Letter: University fees

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The Independent Online
Sir: While you rightly remind your readers of the reasons why we have had to reform university funding and the fairness which is built into our proposals, you suggest that we have failed to inform potential students properly (leader, 3 December). This is not the case.

I have been ready to discuss them and write about them at every opportunity. While there was some controversy in August over gap year students - which we speedily resolved in their favour - it is absurd to suggest that we have been failing to put forward both the arguments and the nature of the new scheme.

We have already issued over half a million leaflets to sixth forms and further education colleges. We have established a free helpline - 0800 731 9133 - and a website - info@dfee.gov.uk. We have provided schools and colleges with posters highlighting the helpline number and we have taken out prominent newspaper and radio advertisements.

Of course there are difficulties in tackling misinformation when a new system is introduced, and given the previous government's unwillingness to tackle the university funding crisis there were bound to be. But students and universities are already seeing the benefits of change, with an extra pounds 165m for next year to improve standards and access. This will allow us to double access funds, helping part-timers in particular, to exempt post- graduate teaching students from course fees and to provide an extra pounds 250 hardship loan to those who need it.

DAVID BLUNKETT

Secretary of State for Education and Employment

House of Commons

London SW1

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