Higher Education

Post the Browne report, Vince Cable’s been working to produce a more progressive way of funding Higher Education.

I have always believed that education should be free – for everyone – and always will. However, Labour ended the principle of free education with the introduction of tuition fees – and whichever way you turn in the current climate – those fees or costs are going to go up. I also despair that virtually the entire conversation around Higher Education is about the economics and nothing else.

Vince, as I said, has been working beyond hard to try and make this as good as it can be – and as progressive as can be.

A brief synopsis of the proposals:

1.       All students will repay less per month under this Government’s policy than they currently pay.

2.       The lowest earning  25% of graduates will repay less under this Government’s policy than they do now.

3.       The top earning 30% of graduates will pay back more than they borrow and are likely to pay more than  double the bottom 20% of earners.

4.       Over half a million students will be eligible for more non-repayable grants for living costs than they get now.

  1. Almost one million students will be eligible for more overall maintenance support than they get now

6.       Part time students will no longer have to pay up front fees benefiting up to 200,000 per year

7.       There will be an extra £150m for a new National Scholarship Programme for students from poorer backgrounds and we will introduce tough new sanctions of universities who fail to improve their access to students from backgrounds.

This is not coming to the floor of the House for a few weeks yet to come and is a difficult issue for Liberal Democrats because we cannot have the solution we, on the whole, want.

The Coalition agreement only goes as far as to say “We will await Lord Browne’s final report into higher education funding, and will judge its proposals … If the response of the Government to Lord Browne’s report is one that the Liberal Democrats cannot accept, then arrangements will be made to enable Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain in any vote”.

So the issue will be whether the Liberal Democrat MPs feel that the response to Lord Browne’s report is acceptable or not.

The NHS pledge which most LibDems signed up (including me) said: “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”

Vince has made it quite clear that the pledge is subsumed by the coalition agreement – and indeed – because even if it wasn’t, as he said in Parliament, we cannot keep that first part of the pledge – it is no longer viable.

However, he also argues, that the second part of the pledge he has undoubtedly delivered on – a much, much fairer regime than under Labour.

I won’t make a final decision until the final proposals are on the table. I will have three choices in theory: support the Government (and as a Minister this would be the norm), abstain as per the coalition agreement  or vote against as per the NUS pledge.

0 thoughts on “Higher Education

  1. Lynn – you have lost my vote as well. I feel like a complete idiot voting for change, when the change turned out to be a con-dem alliance that is a million miles away from the kind of government I would want. Is this the democratic process? How is this fair? Why have we not heard from you on Lynn?

  2. I agree with most of the comments below. The question is not whether or not Lynne will keep her seat – she won’t. The question surely is, what do we do now? Do we all move centre-left and vote Labour or do we look elsewhere? What does the country, the locality need? Do we want more semantics from rubbish career-minded politicians or do we re-group and demand another way? That is a question that I’m struggling with as I’m yet to understand clearly what Ed stands for….anyone?

  3. Mike, my opinion is that the rot started with the last Labour administration. It was they, after all, who introduced student fees in the first place. So Labour is not the answer.
    I think it is becoming clearer that a truly socialist approach is needed.

  4. …and who is this Tony Gardner-Medwin that seems to speak for you? Why are you not responding to your constituents?

  5. I have just signed the recall petition for lynne featherstone who has broken another election promise.

    The millionaire Lynne who is clearly feathering her own nest in her craven pursuit of the trappings of power.

    The residents of Muswell Hill, Crouch End, Hornsey and Wood Green are going to find that their children are now going to be priced out of higher education and the life long opportunities that are opened up from it.

    Shame on you Lynne for turning yellow to tory blue when you will you resign?

  6. Ed Balls has this to say:

    “We’re over 200 days into a government (Cameron) leads and which is ideologically cutting public services and the welfare state. Yet on almost every unpopular announcement and unfair decision it is still Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats who are taking all the flak.

    “Week after week it is Lib Dem ministers like Danny Alexander and Vince Cable who find themselves in TV studios defending what are essentially Conservative policies in a predominantly Conservative government. The Lib Dems have willingly become David Cameron’s human shields, haemorrhaging support in the process”

    Sounds like a reasonable assessment to me. Who is taking the flak tonight? Not the Tory architects of the policy, but the Lib Dem stooges who have facilitated its passing into law.

  7. According to the Haringey Independent ‘Lib Dem Lynne Featherstone ‘distraught’ after tuition fee vote’.

    Maybe she just realised that after selling out thousands of her constituents childrens futures she has also sealed her own demise at the next election.

