Desperate Colleges May Turn to Foreign Students; CASH-STRAPPED UNIVERSITIES' NEW THREAT IN ROW OVER TUITION FEES
Byline: TIM MILES
THE country's top universities today threatened to turn their backs on British undergraduates if the Government does not deliver on its promise to fund higher education.
This could lead to a dramatic switch in the balance of their intake away from homegrown entrants to postgraduate and non-EU students, who both pay higher fees.
One member of the Russell Group of elite universities, University College London (UCL), warned it was already contemplating slashing one third of places for homegrown teenagers if the Government is forced to retreat too far over tuition fees.
A survey for the Evening Standard revealed that one in three of Britain's top universities said it would also consider similar steps if the Government dilutes its proposals too far, potentially changing the face of higher education.
Professor Mike Sterling, vice chancellor of Birmingham University and chairman of the Russell Group, said: "We may all have to look at bringing in more money from other sources.
"We all know that postgraduates and international students bring in more cash. It isn't a difficult business decision."
Other institutions planning the same move include Kings College, London; Nottingham, Bristol and Oxford.
The Government plans to allow universities to charge tuition fees of [pounds sterling]3,000 a year from 2006 - but is presently negotiating concessions with its own backbenchers in the hope of staving off a humiliating parliamentary rebellion.
Universities have been warned, for instance, that they could be forced to spend a third of the extra income from fees funding bursaries for students from poorer backgrounds.
Now a backlash is building among top universities, who fear ministers may be driven to compromise too far.
Professor Mike Worton, vice provost at UCL, said universities such as his needed all the extra income the Government was promising, without strings, to "balance the books". …