Fee Controversy: Peer proposes lifting of top-up fee cap

Owen Kennedy 1 November 2007

A former top civil servant has sparked controversy by calling for the lifting of the cap on top-up fees. Lord Butler, cabinet secretary from 1988 to 1998, now master of University College Oxford, has claimed that affluent university students should bear more of the financial burden of their education.

Butler, writing in the Oxford Magazine, said that the proposed fee-hike was “clearly in the public interest”, and urged that there be a “gradual” increase of the current limit. The maximum £3000 a year that publicly funded universities can charge at present is due for review in 2009.

Cambridge Education Not for Sale (ENS) supporters responded to calls for higher fees by picketing the Senate House and the Old Schools (university offices) yesterday morning. ENS states that it is committed to fighting for “universal, free, publicly funded… education”.

Ed Maltby from Cambridge ENS told TCS that he believes “There is enough money in the country to give a free university education to everyone that wants to go to university”. He said the worst case scenario was that students “could end up paying the full market price for a degree which is well over the £26,000 often quoted”.

A spokesman for the University of Cambridge said: “We believe that the review to be held in 2009 must first examine the impact of current fee rates.”

He added: “The University of Cambridge’s system of one-to-one and small group supervision and its collegiate basis, which are among its key strengths, are by their nature expensive to maintain.No prospective UK student should be deterred from applying to Cambridge for financial reasons.”

Will Wearden

Owen Kennedy