Lord Browne, who formerly held the position of chief executive at oil giant BP, said that universities should be allowed to choose how much they charge. He went on to say that those universities who charged the highest fees will have to widen their access to students from poorer families with measures such as scholarships for living expenses.
The report also stated that universities that did charge over £6,000 a year would have to pay an increasing percentage levy for every £1,000 more they charged. This means that a university who charged £6,000 a year would be able to keep 100 percent of their tuition fees.
If the university chose to charge £7,000 a year though, they would only be able to keep 94 percent and a university who charged £10,000 a year would only keep 81 percent.
Cameron Tait, the President of the University of Sussex Students’ Union, said: “Lord Browne’s review is as disappointing as it is regressive. The Union vehemently opposes the report and the lifting of the cap, which is simply a thin veil for the expected swingeing government cuts to Higher Education.”
Lord Browne defended his decisions by claiming that “there is a lot of evidence that students don’t just look at debt, but at the prize at the end as well, which is significant earning potential. If you look at the 40 percent of students who study part-time, we don’t offer them anything, but they still come and study part-time.”
In what may be considered slightly better news to some students, the report also suggested that graduates should be asked to start repaying their loans after they start earning £21,000 instead of £15,000, which is currently the case.
NUS have been ardent in their opposition of any rise in tuition fees.
On Tuesday, Aaron Porter, President of the National Union of Students (NUS), said: “There is no clear assurance that a hike in fees would improve student choice or quality and the evidence since fees tripled four years ago shows that neither student satisfaction nor quality has improved.”
This report could mean debts upwards of £30,000 for graduates. One third-year student said, “I’m disgusted. If the fees had been that high when I applied I may still have chosen to go to university but there’s absolutely no way I could have left home to do it.”
Shortly after the report was released, Vince Cable delivered his statement in the commons. He confirmed that the government would follow the direction laid out in the report but would only raise the cap to £7,000 for the meantime.
His statement has caused a lot of controversy amongst Liberal Democrats, who made a pledge before the election not to remove the cap. A number of Cable’s party have now declared their intentions to vote against the Government’s package. The Students’ Union has said it will lobby local Liberal Democrat MPs for their support.
The Labour party has so far been reluctant to take a hyper-critical line considering their new Shadow Chancellor was the minister responsible for introducing tuition fees in the first place. This coupled with the government’s majority should see the plans pass though the commons with ease.
This has not stopped some politicians show their support for students though. Brighton Pavilion MP and Britain’s only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, said “The Browne review is simply a bid to shift the cost of education away from the state and onto the student. It will mean our public degrees will be among the most costly in the world. Many people will be priced out of going to university. A free market in tuition fees can only increase inequality.”
Students opposed to the new plans have been invited to take part in a national demonstration organised by the NUS and the University and College Union (UCU) in London on the 10 November.