Fee reprieve for poorer students?

This week the Government is to vote on whether to back coalition proposals to increase the cap in fees from £3,375 to £9,000 from 2013. Ahead of the vote, it has been announced that thousands of university students from less well off backgrounds may have their tuition fees paid for up to two years under a new scheme proposed.

David Willetts, the Universities Minister, has said that up to 18,000 students may be eligible for the cash which would come from the £150m National Scholarship Programme, unveiled by Vince Cable last month.  Students from poorer backgrounds would be exempt from their tuition fees in their first year of study at universities that charge up to £6,000. Those at universities charging £9,000 a year would be eligible for an additional year of free tuition paid by their institution.

This announcement follows intense pressure from student groups protesting across the country, with particular anger directed at the Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg and all other Lib Dem MPs, who signed a pre-election pledge to vote against any rise.

National Union of Students president Aaron Porter appears sceptical of the plans, believing that the proposal will have very little impact on rising student debt.

Clearly the aim of this announcement is to soften the blow in the case of any fee rises whilst leaving the door to university open to those from less affluent families.  Do you believe this new announcement will encourage students from less well off backgrounds to go to university?  Or will it be too late, leading to a return to the dark ages of elitism within university education?