University Students Could Have to Pay Up to Pounds 9,500 a Year; CABLE TO TREBLE CAP ON ENGLISH TUITION FEES?

Article excerpt

Byline: GARETH EVANS

STUDENTS could be forced to pay up to pounds 9,500 a year for their university education under new plans being considered by the coalition Government.

Business Secretary Vince Cable is this week expected to announce a trebling of the current cap on tuition fees in England.

Fees in Wales are devolved to the Assembly Government, but experts fear Welsh institutions will be forced to mirror those across the border.

Bethan Thomas of the union UCU Cymru said a price hike would not be in the interests of Welsh students or the Welsh higher education sector.

"If the reports are true, then this is a deal done in the interests of the UK coalition Government," she said. "Fees of pounds 9,500 a year will leave students facing massive debts and they will certainly deter many students from even applying for university in the first place.

"If this proposal is eventually put forward by the UK coalition Government, then we call on every Welsh MP from every party to vigorously oppose it."

Last month's Browne Review called for the current pounds 3,290 cap on fees in England to be lifted, and raised the prospect that universities could charge as much as pounds 12,000 a year for some courses.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has since spoken of the need for "restraint" and ruled out unlimited fees, but will attract criticism for doubling back on a key election promise.

Gradually scrapping fees in England and Wales was a key pledge in the Lib Dems' manifesto and is one of the biggest fault lines between the party and their coalition partners.

Welsh Liberal Democrats Mark and Roger Williams have vowed to honour the policy and oppose a rise, but Cardiff Central MP Jenny Willott last night came under increasing pressure to resign over the issue.

Ms Willott, who is Parliamentary Private Secretary to Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, represents thousands of students resident in her capital constituency.

NUS Wales president Katie Dalton said Ms Willott should vote against the proposals or stand down from her role.

"She was elected by students and needs to reaffirm her position," said Ms Dalton.

"We understand that Ms Willott is awaiting the Government's official response to Browne, but NUS Wales and the students of Cardiff will be holding her to manifesto commitments."

Politicians in Westminster will introduce a two-tier cap and impose strict requirements to widen access if institutions charge more than the anticipated pounds 6,000 lower limit.

Under current legislation, Government pays the money up front and students pay back once their income reaches pounds 15,000 after graduating. …