Is Ed Miliband preparing to junk his promise to cap tuition fees at £6,000?

by Stephen Tall on March 31, 2013

An interesting snippet from today’s LabourList interview with Ed Miliband. On the subject of tuition fees, here’s what the Labour leader has to say:

“We’re definitely looking at [a graduate tax]. I think there’s been some work going on at IPPR looking at the options too. We’ve said £6000 [as a cap] before, and we’re looking at all of these issues for the manifesto, and what can be done.”

That reads to me like Labour readying itself to ditch the first policy commitment that Mr Miliband made as Labour leader 18 months ago: to reduce the maximum fee cap to £6,000.

If so, that’s to be welcomed. As I highlighted at the time, reducing the cap would benefit only the wealthier graduates: you’d have to earn at least £38,400 a year to be any better off compared to the Coalition’s policy. Anyone earning less than £38,400 would have been entirely unaffected by such a move. As a top spending priority for an incoming Labour government it was always an odd idea.

Even more so, as the early evidence is that the Coalition’s fees policy is having no discernible impact on applications from the most disadvantaged. Here’s a quick reminder of what I reported two months ago: University application rates in England at highest ever for disadvantaged groups, even post-£9k tuition fees.

Update: LabourList’s Mark Ferguson also reckons Labour’s ready to ditch the fee cap reduction: