Harpenden school’s head’s fears over tuition fees

SMILING students on a tour of Oxford may be put off applying for the best universities because of fees and intense competition for places, their concerned headteacher has warned.

Fourteen of the brightest 15 year olds at St George’s School in Sun Lane, Harpenden, were given a taste of undergraduate studies during a visit to Oxford.

But head Norman Hoare fears that the school will face a dilemma over whether or not to encourage them to go to the best universities in four years time even though they all had great potential and St George’s would want to keep up its tradition of feeding its best students into the most prestigious universities.

He questioned whether parents would be able to afford the fees at the country’s leading universities by then and said there was mounting concern that the costs of an undergraduate career would be beyond some families.

He went on: “Parents and students will have to listen carefully to advice about costs and long-term implications of funding higher education – much more than when fees were first introduced over 10 years ago.”

He hoped there would be an expansion of on-the-job training with professional instruction and some part-time release for study and urged students to be flexible about their options.

He added: “It is a tough world for our 16 year olds who may, like their brothers and sisters and indeed like my own generation, have grown up expecting a university place as almost ‘a right.”

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The party of youngsters who visited Corpus Christi Oxford were representatives of the current Year 10 who will sit their GCSEs in the summer of 2012 and have been identified as some the school’s gifted and talented.

They were shown around the college with undergraduates, given lunch and then entered into a mock trial laid on by the college’s law department.

Alister Clarke, the school’s gifted and talented coordinator, said Mr Hoare had been right to “encourage, advise and to warn”.

He said competition for a college like Corpus Chrisi was fierce and there would not be enough places so anyone trying for a potentially expensive university would have a lot to consider.