Shadow education secretary Tim Yeo has denied that the Conservatives are preparing to drop their opposition to top-up fees, despite splits in the party over the issue.
Mr Yeo told The THES that there would be “no change in our policy” of opposing fees throughout the passage of the higher education bill, even though he acknowledged that there was a “divergence of views” over fees in the Tory ranks.
But he admitted for the first time that the government was likely to secure a small majority in the bill’s second reading next month, and suggested that the Conservatives would focus on opposing plans for an access regulator, rather than concentrating chiefly on fees.
His comments came amid speculation that Tory leaders were contemplating a U-turn on fees, after he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One that he was “completely openminded” about how a future Tory government should support universities.
But Mr Yeo told The THES : “We will continue to fight the policy right through the passage of the bill.”
Mr Yeo said the Tories would need to tailor their strategy in opposing the bill according to any last-minute changes in the legislation, which is due to be published next week.
“Although it will probably get through the second reading, I think there will be a significant rebellion against the government, and its majority will be cut to a very small margin,” he said.