University to hang fire on top up fees

ESSEX University has not yet decided whether it will impose £3,000 fees on its students if Government plans announced yesterday in the Queen's Speech become law, it emerged yesterday.

ESSEX University has not yet decided whether it will impose £3,000 fees on its students if Government plans announced yesterday in the Queen's Speech become law, it emerged yesterday.

Although vice chancellor Ivor Crewe has spoken in favour of the fees – almost three times what they are currently – he did so in his position as president of Universities UK, a spokeswoman at Wivenhoe Park said.

Any decision at Essex would involve a number of people representing different parts of the organisation, she added.

The spokeswoman's comments came shortly after legislation enabling universities to virtually treble their student fees to £3,000 a year was announced by the Queen at the official opening of Parliament.


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These would be retrospective, unlike the current £1,125 upfront fee, and only repayable after graduates were earning more than £15,000 a year.

The Queen said: “A Bill will be introduced to enable more young people to benefit from full-time education.

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“Upfront tuition fees will be abolished for full-time students and a new Office of Fair Access will assist those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Universities will be placed on a sound financial footing.”

Professor Crewe caused resentment among many in the student body at Essex when he spoke in favour of top-up fees of up to £3,000 per year.

In September, speaking on behalf of Universities UK, he told a national newspaper: “A graduate who starts off at £18,000 a year in London will be paying back £5.30 a week – which is a couple of pints of beer. Now, most students could afford a couple of pints of beer when they were students, so they can afford to pay back a couple of pints after graduating.”

Members of the Student Union at the Wivenhoe Park campus accused him of “trivialising” the issue and showing he was out of touch.

Yesterday the spokeswoman said: “Prof Crewe, as head of Universities UK has supported the £3,000. However, as vice chancellor of Essex he has not made any decision.

“It will not just be one person's decision. Obviously, everybody on the main bodies of the university will be involved.”

However, getting the new legislation past peers and MPs is expected to be one of the Government's toughest tasks over the coming months, as higher fees are opposed by more than 100 backbenchers as well as Tories and Liberal Democrats.

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