Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

£9K Doesn't Cut It: Fees May Need to Go Up, Says Tory MP

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

£9K Doesn't Cut It: Fees May Need to Go Up, Says Tory MP

Article excerpt

Revised system is close to exceeding cost of its predecessor, member of policy board tells event at party conference. John Morgan writes

Tuition fees "may have to rise" above £9,000 in the future, according to a Conservative MP and member of the No 10 policy advisory board.

Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Margot James also admitted that the coalition government's funding changes were "dangerously close" to the point at which they became more expensive than the old system, and that asking graduates to repay their loans faster could be an option.

Ms James - a 2013 appointee to the policy board that feeds ideas into the No 10 Policy Unit - also said she "regretted" the government's scrapping of the post-study work visa for overseas students.

Meanwhile, David Willetts, the former universities and science minister, told another fringe meeting that there had been "low-level warfare" between the Home Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the issue of overseas students.

Ms James, who is a governor of the London School of Economics, referred to a 2010 remark by Mr Willetts that the charging of £9,000 fees would be exceptional when she spoke at an event hosted by the Policy Exchange thinktank.

"I did slightly cringe when I heard David Willetts say that this wouldn't be automatic, that a lot of universities might choose less," she told the meeting. "The reason being because the actual cost of providing higher education at this level exceeds £9,000 for most courses in most universities.

"And if we want to achieve that goal of maintaining the standard and the ranking of our universities, we're going to have to possibly accept that fees in the future may even have to rise."

Ms James referred to the £16,000 figure - the University of Oxford's estimate of the real cost of educating its undergraduates - when asked by Times Higher Education after the meeting if fees may have to rise.

"There's no chance of seeing a reduction in fees, put it that way," she said. "There are other ways that you could improve the situation. We talked a little bit [in the meeting] about repayment rates, we talked about the threshold at which students repay their loan. There are changes that could be made there. …

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