By Max Clarke
The Government has today announced several improvements to the higher education reforms announced on the 3rd November that enabled universities to charge up to £9,000 a year in fees.
While this figure has not been reduced, the government has, in the face of increasing anger from the public and from within Parliament, offered an apparent compromise:
* All eligible part time undergraduate students studying for at least 25% of their time will qualify for full loan support for their tuition costs, compared with the 33% originally proposed: they will no longer have to pay up front fees.
* The £21,000 earnings threshold will be uprated annually in line with earnings from 2016, when the first graduates under the new system start repayments, rather than every five years as originally proposed. No graduate will repay anything until they reach that income threshold.
* The £15,000 earnings threshold that applies in the current student finance system will be uprated annually in line with inflation from 2012. The £15,000 threshold has never been uprated since its announcement in 2004. This change will help existing graduates.
Whether this will be enough to regain unity within the coalition government in time for tomorrow's vote over the student fees, remains to be seen.