The access regulator will be unable to monitor the fairness of university admissions without more information on students' circumstances, a conference held today at the London School of Economics will hear.
Steve Machin, professor of economics at University College London and director of the LSE's Centre for the Economics of Education, told The THES :
"What seems absolutely vital is that the government systematically collect much more accurate statistical information than it does on the family income and other characteristics of students and prospective students.
Without that, it is not clear how the regulator will be able to function to anywhere near the level presumed in the white paper."
Higher education minister Margaret Hodge told the education select committee that the regulator would probably fall under the Higher Education Funding Council for England. An appointment could not be made until 2004, too late to influence the first top-up fees in 2006.
She said: "I think the difference [between the current and proposed monitoring] is that currently Hefce publish benchmarks and measure performance against those. What I think the access regulator [will do] is that it will link the agreement to widen participation to permission to levy variable fees. I think it is a much more powerful regulator."