John Denham, the Universities Secretary, pledges today that top- up fees will be pegged at [pound]3,000 for at least the next two years.
In his first detailed interview since taking over at the new Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, he gives an undertaking that ministers will not even look at raising fees until 2009.
This is in line with the original pledge given by the former Education Secretary Charles Clarke when the maximum top-up fee of [pound]3,000 was first mooted two years ago.
However, pressure from universities - particularly from members of the 20-strong Russell Group, which represents the leading research institutions in the UK - had led to speculation that the cap might be lifted earlier. Instead, Mr Denham, in an interview with the Fabian Review, has promised that there will be "a major debate about the size, shape and role of higher education" before any decision is made.
His comments come as figures from the National Audit Office (NAO) show that 100,000 students a year fail to continue to their second year at university.
While the percentage of dropouts in the UK is lower than the average in other countries, the NAO …