Students and academics have condemned plans to raise university tuition fees to as much as £9,000 per year. Students at Goldsmith’s, University of London staged a 24-hour occupation of administration offices in protest at the proposals.
The Universities Minister, David Willetts, announced proposals to raise the cap on tuition fees to a “basic threshold” of £6,000 and an “absolute limit” of £9,000 a year.
Willetts stated that universities could only charge £9,000 a year in “exceptional circumstances” and described the proposed changes as “progressive”. He said that universities would have to "take account of their particular responsibilities to widen participation" among poorer students.
Universities in the Russell Group of elite institutions have welcomed the proposals as “life-saving”. But the Million+ group, which represents the newer universities, expressed doubt that the increase in tuition fees would give a "long-term and sustainable basis" to universities.
The president of the National Union of Students, Aaron Porter said that, "The only things that students and their families could expect in return for higher fees are higher debts".
Willetts stated that under the changes a "quarter of graduates - those on the lowest incomes - will pay less overall than they do at present".
The University and College Union, who are the largest union of college and university lecturers, were also critical of the proposals. The General Secretary of UCU said that the coalition government is sending the message that “in the UK we now penalise aspiration rather than encourage it”.
It remains to be seen how many Liberal Democrat backbenchers will vote against the proposal in accordance with the party’s previous commitment to vote against tuition fee increases.