White paper reforms delayed


The coalition government has decided to delay the publication of its plans for higher education reform in order to take Universities’ projected fees into account.
The announcement has raised concerns that students applying to Oxford this November will be “left in the dark” about tuition fees and education reform.
The White Paper, outlining the government’s education reforms, was initially due to be released in March 2011. However Universities Minister David Willetts has “decided to take more time on developing it” so that the coalition can “learn from price setting this spring and test proposals more thoroughly”.
Following the lifting of the cap on tuition fees, Cambridge and Imperial have already decided to charge as much as £9,000 a year, with Oxford expected to follow suit, prompting Willetts to threaten legislating against some universities to ensure a differentiation of fees.
The average cost of tuition nationwide is expected to be around £7,500 per year and it is estimated that Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) grants would be cut by at least two billion pounds.
The decision to push back the publication date of the White Paper means that students applying to University next year may have to do so uninformed about the cost of their education. Universities will also have to set fees without prior knowledge of what the coalition’s reform will entail.
Béatrice Mercier, a first year English student, said:  “I think EU students will definitely think twice before applying to UK Universities. While it may have a limited impact on hotshots like Oxbridge, I think it would deeply affect the Sussexes of the world. It assuredly would be detrimental to UK universities’ international aura.”
Another first year student said: “Prospective students are being left in the dark, and I think this is quite irresponsible of the government. It’s bad enough that the Liberal Democrats broke their promise about the tuition fees cap, but they still have a duty of care to prospective students and future taxpayers.”
A spokesperson for the University said: “The White Paper is not directly related to the setting of fees – it’s about things like the powers of HEFCE and other bodies, principally updating the 1992 Act and looking at FE and HE in more general terms. The fees framework was settled by Parliament in December 2010.”
They added: “What is more challenging is the tight timeframe in which universities have to make decisions about tuition charges and student support in order to put forward proposals to OFFA (Office for Fair Access).”