By Jim Byagua
Trying to keep up with the almost daily reports about Charles Clarke and the Government's student funding review body's vacillations over tuition fees isn't easy. The discussion and headlines about the introduction of top-up fees - which would allow institutions to charge massive fees and exclude working class students from going to the more prestigious universities - have now shifted slightly.
The 20,000 strong NUS demonstration at the start of December clearly demonstrated students' strength of feeling against top-up fees, and the 160 or so Labour MPs who have put their names to an Early Day Motion against top-up fees must also have been an important factor in this shift.
But the reality is not as promising as the headlines suggest. The latest proposals are as nebulous as we would expect from an Education Secretary, but the proposed replacement for up-front tuition fees looks remarkably like a top-up fee. But it will be paid after studying. It can be paid over a period of time, so merging it into the graduate tax idea, but obviously those earning more will be able to pay it off faster and middle-class families will be happy.
Only having to pay after you've graduated! What a difference that'll make to students! As if that's not what students repaying loans they needed for the current up-front fees are doing already! This measure has very little benefit for students, but it certainly will make it easier for the government to start increasing the amount it can charge for a university education.
Students need to organise to get rid of up-front fees on the basis that less money is demanded from those choosing to go to university, not so that more can be charged after graduation. We need to keep demanding no fees of any sort and that the funding needed for education should come from taxing the rich, not students.