DIUS – TOP UNIVERSITIES & DIFFERENTIAL FEES – 5 July 2007

Dr Julian Lewis: I am a near neighbour of the Right Hon. Gentleman and have worked with him on local campaigns of common concern, so it is a great pleasure to congratulate him on reaching the Cabinet. Well done.

I went to the same state school as my father, the difference being that, whereas he had to leave at the age of 14 in the 1920s, I was able, on a full grant, to go to Oxford University. Am I right in thinking that some of the top universities are allowed to charge differential fees these days? If that is right, does not some attention still need to be paid to ensure that, even if people going to universities are better off in terms of grant, people from poorer backgrounds should not be inhibited from going to the top universities? In my day, if someone got the grant, they could go to any university, no matter how good, that would take them.

[The Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Mr John Denham): The universities all work within the same regime laid down by Parliament, which enables them to ask for variable fees, but there is a cap on that, which has been set by Parliament. That will be subject to review, which is open and not determined, in 2009. The truth is that the majority of universities charge the full permissible fee, but not all do.]