Lord Browne returns to public life to chair student fees review

Author: By Richard Garner, Education Editor

He accepted the high profile job of chairman of the government inquiry into
university tuition fees.

Lord Browne?s appointment was widely welcomed today although there was flak
for ministers who were accused of a ?conspiracy? to put higher fees on the
back burner until after the election.

Lord Browne of Madingley was appointed by Business Secretary Peter Mandelson
two years after admitting lying in court in an attempt to block revelations
about his private life. He said at the time it was ?a matter of great
regret? that he lied over how he had first met his partner of four years,
Jeff Chevalier.

Yesterday he was appointed as head of a seven-man panel to carry out the

The team also includes former student leader Rajay Naik, now a board member of
the Big Lottery Fund.

The team were immediately put under pressure to agree an increase in fees. A
survey of vice-chancellors indicated they would ? on average ? like to see
them doubled from the present level of £3,225 a year to around £7,000.

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group ? which represents
twenty of the top rated research institutions in the UK, said: ?An increase
in tuition fees is clearly one of the most effective options but we want to
be sure about the impact of any changes to fee levels on students before
advocating one particular option.?

Students warned of the danger it would just rubber-stamp the introduction of
higher fees.

?There is a real danger this review will pave the way for higher fees and a
market in prices that would see poorer students priced out of more
prestigious universities and other students and universities consigned to
the ?bargain basement?,? said Wes Streeting, president on the National Union
of Students.

In his statement announcing the review, Lord Mandelson made it clear it would
?consider the balance of contributions from all those who benefit from the
higher education system?.

However, he made it clear that the introduction of top-up fees had brought an
extra £1.3 billion worth of funding per year to universities. ?Over this
time, the number of students attending university has continued to rise, as
has the number coming from lower-income backgrounds,? he added.

Yesterday?s review was set up after terms were agreed between Lord Mandelson
and Conservative higher education spokesman David Willetts.

However, Stephen Williams, for the Liberal Democrats, said: ?This review is
nothing but a conspiracy between Labour and the Tories designed to keep
plans to hike up tuition fees off the agenda until after the General

?Mandelson has shown he will do whatever it takes to shut out any debate on
the future of tuition fees, either in Parliament or the country.?

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