Chalk Talk: Universities can charge what they like – just as long as it's not too much

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The Independent Online

Is it just me, or is there not something Kafkaesque about the Coalition Government's proposals for raising tuition fees? It starts off with the Government telling universities they can raise their student fees to a maximum of £9,000 a year.

Oxford and Cambridge universities then say they want to raise their fees to £9,000. It was hardly the most surprising revelation. They are, after all, the highest ranked universities in the UK.

Wait a minute, though. Up steps Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to say – rather shirtily – it's not up to them to decide what they're going to charge. It's up to us to decide whether we give them permission.

Sure, and I know officially it is up to the fees regulator, the Office For Fair Access – which is being asked by Business Secretary Vince Cable and Universities Secretary David Willetts to transform itself into a toothful watchdog – to decide.

However, if Oxford and Cambridge are refused permission to charge the maximum, doesn't it make a nonsense of the policy?

And won't it just add fuel to those who say our two world-famous institutions are likely to opt to go private? Or maybe that's the point?

* A few years ago the Premier League set up its Reading Champions scheme, as a result of which one player from every club revealed their favourite book in an attempt to encourage their younger fans to read more. Now, with the start of the Cricket World Cup on Saturday, cricketers are planning to follow in their footsteps. Trouble is, they haven't exactly gone for the household names to boost the initiative. I wonder how many children will want to read Life by Keith Richards because Zubin Surkari from Canada lists it as his favourite book.

There are some interesting choices, though. Steve Tikolo, the veteran Kenyan international, has selected Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom, and Shane Watson of Australia, possibly the best known of those chosen, has selected Open by Andre Agassi. Luke Wright has been chosen to bat for England on this one, with the "Goosebumps" Series by RL Stine.

I wonder what Andrew Strauss would have chosen? Recent results suggest he doesn't need Mike Brearley's legendary cricketing book The Art of Captaincy any more.