Lib-Dem fails to draw Blackstone on top-up fees policy

July 28, 2000

Higher education minister Baroness Blackstone this week failed to rule out the introduction of top-up fees during the next parliament.

During a session of the Commons' select committee on education, Liberal Democrat higher education spokesman Evan Harris pointed out that the Labour Party had said it had no plans to introduce tuition fees prior to the 1997 general election. It promptly introduced them once the election was over. He asked Baroness Blackstone whether the party would rule out the possibility of allowing top-up fees after the next election.

Baroness Blackstone did not answer directly but reiterated current policy. She said: "The government has made its position on top-up fees clear... Top-up fees are not part of its plans."

Earlier she said: "Top-up fees are totally different from regulated tuition fees. They would introduce a free-for-all that would be difficult to operate."

Baroness Blackstone said that schools and further education colleges would get some of the extra Pounds 20 million for widening access to higher education announced last week as part of the extra Pounds 100 million to be allocated to higher education in 2001-02.

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