Ousted Tory minister wants universities to relieve Treasury and buy own students' debt in return for unbridled tuition fees
LECTURERS slammed the “shambolic” higher education funding system yesterday after axed minister David Willetts came clean over plans to let universities raise fees — if they collect their own students’ debt.
The Tory admitted the idea was under consideration at the Department for Business and Skills (BIS) during Monday’s episode of Newsnight.
He said ministers and officials may allow institutions to charge more than £9,000 a year if they play debt collector.
Ministers are panicking after Sutton Trust figures showed a third of graduates may never earn enough to pay back their debt, with £30,000 being owed to the Treasury on average.
Lecturers’ union UCU said the government plan would see students punished for the collapse of the Con-Dem’s “unsustainable” fees system.
General secretary Sally Hunt told ministers to “consider better options” than simply penalising students.
“The new system of £9,000 fees is unsustainable, costly for students and bad value for the taxpayer and all parties need to look seriously at student funding,” she said.
The Star revealed in March how ministers could allow elite universities to charge up to £16,000 because the burden of extra fees would not be shouldered by the Treasury.
Now Mr Willetts says lower-ranked institutions will be allowed to charge more, claiming it will incentivise them to help graduates secure jobs.
“I’m more interested in some of the universities that have relatively low graduate repayment rates that would focus on how they would improve that,” he said.