COMMENT

Editorial

Letters to the Editor

Shark Bite,
what to expect if you prey on freshers, by anonymous

London Student Staff

Start of a slippery slope for the government's nuthatch fees plans

HEAR THAT LOUD THUDDING NOISE? It's the sound of nails being hammered into the coffin of university tuition fees.

As the Dearing report was being released in July, one of the committee's members told a press conference that, with regard to what fees would do to application levels, 'it's a bit of a leap into the dark.'

No kidding. On October 15th the UCAS deadline expired for prospective students whose forms included Oxford or Cambridge. After climbing steadily for five years, the number of applicants has dropped by 11 per cent. The Vice-Chancellor of the University of North London, one of the few members of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals with principles, estimated that this will translate into a slump of over 80,000 people come the final deadline on December 15th.

He might well be understating the problem. Oxbridge applicants are statistically the most affluent of all. If 11% of them are ducking out, we can expect a total collapse in applications in the new year. Even if the total is 'only' 80,000 short, expect five or more entire universities to go seriously into the red, or even bankrupt.

THERE'S A CATASTROPHE LOOMING for the entire university sector. The whole point of charging tuition fees is supposed to be that we can afford for more people to go to university in the first place. Now it's obvious that fees are going to have exactly the opposite effect - university places available only for the well-off, and fewer people taking up courses at all.

If David Blunkett and company had any intelligence whatsoever, they'd call a halt to the whole thing right now before even more damage is done. But there's no room for confidence at this time that any such intelligence is present.

It is even more important now than it was before, that as many of us as possible attend the London demonstration on November 1st. The only way to mount a political campaign is to find a weakness in the plans and batter it until they fall down. In this slump in applications, we've been given the weakness we need. Turn out on November 1st. It's the one thing all of us can do to help.


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