Justine Greening says she had plans to scrap tuition fees, before she lost the job of education secretary a year ago. She says she wanted a graduate contribution scheme to fund England's universities where "you wouldn't have a loan, you wouldn't have tuition fees".
Ms Greening says she was worried that tuition fees of £9,250 per year could start to put off poorer students. The government said its review of fees would make sure there was "value for money for both students and taxpayers".
Ms Greening, education secretary until last January's reshuffle, says she had concerns that excessively high fees and levels of debt could become a barrier to social mobility. She says she had been working on a radically different system which would have removed fees - but instead the prime minister launched a review of student finance, chaired by financier Philip Augar.
Ms Greening is scathing about the review, which is expected to report back next month. She says its public remit is confused - without any "clear objectives of the problem it was trying to fix".
And she says its private purpose was to buy time and only "tweak" a few of the most politically toxic aspects of the current system.
Even if, as suggested, it lowers tuition fees to £6,500, she says it will still be a temporary sticking plaster.