Opportunity, Collaboration & Discovery

Across the pond: Wealthiest students to pay premium fees to get into top universities?

CJ Westerberg, March 9, 2011 1:24 PM


"We risk turning the clock back to a time
when breeding rather than brains
were required to get on in life."

Daddy Bought My University Entry

From the UK Guardian:

David Willetts, the universities minister, has insisted there is "no question" of wealthy students being able to buy a university place after facing criticism of proposals to allow teenagers from the wealthiest families to be able to pay for extra places at the most competitive universities.

Willetts had earlier sought to stress that the move would free up more publicly subsidised places for undergraduates from poorer homes and improve social mobility.

But critics said the move would entrench privilege and turn back the clock to a time when "breeding not brains" mattered, with the Liberal Democrat MP and party president, Tim Farron, warning that he would oppose any measure that gave the appearance of increasing university access for the rich.

Downing Street swiftly distanced itself from any suggestion that it was backing plans for students with rich parents be given priority access to university as a way of expanding the overall number of university places and university income.

No 10 did not rule out a limited version of the idea appearing in the university white paper, due this summer, but stressed that no proposal would be backed if it reduced social mobility.


By lunchtime, Willetts had issued a statement to insist there was "no question" of wealthy students being able to buy a place at university. "Access to a university must be based on ability to learn not ability to pay," the universities minister said.

Under current government plans, annual student numbers are capped to keep costs down, with English universities allowed to charge UK students a maximum annual fee of £9,000 from 2012, which graduates do not have to start paying until they are earning £21,000 a year.

Willetts sparked controversy when he suggested in an interview with the Guardian that universities could increase the numbers of British students by charging some the full annual fees of up to £28,000 a year for the most expensive courses, payable up front, who would not then require the support of the taxpayer.

The changes would give more students the chance to attend their first choice university, a suggestion that many see as enabling the children of the wealthiest parents to buy their way in.

The move is being considered at a time when the government is cutting 10,000 publicly funded university places.

Employers and charities will also be encouraged to sponsor off-quota places under the plans to be outlined in the white paper.


"I hugely regret there are tuition fees at all, never mind the higher ones we currently have. It's right that we should explore ways that people from less well-off backgrounds [can] have the best possible access to higher education."

The UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "Far from increasing social mobility, it is hard to see how this is anything other than the government entrenching privilege for the wealthy in response to its failing university fees policy."

"We risk turning the clock back to a time when breeding rather than brains were required to get on in life. The news is particularly embarrassing for the Liberal Democrats as all their MPs pledged to vote, and campaign, against higher fees."

Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said the move would create a "two-tier system" in university education.

"The government is yet again tossing out a poorly conceived policy idea in an attempt to disguise the chaos it has created in university funding and the shortfall in finances that has created," he said.

"This creates a two-tier system that allows the richest, less able applicants a second bite at the university cherry and denies low- and middle-income students the same opportunity."

Read full story here.

Orig. Pub. The Daily Riff - May 10, 2011 

Check out the comments, too, if you get the chance.  Here's a good one:

"Sorry Rupert, your CCD grades at A-level aren't enough to study PPE here at Trinity. However, I could see you privately..."

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