David Willetts' Higher Education Bill Dropped, Claims Telegraph
Speculation the controversial Higher Education Bill proposing private universities has been dropped is mounting after the government refused to deny the claims.
The bill, which would radically reform the UK's education system, was due to be formally announced in the next Queen's Speech, which is thought be at beginning of May. But The Daily Telegraph revealed on Tuesday the legislation has "now been delayed indefinitely and is unlikely to be published before 2015".
David Willetts, universities and science minister, published the plans in June. The bill is designed to make it easier for private providers to enter the sector in order to boost competition between institutions and raise standards.
But his office refused to deny the allegations, saying there had been no confirmation of the reports.
A Business Innovation and Skills spokesperson said: "There’s going to be a further discussion in the next couple of weeks. There’s no final decision either way yet.”
Willetts held about 12 meetings with for-profit education companies before revealing the bill's contents, including one firm currently being sued by the US Department of Justice over using federal education funds to pay bonuses to student recruiters.
One private university - BPP University College - claimed to boast some of the lowest tuition fees in the UK. In an interview with Huffington Post UK, CEO of BPP Carl Lygo, said the institution would be charging £5,000 a year to study, compared to some university's fees of £9,000.
Willetts has repeatedly come under fire for the bill, more notably from Cambridge students who shouted down the minister during a lecture.
The Universities and Colleges Union said the reports suggest the Liberal Democrats are particularly unhappy with the proposals.
In November, Nick Clegg announcing schools and colleges should never be run for profit.
General secretary of the UCU, Sally Hunt, welcomed the reports, saying: "Plans to allow private companies greater access to taxpayers’ money would have seen them getting rich at the expense of the UK taxpayer.
"The government should be applauded to appearing to listen to the experts in the case. We will continue to expose the dangers of allowing those whose first priority is to their shareholders a greater hold on our higher education system."