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Universities minister considers cutting tuition fees

Tuition fees could be cut after the new universities minister signalled a review of student finance earlier this month.

On Thursday 19 January, Sam Gyimah said officials would investigate whether the higher annual charge of £9,250 “works across the system”.

His predecessor, Jo Johnson, and former Education Secretary Justine Greening are alleged to have blocked previous attempts at a reform.

Speaking at Queen Mary University of London, Mr Gyimah said: “If you look back at the 2012 reforms when this current fee regime was introduced, I think it is right that we go back and see how it works across the system.”

Mr Gyimah refused to give a timetable for the review or reveal its terms of reference but called it “a positive move”.

The universities minister added that an examination of the fee system and student loans would form part of a wider inquiry into tertiary education – which includes universities and colleges.

However, Mr Gyimah, a former prisons minister, also told an audience of around 200 students: “This regime has been in place since 2012. There are things that are working well and we shouldn’t forget what is working well”.

Gyimah also explained that while he would consider cutting university fees, he would not implement Labour’s plan to remove tuition fees completely, which would subsequently fuel a rise in taxes to fill the void.

He said: “Whatever comrade Corbyn says I don’t think we will go back to an era where students do not contribute in any way to their fees.”

But Mr. Gyimah added: “It is right to look at how the current system is working and make sure that it works best for students.”

Lord Adonis has since warned that any changes to the current fee and loan system, which he introduced, would make it a “matter of time” before ministers would have to reintroduce a cap on student numbers.

Sam Gyimah’s comments follow those of Prime Minister Theresa May, who announced plans for a “major review” of university tuition fees at the end of last year.

No timescale has yet been released.

The news follows claims that former education secretary Justine Greening blocked a previous bid to reduce tuition fees, made by Nick Timothy.

30/01/2018

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