And so arrives the least surprising news since we learned that tabloid journalists used questionable tactics to find stories: more than a third of universities will charge fees of £9,000 a year from next autumn.
Knock me down with a student value-range feather: we all saw that coming. Everyone, that is, except the Government.
“I certainly hope to see a range of fees being set by universities,” bleated higher education minister David Willetts last year. Fees above £6,000 would only be charged in “exceptional circumstances”. Universities charging the maximum fees would look “silly” when students shunned their courses.
Yesterday saw the announcement from the fees watchdog that 47 out of the 123 English universities that submitted proposals will charge £9,000 for all courses. The average student will pay £8,393 a year from 2012, dropping only to £8,161 when discounts for the poorest undergraduates are included.
Come next September, half-empty lecture halls might well leave greedy vice chancellors looking silly. But right now, it’s Willetts and co who look featherbrained. Maybe it’s because, being of the older, luckier generation who didn’t pay a penny for their own tuition, they didn’t concentrate in economics lectures. At the very least, the marketing was wrong: one of the ways consumers work out the quality of a product is from its price. A bargain-basement uni was always going to be as popular as the Lib-Dems at an NUS conference.