Labour’s last-minute attempt to derail the proposals failed after peers voted down two “fatal” amendments tabled by the party.
It means universities look set to be able to charge much higher fees from 2012-13, although they will be required to sign agreements on widening access for poor students if they charge more than £6,000 a year.
Speakers in last night’s debate included Lord Browne of Madingley, whose controversial report paved the way for the government’s plans. He said he “strongly supported” the measures despite differences from those proposed by his review.
Among those voicing concerns was Liberal Democrat education specialist Baroness Sharp of Guildford, who said she had “substantial reservations” about the proposals.
These included the fact that by switching to loans, the government was moving taxpayers’ investment in higher education “off the books” to tackle the deficit.
“That is very convenient, but it will come back on to the national debt at a later point”, she said.
Peers voted by a majority of 68 against Labour’s amendment to stop the basic level of university fees rising to £6,000 and by a majority of 73 to block its move against raising the higher cap on fees to £9,000.
There was little in the way of protest outside the Lords, unlike last week when thousands of students protested outside Parliament as MPs voted through the plans by a majority of 21.