Newcastle College has bowed to pressure from politicians and parents to scrap exam fees after being accused of breaking the principle of free education for 16 to 18-year-olds.
Following a sustained campaign against the fees, governors at the college voted this week to abolish A-level and Business and Technology Education Council fees for students of all ages from next year, provided candidates complete the course and sit final exams. Jobless 16 to 18-year-olds will also have their fees paid this year.
The row over the charges deepened after revelations that non-payers' details were passed to a debt collection agency, which put their names on a credit blacklist until the bill was paid.
Families were means tested by the college, and students from better-off homes were billed up to about Pounds 100 for four A-levels.
Managers defended the charging policy, saying it stemmed from an anomaly in the college's funding prior to incorporation which had left it without cash to cover fees.