Higher Education Funding

I supported the Government on Higher Education funding last night.

For someone like me – who has always believed that education should be free – it has been a difficult decision. Sadly, my view of education (free through raising taxation) isn’t on the table – or anywhere near it. That vision was ended when Labour introduced tuition fees and the principle of free education for all fell. So last night I chose to vote for the proposals because they are fairer than either the NUS or Labour proposals. I also could not justify students being the only group in society protected from the cuts.

Not only will paying back be at a cheaper rate than the current system – but no one will have to pay back until their salary reaches a higher threshold than before (£21,000 up-rated annually). Students from poorer backgrounds will have £150 million in bursaries and the maintenance grant which is over £3000 and has increased slightly doesn’t have to be paid back at all. Moreover, for the first time, part-time students (often poor, often missed first chance and often women) will also not have to pay anything up front – removing a real barrier to further education.

However, the key question for me was will that level of potential debt put poorer students off? When Labour introduced tuition fees – I believed poorer students would be put off. That didn’t happen. In fact more students went to university – and more of those students came from poorer families. With these increases I remain concerned – but have received assurances that if there is any sign of a falling off of applications from poorer students – action will be taken.

At this point in time, with the widest gap between rich and poor and social mobility non-existent – I believe the biggest inhibition to children from poorer backgrounds going to university – is that they don’t see themselves in that way and don’t have that aspiration. That is why for me the money we are putting into early years and into the pupil premium is so important. Closing that gap and increasing social mobility has to be the priority.

Lastly – on breaking the NUS pledge – I can only apologise. However, for me, that pledge was super-ceded by my signing up to the coalition agreement and although the coalition agreement allowed for abstention – for me that would have felt like opting out of making a very important decision.

I have listened to local students, local residents, party members, council group members and colleagues – and thank them all for their views. It is clear that everyone cares passionately about education and life chances – and that just because we may have differing views on how best to go forward – we all do care.

0 thoughts on “Higher Education Funding

  1. well said Carl – for all their avowals of wanting to open up education to a wider social mix, the real intention is gradually becoming more obvious. They want education, like the NHS, to be market-based, like in the USA. So university becomes a saleable commodity and a privilege for the rich.
    This being a country with a history of social provision of education and health services, every move they make to marketise it has to be camouflaged with a progressive-sounding move to make it more “accessible” to the masses.
    At least with the Tories you know where you stand. The real problem is for Lib Dem members who thought they belonged to a fairly progressive party but who are now realising they are being led by right-wing free marketeers who are all too happy to support the Tory agenda.

  2. Who’d Thought It.

    The lib Dems taking us to a place where even Norman Tebbit & Thatcher would have feared to tread.

    Hey Lynne.. have you considered revisiting the concept of workhouses? Better beds for those with really badly off parents of course!

  3. I see Dave “two brains” Willets is back, announcing more “radical” changes to the education system which show that the main (only?) value that the ConDems place on this is a monetary one. At the time of the “debate” about tuition fees (when it appears Lynne went into hibernation, judging by her silence …) several people expressed concern about the marketisation of higher education and that it appears to take precedence over actual academic matters. Now this move seems to be less a trend and more a determined policy, a major objective of this government. Was this discussed when the Oxbridge duo were forming their coalition? Tell us Lynne, what do you think about all of this ?