Page last updated at 19:47 GMT, Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Labour urges peers to reject university 'privatisation'

Labour has argued that raising the tuition fees cap for universities in England to as much as £9,000 amounts to "privatisation", calling on the House of Lords to throw out the plans.

During a debate on the government's policy on 14 December 2010, Labour spokesman Lord Triesman said: "This afternoon's decision will switch the concept of universities from being a public good, as they have always been through modern history, to essentially a private sector, market-driven by personal private investment."

He added: "Stripped back to the realities, this is a 200% starting fee hike and, for most, it will be a 300% increase.

"It will result in all probability across the board in about a 300% increase in student debt."

Amendments to the proposal in the Lords would overturn last week's vote by MPs, forcing the government to reintroduce the measure in the Commons if it decided to go ahead with the policy.

Last Thursday, MPs voted 323 votes to 302, a majority of 21, in favour of the plan, despite vocal opposition from some Liberal Democrats and a handful of Conservatives.

Opening the Lords debate in a packed chamber, government spokesman Lord Henley said the government had produced a "progressive package", telling peers: "The regulations and resolution we are proposing today enable those universities and colleges that can attract students to get the funding that they need to offer high-quality teaching.

"Universities will decide what charges they make for which of their courses. They will need to estimate the value students place on what they are offering and adjust their charges accordingly.

"We believe that having to consider what potential students want and need will benefit universities as well as students."

If approved by the Lords, the plans will allow English universities to charge £6,000 a year and up to £9,000 in "exceptional circumstances" from 2012.

The current fee cap is £3,290 for the academic year 2010/11.

Watch part two of the debate here.

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