UK Politics

Hughes says Lib Dems still want to scrap tuition fees

Simon Hughes
Image caption Simon Hughes said universities had "failed miserably" to attract more state school pupils

Deputy Liberal Democrat leader Simon Hughes has said his party remains committed to axing tuition fees.

Mr Hughes, the government's Advocate for Access to Education, told the BBC he hoped fees would be ended in England "but not this side of an election".

The Lib Dems pledged to phase out fees before last year's election and its MPs were split when the coalition opted to raise them to £9,000 earlier this year.

More than 20 Lib Dem MPs voted against the plan while Mr Hughes abstained.

The 28 Lib Dem MPs, including leader Nick Clegg, who supported the plan were heavily criticised by opponents of fees because all Lib Dem MPs signed a pre-election pledge not to raise fees during this Parliament.

'Not happy'

Mr Hughes said told Daily Politics: "I've never been happy with the policy. Our policy as a party is to get rid of tuition fees. I hope it will still be delivered - but not this side of an election."

He also reiterated that universities may not be allowed to charge up to £9,000 - the maximum allowed under the new rules.

He insisted the Office of Fair Access did have the power to stop universities if they do not prove they have taken steps to widen access to students from less wealthy backgrounds.

"If they don't come to an agreement with the office under the new rules, the office has said they can't go above £6,000", he said.

A number of top universities, including Oxford, Durham and Imperial College, have confirmed they want to charge £9,000 from 2012 while others have suggested they will follow suit.

He urged some of the universities concerned to "think twice" about charging £9,000 as it was "completely unjustified" and many degrees did not cost that much to offer.

Ministers have indicated that universities allowed to charge the maximum fee will have to allocate £900 of that income on access for poorer students.

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