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Lib Dems ponder Plan B on £9,000 tuition fees

Out front, Vince Cable and David Willetts have been busy in recent days telling us there is not a problem with universities setting high tuition fees. Meanwhile in the back rooms, their policy wonks are figuring out new ways to force down fees.

Cable tried to smoothly kick it all into the long grass in the Commons on Thursday, saying “We expect there to be a wide range of charges, and those institutions discussing higher charge levels all look set to include substantial waivers for students from poorer backgrounds.”

Willetts took a similar on the telly on Sunday, saying fees would average out “significantly below” £9,000.

Meanwhile Leeds and Loughborough declared at £9,000 over the weekend and behind the scenes it is all action. The LSE economist Tim Leunig is a Lib Dem favouritie and flavour of the month since his idea for land auctions got picked up by the government. Now hes promising a new policy proposal to drive down high fees via the Centre Forum think tank this week. (And heres a sample of Leunigs competition-focused thinking).

But if the current plan is working so well, as Cable and Willetts say, why do we need new plans from people like Leunig?