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Exposing universities that charge high prices and produce low-earning graduates would be a more useful area for Conservatives to explore than differential fees.

The focus of Damian Hinds, the secretary of state for education, is not on higher education this year. Instead, his attention is on pre-school, technical and character education. Policies on higher education—or at least the funding of it—have been pretty much outsourced to the semi-independent review of post-18 education and funding chaired by businessman Philip Augar, due to be published early next year.

But in the run-up to party conference season, universities minister Sam Gyimah has not been shy in speaking out on the cultural debates that are dominating higher education—mental health and free speech in particular. In an interview for Bright Blue’s Centre Write magazine this summer, he argued that “universities should be acting ‘in loco parentis’” and that “the pastoral care for students has to be there as well for a university to fulfil its full purpose”.

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