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HE reaction Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 12:58 GMT
University costings queried
university lecture
Liberal Democrats question funding assumptions
The government is being challenged to produce the costings underpinning its recently-unveiled strategy for higher education in England.

The Higher Education Minister, Margaret Hodge, was tackled on the issue when she gave evidence to the Commons education select committee on Monday.

She admitted that her department had no fixed idea of the gap between the extra government spending on universities and the amount they might raise by introducing higher tuition fees from 2006.

Liberal Democrat member of the committee Paul Holmes has now tabled a series of Parliamentary questions seeking more information.

"You say you cannot be precise about the level of the funding gap facing our universities and you refuse to provide the committee with the costings you have used in drawing up your 105-page blueprint for the future," he told Mrs Hodge.

"How on earth can you justify introducing a two-tier system of universities based on ability to pay rather than ability, without producing the costings?"

Deterrent

In his questions to the education secretary, Mr Holmes wants to know the estimated funding gap the education department used in drawing up its policy proposals.

He also wants to know the estimated deterrent effect to students of imposing top-up fees - highlighted in a report last week by Universities UK.

And he asks what estimates were made if various forms of graduate tax were to be adopted rather than tuition fees.

The Lib Dems are committed to scrapping tuition fees.

Mrs Hodge also told the committee that universities would all be able to bring in higher fees at first if they wished in spite of the government's intention of having an "access regulator".

The regulator is to make higher fees conditional on universities' plans to widen access.

The minister said the timescale meant no such judgements could be made before the first decisions on fees were made.

See also:

04 Feb 03 | Education
27 Jan 03 | HE reaction
23 Jan 03 | Education
29 Jan 03 | HE reaction
22 Jan 03 | HE reaction
22 Jan 03 | HE reaction
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