From education to employment

NUS angry over rising cost of education

Thousands of disgruntled students will take to the streets next Sunday to march against the rising tide of university top-up fees.

They will be supporting the National Union of Students (NUS) “Admission: Impossible” campaign, following new figures released yesterday by the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS) showing a drop of 3.7% in the number of students entering Higher Education. This percentage equates to some 15,000 students.

NUS President Gemma Tumelty commented on the release: “[The] figures have confirmed our suspicions – that top-up fees are having an effect on some students” choices, deterring some from going to university altogether. What we really need to know now is which social groups are being affected”.

In a statement released yesterday, the NUS say that the drop of 15,000 students, 3.7%, is equal to “the entire population of Coventry University”.

She added: “Survey after survey has pointed to the fact that it tends to be the students from poorer backgrounds who are more likely to be put off by high levels of debt. Recent figures show that in 2004-05, progress in widening participation had already been halted, with the number of students from lower socio-economic groups actually decreasing. What is particularly worrying is that these figures came before top-up fees were introduced”.

“Our concern now is that what was a bad situation will simply get worse, particularly if the £3,000 cap on fees were to be lifted. In that eventuality, an education system could easily be envisaged where some students could afford the best, some would be forced to make do with the rest, and some could afford nothing at all”.

“Education should be a right, not a commodity, and the decision of whether to go university should never be taken on the basis of cost. Alan Bennett was right when he said tuition fees were morally wrong, and he was right when he said that history would judge the policy as a mistake”, she continued.

“That is why thousands of students will be marching through the streets of London next Sunday – to let the Government know it is a mistake we will not take lying down, and to demand they rethink their disastrous policy”.

And Shadow Education Secretary [Lib Dem], Sarah Teather MP commented on the decrease: “The evidence is now undeniable – top-up fees deter people from going to university. Ministers must reconsider this mistaken policy that has such a negative impact on young people’s futures”.

“Concern about racking up tens of thousands of pounds in debt unsurprisingly affects the decisions young people make about what to do after finishing school. School leavers opting to study for a degree face an unprecedented burden of debt affecting their ability to buy homes, start families and save for old age”.

“The drop in older applicants is depressing, these people are trying to grab a second chance at a university education. Government policy should be about creating opportunity, not stifling it”.

Vijay Pattni.

Related Articles