Par­tic­i­pa­tion points

THE (Times Higher Education) - - LETTERS -

Cherie Blair (HE&ME, News, 25 Jan­uary) is mis­taken about the par­tic­i­pa­tion rate at the time of the Rob­bins re­port. It was 6 per cent in 1963, when I started univer­sity as one of a small mi­nor­ity of work­ing­class stu­dents. By the 1970s, the pro­por­tion had more than dou­bled, but it stag­nated while the poly­tech­nics coped with the dras­tic con­trac­tion of ini­tial teacher train­ing fol­low­ing Mar­garet Thatcher’s White Pa­per A Frame­work for Ex­pan­sion.

I also dis­agree with Blair over tu­ition fees and fund­ing. I would not have gone to univer­sity with the cur­rent con­se­quent debt. In those days, the masses con­trib­uted to fund­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion for the elite in an elite sys­tem. Now that we have a mass sys­tem, the elite are not re­cip­ro­cat­ing, but are duck­ing their obli­ga­tion to re­pay that debt. The work­ing class, in­clud­ing fish and chip shop work­ers, now pay twice – in tu­ition fees and self­sus­te­nance for their fam­i­lies, and in tax­a­tion to cover the loss on the sale of the debt book and writ­ing off un­paid loans.

In 1963, af­ter the An­der­son re­port, the min­i­mum grant was £50 to­wards fees, with a means test. It must not be hard to keep fees and de­vise a pro­gres­sive sup­port struc­ture along sim­i­lar lines, so that those from richer fam­i­lies get less and those aim­ing for so­cial mo­bil­ity – a de­clared gov­ern­ment ob­jec­tive – get more. Ian Mc­nay

Pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus, higher ed­u­ca­tion and man­age­ment

Univer­sity of Green­wich

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