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'Don't be mesmerised by bargain-basement budgeting'

THE Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals, which prefers better off students to continue making tuition payments, suggests that "tinkering with loans to subsidise the abolition of fees may make a costly exercise more palatable but we very much hope that people will not be mesmerised by bargain basement budgeting".

Tom Kelly, chief officer of the Association of Scottish Colleges, feared that, despite the emphasis on social inclusion, the committee would simply "repackage awards and loans rather than reshape the whole of student finance".

A "dynamic" funding regime was required, Mr Kelly said, if more students were to be brought into the system a reality made of the Government's own lifelong learning agenda.

Brian Monteith, the Conservatives' education spokesman, said the committee's costings made it clear there would be "no cheap option for the Government".

The Association of University Teachers repeated its call for fees to be abolished. It also wants maintenance grants to be restored for an initial cost of as little as pound;30 million.

The National Union of Students "sensed victory" since the costs of moving away from fees to grants were not prohibitive.

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