, Campaign for Free Education

Secretary; Rosie Woods, NUS NEC; Mick Duncan, NUS NEC

Campaign for Free Education

National Union of Students

London, N7

24 November