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18 February 2011, 09:45
Havant MP and Universities Minister, David Willetts, has warned the Government will face problems if most universities try to charge maximum £9,000 tuition fees.
He says if fee levels were generally set at more than £7,500, the Government will be forced to find savings from elsewhere in the education sector.
Mr Willetts said £9,000 fees could be justified in some circumstances, but he suggested that if this level becomes the norm it could cause problems as it is the Government which is lending the money to students upfront.
He said: “I want to be frank with you: we will all face a problem if the sector tries to charge at the maximum possible level.
“We set the maximum level at £9,000 because we think there are some circumstances where fees of this level could be justified.
“This problem arises partly because the taxpayer is lending the money upfront, on preferential terms, and we expect that one-third of the loans will never be recovered. If graduate contributions end up higher than £7,500, we would reluctantly be forced to find savings from elsewhere in higher education.''
MPs voted to raise tuition fees to £6,000 from 2012 at the end of last year, with universities able to charge up to £9,000 in “exceptional circumstances”.
Institutions planning to charge more than £6,000 will have to set out how it plans to ensure poorer students are not priced out.
Under the new system, the Government will loan students the money to pay their fees, and they will pay it back after graduation, once they are earning over £21,000.
Mr Willetts said “In the 1980s, funding was driven to the lowest possible levels without considering how much you needed to teach students properly,'' Mr Willetts said.
“Now, some universities are rushing to £9,000 without thinking about the impact on students.''
The minister also said the Government will not be introducing quotas for poor students for institutions to meet. He also called on universities to clearly set out students' rights and responsibilities through student charters.
“Improving student information is a key priority for the Government,'' he said.
“Students have a right to know how they will learn, how they will be supported and what they need to do themselves to reach their potential.''