The move to increase university tuition fees in England to £9,250 has been launched – without any announcement from the Department for Education (DfE), the BBC reports.
The change to the fees, affecting more than 500,000 students beginning in the autumn, was put onto a government website last week.
Opposition parties have called it “shabby” and “avoiding scrutiny”.
The Department for Education has rejected the suggestion that it intended to deflect attention from the increase.
Tuition fees in England have been fixed at £9,000 since 2012 – but the government wants to allow fees to increase each year with inflation, with an initial increase to £9,250 from the autumn.
MPs wanting to scrutinise the plans had been waiting for the government to publish its bid to increase fees.
Increase ‘snuck in’ say MPs
But it has emerged that the regulations to enable the higher fees were published last Thursday without any announcement from the DfE.
Instead the regulations were placed on a government website managed by the National Archives, http://www.legislation.gov.uk, alongside, this year’s school league tables.
Labour’s Gordon Marsden accused the government of trying to “sneak out” the changes – saying that this is the “increase that doesn’t like to speak its name”. He said:
“They are hell-bent on keeping this increase as low-profile as possible as it’s piling up debts on students.”
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said:
“This is a shabby little way to announce something, hiding it away in a far-flung corner of a government website. This shows the government at their worst, avoiding scrutiny and debate.”
The Department for Education says the intention to increase the fees had been set out in the summer and higher fees will be linked to the quality of teaching.
“Importantly, universities will not be able to increase their fees unless they have passed rigorous quality standards. We are determined to make sure that everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education has the opportunity to do so.”
For the first round of increases, almost all universities will be able to charge the higher fee.
It can also apply to existing students, if universities want to apply it to them as well as new students beginning courses in the autumn.