Sir Ron Dearing - later Lord Dearing, who died in 2009 - produces a landmark report into the future of higher education which concludes that students will have to pay towards the cost of university.
"We therefore recommend that students enter into an obligation to make contributions to the cost of their education once they are in work."
The Labour government, elected in May 1997, accepts the recommendation that there should be a tuition fee of £1,000, with the promise that it would provide financial support to "ensure free higher education for the least well off".
Students hold demonstrations in 14 cities, protesting that fees will deter young people from low-income families from going to university.
The plans to introduce tuition fees are described as sparking the biggest backbench rebellion facing Labour's first-term government.
"In my own constituency I've had people stopping me in the street, and phone call after phone call from people shocked that a Labour government should be doing this," says a rebel Labour MP.
The Teaching and Higher Education Act is passed into law - setting an annual tuition fee for England of £1,000, with the expectation that means testing would mean a third of students would not pay anything.
Students beginning university in the autumn term are the first to face tuition fees, which have to be paid "up front".
A group of Oxford University students refuses to pay fees and threatens "legitimate civil disobedience". There are protests at 150 universities.
Stop the Fees campaigners demonstrate against the tuition fees, which are dubbed a "student poll tax". There are occupations at Oxford and Sussex and at Goldsmiths and University College London.
Students at Oxford University are threatened with suspension for non-payment of fees.
Protesting students from Goldsmiths College, London occupy the Department for Education and Employment.
University vice-chancellors launch review process to consider options for fees and funding.
David Blunkett says there will be no top-up fees.
"I've made my position clear over the past two years that I am against top-up fees. But I can now make the government's position clear. There will be no levying of top-up fees in the next parliament if we win the next election."
More than 80 Labour backbenchers support calls to scrap tuition fees.
"There is no such thing as a free lunch," the higher education minister tells students, as speculation grows about plans to increase fees.
Education Secretary Charles Clarke, a former NUS president, announces plans for variable top-up fees, repayable after graduation, replacing the up-front tuition fee for students in England.
He unveils the Office for Fair Access (Offa), intended to widen access to university, and attacks the "Brideshead" image of Oxford and Cambridge.
A demonstration against fees is staged by 30,000 students in Trafalgar Square in London.
The upper limit that students will have to pay per year is set at £3,000, to be re-paid once graduates earn above £15,000, with a means-tested package of support.
Tony Blair faces his biggest backbench rebellion as prime minister in a vote on top-up fees, with 72 Labour MPs voting against. He scraped home by five votes.
The decision to implement the £3,000 fees is welcomed by university leaders and angers student unions.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats say they would scrap tuition fees.
Almost all universities set fees at the maximum level of £3,000 per year, about eight out of 10 offer bursaries to students from low-income families.
Labour defends the "necessity" of tuition fees in the general election campaign.
Universities warn that the fees system is too confusing for students.
Students starting university in the autumn become the first to be charged the higher £3,000 fees.
Conservative leader, David Cameron, says tuition fees are unavoidable. "The money's got to come from somewhere."
One in five students is now living at home, says a survey, which it attributes to the increased cost of university.
An increase of only one percentage point in students from poorer areas going to university since fees introduced.
Universities say they still need £1.3bn in extra funding.
Applications to university increase, despite introduction of £3,000 fee.
National Union of Students drops its opposition to tuition fees.
House of Commons spending watchdog says little to show for £392m spent on attracting poorer students into university.