MPs to look at top-up fees

April 28, 2000

MPs look likely to add top-up fees to their inquiry into higher education.

Members of the influential Commons education sub-committee indicated this week that differential undergraduate tuition fees would form a significant part of the inquiry. The first inquiry evidence sessions will begin soon, and the report is due in the autumn.

In the meantime, the all-party committee will publish a report, due in June, based on its miniinquiry into the Cubie report. Cubie undermined government policy by recommending the abolition of up-front tuition fees at Scottish universities and the reintroduction of student bursaries.

The committee's post-Cubie report, which will contain transcripts of its three evidence sessions, will also include a commentary by the committee. The commentary is likely to focus on the post-Cubie implications for student finance in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Committee chairman Barry Sheerman (Labour Huddersfield) said: "We may well include differential fees in the main inquiry. I think this is because our short post-Cubie inquiry raised issues of student funding and support in members' minds.

"It would have been absolutely negligent if we had not taken Cubie seriously.

We will try to use the freshness of Cubie and apply that to the UK. Personally, I think Cubie had a lot to say to us, and we will hopefully tease this out in the report."

If, as expected, differential fees do form part of the full higher education inquiry, then the eventual report could have a significant impact on parallel top-up fee inquiries by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and the Russell Group of leading research universities. It could also prove a major influence on a wider debate on fees and university funding in the next parliament.

The sub-committee's main higher education report will look at learning and teaching quality, including the Quality Assurance Agency. It will also look at the effects of increased student numbers on quality and the balance between teaching and research in universities.

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