UK Muslims warn of fallout from increased university fees


London : The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has voiced concern over controversial recommendations to remove the cap on undergraduate fees and allow universities to decide what they charge.

MCB warned that the measures may disproportionately hit ethnic minority communities within Britain, of which Muslims are a significant part, due to the higher levels of low income families within the two-million community.

“Despite many promises of protecting the poorest the proposed introduction of a ‘variable’ fee system will widen the gap between the richer and the poorer students, resulting in a sharp inequality,” MCB secretary general Farooq Murad said.

Murad said the consequence would be that low-income students will increasingly cluster around the cheaper universities or indeed be compelled to think twice before enrolling for higher education at all.

“This can effectively create a dangerous form of class segregation within society – one that Britain has fought long and hard to overcome at section of society,” he warned.

Business Secretary Vince Cable expressed support for the proposals on Tuesday, even though his Liberal Democrat Party issued an election pledge to oppose any increase in university fees before entering in a coalition government with the Conservatives.

In a statement obtained by IRNA, Murad expressed additional concern at the recommendation to increase interest rates on loans to beyond inflation levels, thereby rendering them profitable rather than in correlation to the standard inflation rate and cash value.

“This may potentially harm the prospects of Muslim students who cannot engage in interest based loans and financial transactions due to the tenets of their faith and may also not be able to fund their education privately,” he said.

The MCB secretary general said it was imperative that the government take these factors into consideration as significant sections of the Muslim community are among the most deprived in Britain and therefore projected to be disproportionately hit.

“The alternative may be a society further segregated and a section of the community further alienated,” he warned.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has also warned that the proposals were handing a ‘blank cheque’ to universities. It also claimed that the government would face a rebellion with nearly 30 Liberal Democrat MPs prepared to vote against a fees increase.