Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mandelson Hints at Hike in Tuition Fees; but Poor Must Not Be Priced out, He Warns

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mandelson Hints at Hike in Tuition Fees; but Poor Must Not Be Priced out, He Warns

Article excerpt

Byline: Alison Kershaw

LORD Mandelson yesterday warned that Britain needs to "face up" to paying for excellence at its universities. But if universities want to charge students more, they will be expected to ensure the poorest applicants are not priced out of higher education, he said.

It is likely to be seen as the strongest hint yet that the Government is looking at raising the cap on tuition fees.

In a speech to university vice-chancellors at Birkbeck University in central London, Lord Mandelson said: "I do not believe that we can separate the issues of fees, access and student support.

"Any institution that wants to use greater cost to the student to fund excellence must face an equal expectation to ensure that its services remain accessible to more than just those with the ability to pay."

He said it was time for the debate on higher education funding to reach some "hard and fast" conclusions.

He said: "Whatever funding mix for higher education we develop, there must always be a link between what an institution charges and its performance in widening access and supporting those without the ability to pay." He added: "We have to face up to the challenge of paying for excellence."

Lord Mandelson said he did not want to pre-empt the outcome of a tuition fee review, due to begin later this year. It is expected to take around a year, so will not finish before the next general election.

In a wide ranging speech, Lord Mandelson set out the major issues facing the sector, including the economy, social mobility and funding.

On the issue of funding he said: "Bluntly put, excellence is not cheap."

The Government has to ensure the country's universities remain world class while addressing the pressure on public resources, he said.

But the University and College Union was concerned Lord Mandelson appeared to give a green light to higher fees. …

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