Talk of furious battles over tuition fees is wrong

19th September 1997 at 01:00
Following your front-page article "Universities dig in over fees" (TES, September 12) I thought that it would be helpful if I put the article into some perspective.

The Government has already made clear that top-up fees play no part in our proposals for funding higher education. In legislating for the new higher education arrangements the Government will consider the need for powers to prevent top-up fees being charged.

In implementing the proposals we have set up a working group which includes experts nominated by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (CVCP) and the local authorities. The group has met a number of times and the department values the help that the experts are providing. There have been no furious battles; instead, discussions have been very constructive.

Universities already collect tuition fees from part-time, post graduate and overseas students and so are used to dealing with these issues. Useful discussions on the new arrangements are taking place.

For 30 per cent of all students, tuition will continue to be free. And a further third of students will not have to pay the Pounds 1,000 in full. Only those parents who can afford to pay a contribution towards tuition fees will be expected to do so. Those who pay the full fee will receive a compensating additional maintenance loan.

Talk of a legal minefield for under-18s is ill-considered; contracts for education involving minors are enforceable.

TESSA BLACKSTONE

Minister of State Department For Education and Employment

Sanctuary Buildings Great Smith Street Westminster London SW1

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