  8. was at the protests today protecting my job at soas university and also the diversity of our student body, lynne, you have betrayed a generation. you have absolutely no platform to stand on when you are letting tax dodgers like vodaphone dodge 6 billion in tax. historians will judge you accordingly we already have. you should hang you head in shame but i guess you wont as everything was served to you on a plate since birth…we wont forget, and your party will disolve. im signing the petition to recall you i hope others will too…http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/recallfeatherstonemp/

  9. My friend describes Nick Clegg as looking like the manager of a leisure centre, which captures his pedestrian politics and his air of middle-management quite nicely.

    I think these days he increasingly looks more like a hounded IT professional whose hard-drive has just been seized by the police for investigation as part of “Operation Childlock”

    “I just clicked on a few pop-ups by accident, honest!”
    “We don’t believe you.”

  10. University education should be free to the user? Food, water, light, heating, clothes, housing and a million other things are more fundamental to life and, uncontroversially, we pay for them. Vandalising Parliament square in support of “free” university education is no less bizarre, selfish or logical than doing so in the cause of free food or free clothes. If you want to know what happens to a country when its government loses control of public spending read what the Irish government, this week, announced it will have to do to it’s people: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6B63R420101207
    I want everything to be free to me and my kids, including university places. Unfortunately that’s not the real world.

  11. CASHLESS: ‘I want everything to be free to me and my kids, including university places. Unfortunately that’s not the real world…….’

    Errr, it is in Scotland. NO university fees whatsoever.. Come to think of it, prescriptions will be free next year in Scotland and are of course already free in Wales naturally… And don’t even talk about the cancer drugs off limits to English people or the fact that our old people have to flog off their homes to finance their care… (Natch, they don’t have to do this in Scotland or Wales)..

    So, in Scotland over a three year uni’ course they’ll pay nowt, zip, zilch.
    In Wales, over a three year uni’ course they’ll pay 9 grand max. (Plus access to generous living allowance grants).
    In England, over a three year uni’ course they by paying 27 grand!!!

    And surprise, surprise it didn’t stop MPs from Scots and Welsh constituencies from voting for or agin an education matter which did not in any way impact upon their own student constituents, did it? And REMEMBER, we only got tuition fees lumbered upon English students in the first place thanks to the obedient claque of Scots Labour MPs holding the balance of voting power and nodding through the original legislation during Labour’s years on government…

    I think it’s about time the people of England WOKE UP, don’t you???

  12. Alfred – Wales and Scotland get massive subsidies from England – in the case of Scots via the Barnett formula – which means that public spending is well above English levels. Reality will catch up with the regions too. Current transfers to Wales and Scotland are as likely to persist as Greece or Ireland’s spending on public sector salaries was two years ago. Read the Irish finance ministers recent speech to the Dail last week. It’s chilling what happens to the people of a country which is broke: much, much worse than what is happening here. This government is borrowing about £2,500 to spend on every single person in this country. It would be lovely if it could go on, but, as the humiliation of Greece and Ireland shows, eventually no one will lend to us. That happened to the UK in 1976 and could happen again.

  13. Actually, that’s largely bollocks. Scotland and Wales do get Barnett formula subsidies (Northern Ireland gets even more, per capita, I think, and some regions of England effectively get the same), but they’re not that high. Their devolved governments simply have different spending priorities to the Westminster government, so there are different outcomes. For example, Scotland and Wales both have significantly longer waiting lists for hospital treatment than England; fewer Scottish students go on to university; Scottish pensioners receiving free personal care don’t get attendance allowance.

    If you think free prescriptions are more important than how long you wait for essential treatment, by all means go ahead and campaign for that change in priority. But the idea that Scotland and Wales get to just spend whatever they like and have everything better than in England is simply a fiction.

  14. Lynne, when you write “Vince has made it quite clear that the pledge is subsumed by the coalition agreement”, understand that your constituents do not accept that.

    And when you write “we cannot keep that first part of the pledge – it is no longer viable”, that is pretending that the 80% withdrawal from the HE budget is no longer negotiable – which your constituents also don’t accept. So why didn’t Lib Dems contest the 80% cut in university spending when you first heard of it, as clearly it would prevent you from delivering you election pledges? Maybe your party really is just deadweight then: the 57 of you sat in the coalition and watched the Tories withdraw funding from HE, so now you think you can tell the electorate that it is too late to change things?