SIR KEIR Starmer has u-turned on a commitment to abolish the higher education charges in England. 

University tuition is free in Scotland for Scottish students, after the then Labour-Lib Dem Holyrood administration scrapped up-front fees in 2001, and the SNP government eliminated the graduate endowment in 2008. 

In Wales, tuition fees are capped at £9,000, while in Northern Ireland, home students pay a maximum of £4,630 but those from other UK nations can be charged up to £9,250.

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Sir Keir confirmed the policy change in England during an interview with the BBC.

He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are looking at options for how we fund these fees. The current system is unfair, it doesn’t really work for students, doesn’t work for universities.”

He said the party would, in the coming weeks, “set out a fairer solution”.

“We are likely to move on from that commitment because we do find ourselves in a different financial situation,” he told the programme.

But he added that he did not “want that to be read as us accepting for a moment that the current system is fair or that it is working”.

Tuition fees sit at a maximum of £9,250, with the current system introduced by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition in the face of severe opposition from students.

Sir Keir promised to scrap tuition fees in his campaign to succeed Jeremy Corbyn in 2020. 

However, he has hinted in recent months that the pledge - estimated to cost around £10bn annually - may need to be tweaked. 

The leader of the opposition insisted he still stood behind “the vast majority” of promises made to party members in 2020.

The decision was criticised by the Universities and Colleges Union. 

General Secretary Jo Grady said: “Keir Starmer repeatedly pledged to abolish the toxic system of tuition fees and in doing so was elected leader of the Labour Party.

“It is deeply disappointing for him to now be reneging on that promise, a move which would condemn millions of future students to a life of debt.

“What we really need is a positive vision for higher education that puts staff and students first.

“The current, tuition fee reliant model is broken. It has saddled students with decades of debt, turned universities from sites of learning into labyrinthine businesses obsessed with generating revenue and surpluses over all else, and led to staff pay and working conditions being degraded, causing unprecedented industrial unrest.

“The country desperately needs a publicly-funded higher education system.”

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The SNP were also critical. Education spokesperson Carol Monaghan said: “He flip flops from one commitment to another whichever way the wind takes him. It’s utterly embarrassing.

“The Labour party is looking more and more like a Tory tribute band as Keir Starmer lurches them even further to the right by ditching another one of his key election pledges.

“Pro-Brexit Labour do not want to rejoin the European Union, no matter the economic consequences to Scotland. Starmer has also ditched his pledges on abolishing Universal Credit and on taxing the highest earners. It’s clear he is writing a manifesto straight from the Tory playbook.

“University tuition is free in Scotland and will continue to be free under an SNP government.

"That policy has been a gateway for thousands of students from more deprived backgrounds to go to university and I am proud that our young people have the opportunity to study at some of the world’s best universities.

“Westminster control does not provide an alternative for the people of Scotland. The SNP is the only party offering progress and a strong team of SNP MPs will continue to hold Westminster to account and get the best deal for Scotland.”

Scotland’s free tuition has come under pressure in recent years, with critics warning that the limited amount of cash for universities ultimately leads to a “cap” on the number of Scottish students able to attend university. 

Scottish Labour has been approached for comment.