Thursday, 12 May 2011

Willetts makes another gaffe

David "Two Brains" Willetts suggested yesterday that wealthy parents should be able to buy extra places at universities for their offspring at the price £28,000 before Cable and Cameron jumped on him and managed to stop the gaffe turning into a PR disaster. You'd think that he might have learned from this but he hasn't. Today he's suggesting that universities should be able to cut their fees during clearing in order to fill all their places. Unfortunately, as the Independent points out:
It raises the prospect of students holding off from accepting places and a mad scramble for the cheapest courses, as universities lower fees to attract students.
It also puts Mr Willetts firmly at odds with the Office for Fair Access (Offa) – the body in charge of regulating university fees – which has written to universities asking them not to reduce their fees in clearing because it might encourage applicants to apply late in the hope of minimising the debt they take on – reducing their chances of being admitted at all.
And this is before you remember that students are meant to apply to student finance on the basis that they know which university they're going to and what fees they have to pay - and this is meant to be done months before clearing begins. Given his gaffe yesterday you'd think that Willetts would have the sense to stay quiet for a while but instead he's suggested another idea which I guarantee Labour and the press will jump on. They'll probably have to get in line though as I imagine all the PR experts at Number 10 will be trying to jump on him first.

As it is, he looks set to seriously destabilise his position. I wouldn't be surprised if he were to go at the next cabinet reshuffle (or at least get a serious ticking off from Cameron) if he keeps this up.

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