After about 18 months of fierce debate, the British government recently came up with its new policy for higher education. It will allow universities to charge 'top-up' fees, but only if they try very hard to 'widen access'.
...

After about 18 months of fierce debate, the British government recently came up with its new policy for higher education. It will allow universities to charge 'top-up' fees, but only if they try very hard to 'widen access'. Let me explain. At the moment, fees are fixed at £ 1,000 per year (1500 euros). Universities will soon be allowed to increase them to three times that amount if they want, on the condition that they can show that they are doing everything possible to accept more applications from students from poorer-income families. This condition has been imposed because in the last 20 years, although university-participation in Britain has tripled, and despite various efforts to encourage people from poorer backgrounds, the proportion of university students from such backgrounds has not increased at all. More middle-income and rich kids go to university than before, but the number of poor kids remains very, very low. The reason for this is very simple. 20 years ago, the government not only paid students' fees for them but also gave all except those from the richest backgrounds some kind of living allowance. But as participation increased, it decided that it could not continue with such largesse. These days students get no allowance at all - and they have to pay the fees themselves. This parsimony is justified on the grounds that since university graduates typically earn more money than non-graduates, they should pay something towards the economic advantage conferred upon them. The result is that most students finish university deeply in debt. Kids from poor backgrounds are the ones who are most discour- aged by the prospect of debt. And they know their parents cannot afford to subsidise them or bail them out afterwards. So most decide it's simply not worth it. Aware of this conundrum, the government has re-introduced a limited amount of income support. Very limited. It can be up to £ 1,000 per year but it has been calculated that only the poorest 7 % of the population will qualify for the full amount. So the new policy is unlikely to result in increased participation from poorer backgrounds. allowance: toelage. amount: som. application: inschrijving. to bail out: uit de moeilijkheden helpen. to confer upon: verlenen aan. fee: collegegeld. fierce: hevig. largesse: vrijgevigheid, gulheid. parsimony: spaarzaamheid. top-up: extra.