The Liberal Democrat, under fire for rowing back on his party’s pre-election pledge to oppose tuition fees, said the “student premium” would commit £150 million a year to “tear down the barriers that prevent poorer young adults from entering university”.
He did not outline details of the scheme, but the overall package – which provides support for children from the age of two – is aimed at the poorest 20 per cent of families.
The announcement will be seen as an attempt to defuse the row over Lord Browne of Madingley’s independent review of higher education funding and student finance, which calls for the cap on tuition fees to be scrapped.
The government supports the “main thrust” of Lord Browne’s proposals, although Vince Cable, the Lib Dem business secretary, said it was considering a “level” of fees at £7,000. It was not clear if that constitutes a firm cap.
Mr Clegg, speaking today at a school in Chesterfield, said: “We must make sure that bright but poor children grow up believing that a university education is not out of reach. So we are looking now at what can be done to remove the obstacles to aspiration that hold back bright boys and girls from deprived backgrounds.”
He said the government would talk to universities and students about how best to use the investment, which would reach £150 million a year by 2014-15, the last year covered by the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.
“Our goal is clear: to tear down the barriers that prevent poorer young adults from entering university,” he added.
The fairness premium will form part of the CSR, to be announced on 20 October, which is expected to outline cuts of up to 80 per cent in the university teaching grant.