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Making the best of the fees hike

I fear that Mick Fletcher of the Learning and Skills Development Agency is too positive about his report on adults' willingness to pay fees. When we discussed increased fees for adults at our corporation meeting last week, we were very clear about the difference between a college and a wholly commercial business. We are not worried that raising fees will mean empty classrooms.

Financially, we will almost certainly be unaffected by the increase. But financial success is merely a necessary precondition for success as a college: it is not what we are for.

We care very much who our students are, and about who is not a student, and who could become one if circumstances change. So we were concerned that the impact of raising fees could mean we turned away, or failed to attract, the very people who might benefit most. That would not be right.

We are better-off financially than many colleges, but we agreed that we cannot simply ignore what the Government wants us to do, because its fees assumption is built into its funding formula for FE.

So we raised our fees, but also resolved to redouble our efforts to establish an effective charitable trust to help those who will otherwise lose out. The fees may not seem high to salaried professionals, but I am sure they will put off some. We must do everything we can to minimise the damage done by the policy.

Iain Mackinnon

Chair, Ealing, Hammersmith and West London college

Gliddon Road

London W14

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