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Tories declare students a burden on us all

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Universities minister David Willetts did little to win over his new constituency by describing students as an unacceptable burden on UK taxpayers.

Joining in the coalition government's frenzy of cutback soundbites ahead of next week's the Budget on 22 June Willetts said the costs of university education were a "burden on the taxpayer that had to be tackled".

University funding is currently under review by ex-BP boss Lord Browne, but Willetts said just changing the level of fees paid by students might not be enough.

He told the Guardian: "It is not a matter of simply changing the fees. The system doesn't contain strong incentives for universities to focus on teaching and the student experience, as opposed to research."

He said students should consider fees "more as an obligation to pay higher income tax".

Aaron Porter, president-elect of the National Union of Students, said people were graduating with average debts of £22,000 which "felt very much like debt to them".

Tory Willetts said Labour had completely failed to address the issue or to push universities to focus on excellent teaching. ®

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