David Willetts prepares to hike university tuition fees

UNIVERSITIES minister David Willetts yesterday indicated the coalition government was preparing to hike tuition fees, describing students as a “burden on the taxpayer” that needed to “be tackled”.

He also hinted that interest rates on low-cost student loans – which cost the tax payer some £1.2bn a year – could also be increased.

“If fees were to go up, the government would have to lend people the money to pay for them and that would push up public spending,” he told an audience at Oxford Brookes University.

Willetts said the current arrangements for funding student places were “clearly unable to respond to the economic climate”.

And he suggested that lecturers’ final salary pension schemes could be scrapped. “It’s very hard asking students to pay higher fees in order to prop up final salary pension schemes for universities when their own parents have lost theirs,” he said.

But Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes said “it would be wrong to put more financial burden on students by way of tuition fees”. The Liberals are expected to abstain on any Commons votes that usher in higher fees.