Greening blocked English tuition fee cuts, says PM's ex-adviser

Former Downing Street policy guru Nick Timothy says former education secretary resisted university funding review and potential tuition fee cuts

January 11, 2018
Justine Greening, education secretary
Source: Alamy

Former education secretary Justine Greening blocked plans to reduce university tuition fees, Theresa May’s former chief of staff has claimed.

In a Daily Telegraph column on 11 January, Nick Timothy says Ms Greening, who quit the cabinet this week after he declining to become welfare and pensions secretary, had “blocked proposals to reduce tuition fees and refused to hold a proper review of tertiary education”.

Mr Timothy, who quit his role at Downing Street after the general election, says the new education secretary, Damian Hinds, “must be brave enough to do that, to ensure universities are better, fees are lower, and young people get the technical or academic education that suits them”.

“He is already touted as a potential future prime minister: if he gets this right, he will be a convincing candidate for the job,” says Mr Timothy.

While Jo Johnson, who was moved from universities minister to transport on 9 January, is not mentioned in the article, he is also thought to have opposed any moves to cut university tuition fees in England from £9,250 a year, having initially sought to link fee uplifts to the results of the teaching excellence framework.

Mr Timothy also claims that Ms Greening was “unpopular with officials…frustrated reformers, and…exasperated the Prime Minister”.

“Charged with making Britain 'the world’s great meritocracy', she put the brakes on policies that work, like free schools, and devised bureaucratic initiatives of little value,” he said.

In a tweet responding to the article, Mr Johnson comments: “So wrong, this stuff re Justine Greening.”

“She supported me in every single reform we undertook of our universities, was a terrific colleague and faultlessly loyal,” adds Mr Johnson.

The piece by Mr Timothy will raise expectations that the “major review of university funding and student finance” promised by Theresa May in October will consider significant changes to England's student finance system, having apparently stalled following internal opposition from Ms Greening and Mr Johnson.

The review follows the decision by Theresa May in October to raise the income threshold that triggers student loan repayments from £21,000 to £25,000, which will save students about £8,000 on average and cost around £2.9 billion per student cohort.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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