Leaked memo shows what Tories think of their own tuition fee policy

A leaked memo has revealed that the government think that students are being ripped off by £9,000 tuition fees.

The document was photographed as an official left number ten, walking to the cabinet office, and show that Tory ministers are questioning whether £9,000 fees can ever be justified given the "quality and intensity of teaching" on undergraduate degrees at the UK's top universities.

Not hitting poor targets

The document, drawn up by the Department for Business (which includes the University Minister Jo Johnson) also states that the Government does not think it will manage to double the number of children from poorer backgrounds attending university.

It discloses that the Government does not believe it will achieve its target of doubling the number of poorer children attending top universities.

Top universities not providing value for money

The document is believed to be about leading Russell Group universities. Whilst the document does not name specific institutions, it says that top UK universities are having "problems" providing value for money, as well as making it too hard for pupils from poorer backgrounds to get in.

"Education across the spectrum – from some in the Russell group to courses … through Further Education colleges – do not offer the quality and intensity of teaching we expect for 9k."

It says of the Government's goal to double the number of poor people going to university by 2020:

"The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills think we will never achieve this from the established sector alone (probably because of a combination of high entry requirements and reluctance to expand too fast) – and the extra boost in access could come from growth by alternative providers."

"No one will lower their fees" the leaked document showed a lot of what the Government think of their own policies, but with some details annoyingly obscured by the leaker's hand.

"Shocking admittance of failure"

According to the Daily Telegraph, the memo goes on to say that "price competition hasn't emerged' and that poor universities charge the maximum fees (£9,000) despite a lack of quality of teaching and courses.

Gordon Marsden, Labour's universities spokesman, said:

"This leak is a shocking admittance of failure and shows what ministers really think of David Cameron's flagship policy."

"The Government seem content to throw in the towel on efforts to widen participation in the higher education system, meaning that students from the least well-off families will be left behind."

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute think-tank, and former Conservative adviser said the government were "throwing in the towel":

"The Prime Minister's ambition is hardly the most challenging target ever, so it's surprising to see the towel thrown in so early."

The Government are due to publish a paper on higher education next month.