New universities minister backs tuition fee review

Camilla Turner
The new universities minister Sam Gyimah

The new universities minister has said that a review of tuition fees will be a “positive move” for the Government. 

Sam Gyimah signalled his willingness to revive Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for wide reaching reforms of funding for higher education. 

Speaking on Thursday evening at Queen Mary University London, he said: “It is right to look carefully at how the current system is working and to make sure that it works best for students.”

He declined to elaborate on details of the review, such as the terms of reference, but added: “I think that [the review] is a positive move for us.”

He said he was shocked to learn that students in London were being asked to pay a year’s rent in advance, and to pay for printing out their essays. 

“I mean it’s a small cost but it just shows there are lots of things around student funding - fees, living costs - I think it is good for us to look at them,” he said. 

“The point I was trying to illustrate is the case for reviewing - when you talk to students directly here are a lot of issues in play, not just fees”.

The former universities minister Jo Johnson is thought to be opposed plans for a review

Mr Gyimah, a former prisons minister, 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.

“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.”

Earlier this month Nick Timothy said that Justine Greening,  the former education secretary, opposed plans for a review to cut tuition fees during her time on Whitehall, forcing the rethink into the long grass. 

Alongside the former universities minister Jo Johnson, Ms Greening refused to back a wide-ranging review which could have allowed institutions to charge different fees in a bid to increase competition, according to Mr Timothy. 

The Prime Minister announced a watered-down rethink on the eve of the party's annual conference last year but after fierce opposition from her two ministers the plans were later dropped. 

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