Tuesday News Review

The Browne review

A plan for higher university fees, fewer subsidies, more markets and less government has been unveiled by an independent review into the future of the English higher education system. The radical blueprint, revealed on Tuesday by a panel chaired by Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP, will cause tremors in the coalition government and problems for Labour.The review proposes removing the current cap on annual fees of £3,290. If institutions want to charge more than £6,000, however, they will be obliged to pay a levy to recompense the government for the cost of higher student loans. – The FT

David Cameron has urged Liberal Democrat MPs to “compromise” over university funding, as the Government prepared to announce a dramatic rise in university fees. John Hemming (Lib Dem Yardley) and Lorely Burt (Lib Dem Solihull) both signed a pledge before the general election promising to vote against any increase in student tuition fees. But they will face a dilemma if a Government review recommends allowing universities to charge more. Lord Browne of Madingley’s independent review of student finance is expected to recommend removing the existing tuition fee limit of £3,290 a year. – The Birmingham Post

Sky’s chief political correspondent Jon Craig said Prime Minister David Cameron would brief Labour leader Ed Miliband in the morning in an attempt to build a consensus. “The crucial vote will be in six weeks time,” Craig said. “That’s when the big showdown will come.” The National Union of Students said debts could double and students who have to borrow the most to fund their studies will be hit by higher interest payments. Speaking before the report’s publication, NUS president Aaron Porter said: “It would be an insult to the intelligence of those who voted for the Liberal Democrats to attempt to rebrand the regressive and deeply unpopular top-up fee system. Liberal Democrat MPs have long opposed tuition fees and at the general election each of them signed a pledge to vote against higher fees in Parliament.” – Sky News

David White, who resigned last week as chief executive of The Children’s Mutual, deplores this decision and accuses the Coalition of introducing the Big Debt Society. From the cradle to the campus, ambitions are being stifled. Today, Lord Browne is expected to recommend differential tuition fees for students, under which leading universities can charge at least £7,000. As Mr White says, the average graduate debt of £20,000 can be expected almost to double. Yesterday the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report How Fair Is Britain? showed a widening wealth gap, with the top 10 per cent of households worth an average £853,000 – 100 times higher than the poorest decile. Obviously, rewards cannot be equal, but nor is it fair that those on lower incomes suffer more crime, worse health and die up to seven years sooner. – The Telegraph

Shadow cabinet debates rumble on

SO, as a result of last week’s Shadow Cabinet elections, Yorkshire MPs have, for the first time, delivered a clean sweep of the four top jobs in the Labour Party. Not only is Doncaster North MP, Ed Miliband the new leader, but he has also given the posts of Shadow Chancellor, Shadow Home Secretary and Shadow Foreign Secretary to Alan Johnson, Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper respectively. That these three Yorkshire high-flyers should have been awarded the most prestigious roles comes as no surprise, but the precise portfolios they have been assigned has raised more than a few eyebrows. – The Yorkshire Post

Osborne plans to offer tax cuts at the next election and it only takes a small proportion of the electorate to be grateful for the Conservatives to win an overall majority. That is why Miliband was mistaken in his appointment of shadow Chancellor. Look back at successful oppositions and the shadow Chancellor was almost as pivotal as the leader. Up to 1979, from the moment of Thatcher’s election as leader of the opposition in 1975, Geoffrey Howe worked around the clock to prepare practical policies. His first Budget had been written before the 1979 election. After 1994, Gordon Brown did the same, making Labour credible, popular and with subtle plans to redistribute and invest. Titanic politics. Osborne is the other example of an epic shadow Chancellor, although his policy-making was more erratic than the other two. Miliband was lucky to have the choice of two economists with political guile who would have worked around the clock to get Labour in a credible and popular position by the next election, and who would then be ready to enter the Treasury with their radical plan. Ed Balls or Yvette Cooper could have done the job. – The Independent

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