‘AS POPULAR AS THE POLL TAX!’ – UCU denounces further increases in student fees

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UCU members and students marching earlier this summer against massive cuts at London Metropolitan University in North London. The University its tuition fees next term.
UCU members and students marching earlier this summer against massive cuts at London Metropolitan University in North London. The University its tuition fees next term.

‘Any further increase in university fees will be about as popular as the poll tax,’ says University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Sally Hunt, as student debt rises yet again.

The UCU warns today that people are being ‘priced out’ of going to university, after new research revealed that students starting degrees next year should expect to owe as much as £23,000 by the time they graduate.

A survey by the independent university guide Push shows that the average student debt has risen to £5,000 for each year of study, with debts expected to soar by a further 10.6 per cent in 2009/2010.

The government is due to publish its much awaited fees review next year and the union today repeated its warning that the rise in tuition fees, hinted at by ministers, would be as unpopular with the general public as the poll tax and would destroy the aspirations of thousands of future students and their families.

Key findings from the survey include:

• Students who started at university last year (2008) can expect to owe nearly £21,200 by the time they leave.

• Students who start this academic year should reckon on at least £2,000 more than that.

• In Scotland, which has the most generous funding system and no tuition fees, debts have actually fallen to £2,194 a year and are much lower than the rest of the UK.

• The national average projected debt on graduation stands at £15,812, but at six universities, the figure has already broken the £25,000 barrier.

UCU general secretary Hunt said: ‘These are really worrying figures. It is criminal that generations of students will be saddled with thousands of pounds of debt.

‘For all the talk of widening participation the sad reality is that students and their families are facing ever higher financial barriers to going to university.

‘There should be little surprise that students in Scotland, where there are no tuition fees, are coping much better than their counterparts in England and Wales.

‘The chance to go to university should not be determined by ability to pay, yet current government policy means that access to higher education is effectively being rationed through ever higher fees and debts.

‘The students of today are the doctors, nurses, engineers and architects of tomorrow. As a country we should be investing in them and making access to education cheaper rather than more expensive.

‘Any further increase in university fees will be about as popular as the poll tax with hard working families and their children.’