The House debated the matter in the Delegated Legislation Committee. There was a thorough 80-page equality analysis. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills maintains an ongoing and regular dialogue with all stakeholders on matters relating to higher education.
We welcome the scrutiny, because this Government are rightly proud of our record on higher education. Since 2010 we have delivered a bold reform of higher education, putting in place a funding model that has ensured that our universities are properly funded and properly able to deliver world-class, life-changing education. At a time of significant fiscal consolidation, total income for the higher education sector has risen in real terms; it has increased from £24 billion in 2012-13 to £26 billion in 2013-14 and is forecast to rise to £31 billion by 2017-18.
Let us not forget the difficult fiscal context in which this has been achieved. Against the background of a record budget deficit, providing universities with that level of financial security could only be achieved by asking students to meet a greater part of the cost of their education, paid not upfront but out of their future earnings. That recognises the principle that if someone benefits from higher education and secures higher lifetime earnings than taxpayers who do not go to university, they should contribute to the cost of their education.