Is the government going to lift the cap on tuition fees or not? Browne’s recommendation is a clear yes. But in his statement to the House of Commons yesterday, Vince Cable wobbled precariously close to the edge of retaining a cap on fees.
The Business Secretary’s language to MPs was quite mysterious. He said:
“The question, then, is how much the graduate contributions for tuition should be. We are considering a level of £7,000. Many universities and colleges may well decide to charge less than that, since there is clearly scope for greater efficiency and innovation in the way universities operate. Two year ordinary degrees are one approach. Exceptionally, Lord Browne suggests there should be circumstances under which universities can price their courses above this point. But, he suggests, this would be conditional on demonstrating that funds would be invested in securing a good social mix with fair access for students with less privileged backgrounds, and in raising the quality of teaching and learning. We will consider this carefully.”
What does “a level of £7,000” mean? It hints at a cap of £7,000 – much too low for the likes of the Russell Group, but it doesn’t commit to it. So it’s all up for grabs. We will all now have to wait while Simon Hughes orchestrates the Lib Dems internal debate.