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LABOUR warned the Tories today that they will face a “humiliating defeat” if they try to push controversial reforms through Parliament that would allow universities to charge higher fees for “fast-track” degrees.
Universities Minister Sam Gyimah has given institutions the green light to charge higher fees for shorter, intensive courses, but the plan is subject to MPs’ approval.
Students opting for the “accelerated and intensive” degrees, which typically last two years with 45 weeks of teaching a year, pay a fifth (£5,500) less in fees compared with those taking traditional three-year courses with 30 weeks per year, the Department for Education (DfE) said.
The new fee limits are set out in the government’s response to a consultation published tomorrow.
Mr Gyimah claims that lower fees would ease the burden of student debt on both the government and the student.
Labour shadow education secretary Angela Rayner expressed scepticism, accusing him of “pre-empting” his own party’s higher education review, which was commissioned in February this year but has yet to be released.
She also warned that, if the Tories attempt to use this announcement to raise tuition fees across the board, it would be defeated in Parliament in the same way the latest attempt to increase tuition fees was blocked by MPs.
In a statement, she said: “From what we know so far, their proposals raise very serious questions about access for disadvantaged students, workload for university staff and guaranteeing educational standards.
“Instead of increasing annual tuition fees, the government should match Labour’s pledge to abolish them entirely and restore maintenance grants for disadvantaged students.
“The Commons unanimously backed our motion to reject their last fees hike and, if they try it again, they will risk another humiliating defeat.”
The plan has also been criticised by university heads, who fear that education facilities will struggle to adapt.
University of Buckingham vice-chancellor Sir Anthony Seldon told the BBC that the government should engage further with institutions, saying: “Universities offering three-year degrees will find it difficult to restructure.
“We would like the minister to engage in discussions with us in order to assistant independent providers who offer two-year degrees.”
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