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Free tuition 'erodes campaign'

A Welsh teacher training college is to pay its students' tuition fees on a new course, amid claims it could undermine the national campaign for charges to be dropped, writes Nicolas Barnard.

University of Wales College, Newport, is believed to be the first to offer to meet fees for a teacher training course - although a handful of universities have made similar offers for other courses.

It says it will cover the pound;1,000 annual charge for up to 20 students for all three years of its new BA (Hons) degree course in design and technology, leading to qualified teacher status.

Damp;T is the subject worst hit in the national recruitment crisis. Courses are expected to meet only one third of the recruitment target this year, according to a forecast by recruitment analyst John Howson.

But there are fears that UWCN could weaken the case for the Government to ease recruitment by waiving fees for part or all of undergraduate teacher education courses.

Ian Kane, chairman of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said costs were so tight in teacher education that few others would be able to follow suite. It was a "marginal exercise with no national implications" - but others might interpret it differently.

University spokesman Andy Weltch said: "Design and technology is traditionally a shortage area which is difficult to recruit to. We just need to come up with incentives to encourage people."

The university has yet to decide whether it will continue the offer for the 1999 intake of students.

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