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Higher Education

Volume 506: debated on Thursday 4 March 2010

11. What steps he is taking to widen participation in higher education; and if he will make a statement. (320204)

We reaffirmed our commitment to wider and fairer access to higher education in “Higher Ambitions”, published last November. The number of students going to university from lower socio-economic groups is rising, and almost 10,000 more young people entered higher education in 2007-08 than five years earlier.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but with graduates facing debts of more than £20,000 and with the debate about whether to raise the cap on tuition fees to £7,000, I was pleased to sign the Leeds university union pledge against any such rises. Is it not time that the Government were clear about their policy going into the election, and will he now be clear whether he will oppose increasing the fee cap to £7,000—yes or no?

That is a little rich coming from the Liberal Democrats, given that they have had five positions on tuition fees since Christmas last year. Recently, there was a policy change indicating that they would not phase out tuition fees in the next Parliament. The Government have been clear that we will not pre-empt an independent review. We have asked Lord Browne to look at access, and the position of students, parents and employers. I will take no lessons on tuition fees from the flip-flop Lib Dems.