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University fees move may be 'as unpopular as poll tax'.

TONY BLAIR has been warned he could face a poll tax-style disaster if he allows universities to charge thousands of pounds in new fees.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke is said to be ready to announce next week that the government wants to scrap up-front tuition fees - currently pounds 1,100 - in favour of payments deferred until after graduation.

But, as part of the package, universities would be allowed to charge higher fees - capped at pounds 3,000 to pounds 4,000 a year.

According to the BBC, ministers are also ready to reintroduce maintenance grants for the poorest students, and there could be "golden handcuffs" payments for people taking jobs in the public sector

The higher fees would be covered by a loan to be repaid when a graduate began earning a certain minimum salary.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said she would welcome the dropping of up-front fees.

But she said she would be "deeply disappointed" if the government brought in top-up fees and predicted a backlash.

She said: "The public has a deep distrust of top-up fees and they could become as unpopular as the poll tax."
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jan 17, 2003
Words:194
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