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Top up fees

The question

? Plans to charge students up to £3,000 a year in 'top up' tuition fees moved to the next stage last week.

What effect will they have on future civil engineers?

A number of law schools this week announced the introduction of admission exams to provide the assurance about the quality of candidates that A levels fail to give. Perhaps, in light of recent discussions regarding the mathematical ability of candidates wishing to enrol in civil engineering courses, a number of civil engineering schools around the country should consider a similar move. This, and the introduction of tuition fees, would raise the bar defining the quality of a civil engineering degree, and in doing so would increase the value attributed to holding that degree.

Rather than sounding the deathknell to civil engineering MEng degrees, would the introduction of top up fees and admission exams not act to keep more graduates in civil engineering on graduation?

David Cormie, Warrington Final straw theorists may surmise that even fewer civil engineering graduates will join a low paying career and will go elsewhere. If you are an optimist then the fewer higher paid graduates will raise the salary levels of graduates and engineers in employment and also the smaller pool of talent will increase individual marketability.

Soon firms will find it more cost effective to gain staff by merger or takeover than in endless recruitment drives. In future companies may ignore university courses and recruit school leavers taking them through local bespoke college courses to carry out traditional graduates roles.

Andrew Powell, senior group engineer, Manchester In the long run there may be an increase in far-sighted companies sponsoring more students through university and allowing them to develop fully as engineers.

Jim Fennell, information systems manager, Belfast In an industry that not only struggles to recruit school leavers to study civil engineering at university, but then fails to retain many of its civils graduates, the introduction of top up fees is not going to help. How many school leavers are going to be willing to commit to studying hard for four years, saddling themselves with debt, just to come in to an industry which is notorious for low graduate pay, high work commitment and an expectation that you must gain chartered status to be able to get on? However, there are things that the ICE, businesses and civil engineers can do, starting with communicating to the public (and especially children) what we civil engineers can and do achieve.

Tom Betts, 30, senior project engineer, Northamptonshire I thought the government was promoting education. Instead they are killing it off. It is simply not appropriate that 50% of the population have degrees - that is an economy which is out of balance.

Geoff Home, 54, director, North East The introduction of top up fees will encourage students to opt for degrees that have a higher earning job at the end of the course. On the one hand this will deter students from choosing nonvocational courses in weaker subjects, but unfortunately it may also deter students from opting for traditionally lower-paid professional careers such as building and civil engineering. It will also deter students from choosing academically rigorous courses such as history that are necessary for the preservation of knowledge and tradition, but which also do not lead to very well paid careers.

Chris Goodier, 31, research associate, Loughborough

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