Vince Cable spoke to Times Higher Education this week after taking up an honorary professorship at the University of Nottingham.
Asked about the Coalition decision to increase tuition fees, he said:
"It was politically very traumatic, but it was actually good policy. One of my colleagues, I think, came up with the phrase that we got 8 out of 10 for the policy but 2 out of 10 for the politics.
"The problem was that we made this pledge about not increasing student tuition fees – it was disastrous, it was not deliverable. ...
"We got hammered for it – loss of trust, all those things. But it wasn’t deliverable in the financial climate of the coalition.
"My job was to try to make the best of a bad job and produce a system which was genuinely progressive. It is. Nobody pays fees; they pay a form of graduate tax when they leave, depending on their income.
"The universities as a consequence are now quite well funded, unlike most other bits of what you could broadly call the public sector."You can see the heart of the Liberal Democrats' problem in the photo above - and I don't mean Nick Clegg.
We pledged to vote against any increase in tuition fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative,
As was pointed out (I think by Polly McKenzie) in the debate I posted the other day, this took it for granted that we would not be in government after the 2010 general election.