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Dearing Report

- Update and Briefing -

On Wednesday, 23rd July the "National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education" chaired by Sir Ron Dearing reported back to the government in its report titled "Higher Education in the Learning Society".

The committee was formed to look at and make recommendations on the purposes, shape, structure, size and funding of higher education.

One of the its main proposals in the report was that students when graduated should pay back a contribution towards tuition cost of 1000 for each year studied while retaining the current grant/loan split for maintenance costs. This was to plug a nearly 2 billion shortfall in the funding of Higher Education over the next few years.

The government responded by accepting that students should pay towards tuition and also announced that as of September 1998 the current maintenance grant and loan scheme would be replaced with a single maintenance loan system. The tuition and maintenance loan would be paid back on an income contingent basis.

Shortly after this announcement with pressure from students the government decided to waive tuition fees for students from the poorest families.

Later on students won another victory after gap-year students complained that they had not been warned about the situation and many announced that they would be entering this year instead of next year to escape the costs of tuition fees for at least 1 year. The government then announced that those gap students who had ticked the box on the UCAS form stating that they wanted to take a gap year would exempt from paying tuition fees but would still have to pay towards their maintenance cost via the new loan scheme.

Recently the Treasury has announced that extra revenue from tuition fees and maintenance loans may not be put into Higher Education and may be used to cover the administration costs of the new system and/or may be used to fund other government spending priorities.

During the summer Students' Unions were balloted on whether they wanted a National Demonstration against tuition fees. The result favoured regional demonstrations in a least one major city of every region to be held on a single day - Saturday, 1st November.

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