Early vote on fees an attempt to 'railroad' policy through

The government must make clear its wider plans for universities before asking Parliament to vote for a higher tuition fee cap, the shadow business secretary has said.

November 18, 2010

In a letter to Vince Cable, business secretary, John Denham says that the coalition government’s intention to publish a White Paper on higher education after the vote on fees is a “clear attempt to railroad policy” through without “proper public scrutiny”.

Mr Denham adds that the impact of higher fees would depend “crucially” on uncertainties that had yet to be resolved.

These include unanswered questions on the form of proposed access agreements, the control of student numbers, the regulation of private providers and the cost and fairness of the new loans system.

“It would be wrong to ask Parliament to vote to raise the fee cap until all the details of government policy have been determined and Parliament can vote on the whole package of measures,” he writes.

He adds that the government has yet to explain in what “exceptional circumstances” universities could charge the upper fee limit of £9,000 and says it is “not acceptable” to raise the cap without a full explanation of how participation would be widened.

Mr Denham also points to “clear flaws” in the assumptions underpinning the data model that the government published to accompany its proposals, and raises concerns about the detail of the plans for loan repayment.

“The fairness or otherwise of the system [cannot] be fully assessed until full details of the loan repayment arrangements, including redemption and other penalties, have been published,” he writes.

His letter also says that the fee cap should not be raised without specific details about which subjects would continue to receive teaching funding after grants are cut by an estimated 80 per cent.

simon.baker@tsleducation.com

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