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  News about Britain
January 2003
Each month, the background to a story about Britain.
Read the story, then read all the comments about how students pay for their studies in their part of the world. We've added what you've said to the comments page.

Student montage
    Story summary

With the abolition of grants and introduction of tuition fees, most students are stretched - particularly if students are paying tuition fees out of the loan. Around 42% of full time students have a part time job and many institutions now have their own ‘job centre’ with details of employers who specifically want student staff.


Students 'to face £21,000 debt'

Students in the UK can expect to face debts of £18-21,000 when they leave university in future, says Education Secretary Charles Clarke.

The government is has published controversial proposals to allow universities to charge students top-up fees of up to £3,000 for their studies. Up-front fees of £1,100 a year will be scrapped, and graduates will not have to repay the new loans until their earnings have reached a certain level. A new regulator will also be appointed to ensure that universities admit students from poorer families.

Mr Clarke told the BBC TV programme Breakfast with Frost:
"The type of debt we are talking about goes up from about £12-15,000 to about £18-21,000 - that kind of thing.The payback burden varies according to earnings later in life to about £60 a month for example for a civil servant, lower than that for a voluntary sector worker, so the paybacks I don't think are unreasonable".

"We will be raising the threshold at which you have to start paying back so there will be less requirement to pay back initially but there will be a debt there to serve." Asked what kind of interest rate graduates could expect on their debt, Mr Clarke said details had to be thrashed out but he insisted it would be "significantly less than commercial rates". He said the proposals would shift the financial burden from families and should not discourage students from poorer backgrounds from applying. "Students at the age of 18 and develop their lives on that basis and I am proud of the fact that I will be able to make an announcement to that effect later in the week," he said.

'Simply unfair'

Shadow education secretary Damian Green branded the plan to appoint a new "access regulator" as "social engineering" of the worst kind. "The idea of a government-appointed regulator to tell universities who they can and cannot take is disgraceful," he told GMTV. "It cuts away at academic freedom and it is simply unfair. "There will be children who have worked hard for their A-levels, expect to get to university and are then told by this regulator 'sorry, your face doesn't fit'. "That is social engineering of the worst kind." But Mr Clarke rejected the criticism insisting: "No regulator will be a political commissar."

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Phil Willis said long-term debt would put many young people off going to university.
He said: "Saddling students with a mortgage-style 20-year debt creates a huge disincentive for higher education."

View the Glossary/wordbank for News about Britain


Here are the questions that we put to you:

Do you think the new way of paying is a good system or a bad one?

Is college or university education free in your country or do you have to pay for it?

You all sent us your views and we've posted them at the bottom of this page.

  BBC Links about student loans:

Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell against top up fees

University numbers rise in Scotland due to fees

Advice for students - including mature students - managing money as students

Your comments


Here are a few of your great comments. Please click on the link here to see more user comments.

Jose Jaimes in Venezuela writes:

I think, the new system, is a bad system, because the students desert the university before finish your career or not enter in the university, in my country have two types, goverment university(free) and private university(pay for this), and have scholarship in both.

Prof. Anwar Lodhi in Pakistan writes:

I think this is a very good decision,
as students in Britain will be prone to learn dedicatedly because they would be pre-occupied with the idea that they would have to pay later on.therefore they will leave no stone unturned to be qualitative graduates. Moreover , they would rely more upon themselves than the government.this programme will teach them self-reliance.

Read more user comments here.




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