‘Extra university places for the wealthy’
New government proposals could permit universities in England to create extra places for wealthy British students.
The proposals, made by universities minister David Willetts, would allow universities to charge willing British students the same fees as overseas undergraduates to assure them a place and free up capacity for poorer students. These prospective students would not be eligible for publicly-funded loans to help pay for tuition fees or maintenance costs, which critics say would mean that only teenagers from the most privileged backgrounds would benefit.
Annual fees for overseas students currently range from £12,000 for arts courses to £18,000 for science courses, rising to more than £28,000 for medicine at the top universities.
Under the current system, the Government sets a quota for the number of places English universities are allowed to offer each year. These proposed extra places would fall outside of the set quota and ministers say this new system could free up publicly-subsidised university places for poorer students.
BBC Education correspondent Gillian Hargreaves said: “Critics would argue the wealthiest families would be able to buy a place on a degree course.”
Business Secretary Vince Cable – Willetts’ boss – is reported to oppose the plans, however.
Willetts told The Guardian newspaper: “There are various important issues that need to be addressed around off-quota places, but I start from the view that an increase in the total number of higher education places could aid social mobility.
“There would need to be arrangements to make sure any such system was fair and worked in the interests of students as well as institutions. But it is not clear what the benefit is of the current rules, which, for example, limit the ability of charities or social enterprises to sponsor students.
“We are inviting ideas on the whole concept and we will listen very carefully to all the responses we receive.”
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