Despite continuing pressure from the NUS and students nationwide, several University Vice-Chancellors still insist that top-up fees are not high enough to meet the rising costs of higher education and support the cap of £3,000 a year being lifted when ministers review top-up fees in 2009. The outcome of a meeting of the Vice-Chancellors of the Russell Group universities, of which Nottingham is a founder member, seems to suggest that £5,000 a year is the likely price on a future degree.
The warnings have angered the National Union of Students who organised a national demonstration against fees in London on October 29th. Nottingham’s Education Officer Benedict Pringle felt it was imperative Nottingham’s presence was felt at the demo. “The fees have gone up but so far we have not seen any improvements with regards to exam feedback, library resources or personal tutors’ time. If the university wants to increase its price, it has got to improve its services.”
The NUS has repeatedly argued that the 3.5% drop in the number of applications to UK universities this year could be directly attributed to the introduction of top-up fees in England. Last week it emerged that just 42% of 18 to 30 year-olds in England were enrolled and attending university in 2004-2005, the second successive drop in tow years. Few, including the goverment, now expect to meet the target of half that age group attending university by 2010. NUS President Gemma Tumelty told Impact “lifting the cap will most likely result in the richest students going to the universities that charge the highest level of fees. It will be these universities that are able to afford the most eminent staff and resources.”
However, it seems likely that the NUS’s efforts will fall on deaf ears at Westminster, with Education minister Alan Johnson having been recently quoted as saying that students will “learn to love top-up fees.”