Labour is toying with the idea of fiddling with the English university tuition fees system, but doing so may have counterintuitive effects.
Early in the parliament, Labour said their preferred policy was to introduce a £6,000 upper limit on what universities in England can charge students each year – not £9,000, as it currently stands. But they haven’t committed to it – and there are a range of good reasons why they might not.
First, it would rile the universities. Labour has sought to soothe their concerns by promising university vice-chancellors it would make up the difference in their institutions’ income.
But this is probably not a good deal for the universities, who have no guarantee that this money – which could eventually increase the usual measure of public spending by around £2bn a year – would not be taken from their other state-backed budgets. Nor do they know how it would be distributed.