Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuition Fees

Speaking personally, I loathe the idea of tuition fees for University education, and was very happy to stand in 2005 on a manifesto of scrapping them.

But that was in the very different financial position five years ago.

When we fought that previous election on the platform of scrapping tuition fees, it was before Labour had doubled the national debt, taking the cost of paying the interest on that debt up to £25 billion a year, more than the country spends on schools. It was not at a time when the government was spending four pounds for every three coming in.

That is why we didn't repeat the promise to scrap tuition fees in the 2010 election. We knew it was no longer affordable. And it is why I reluctantly followed the party's advice not to sign the NUS pledge to oppose any increase in tuition fees.

Nick Robinson missed the point that the Tory promise to scrap fees was made five years ago, in a totally different financial situation, and was not repeated in this year's election campaign, in his amusing and otherwise fair blogpost on "Fees made Simple" when he says of tuition fees that

" • Labour introduced them and commissioned the report proposing that the cap on them be lifted, but now says it wants them abolished

• the Tories originally proposed scrapping them, but now back almost doubling them

• the Lib Dems said they'd vote against any increase in tuition fees, but are now in charge of the department which will do just that."


He might have added that Labour promised not to introduce Tuition Fees in 1997 and then broke this promise, and that they also promised not to increase them in 2001 and then broke that one.

I think all political parties need to look carefully at which is the least worst way to fund the Higher Education system which Britain needs. There is no affordable solution to the problem of how to pay for Universities and students which will not involve messy and difficult compromises. But we have to find a way of ensuring that this country keeps a world class University system and that bright kids from poor backgrounds are able to have access to it.

2 comments:

Tim said...

A classic example of why you can't trust any of the LibLabCon !

There are I understand , many more people who go to university than 30 years ago, when tuition was free and most people received a modest grant. There is I believe a trade off here between quality and quantity - the reality is that some degrees are more valuable than others.

It's time to close more tax loopholes - it's a scandal that the Barclay Brothers pay no income tax, yet own a Conservative propaganda sheet in order to support and sustain economic nostrums that they haven't the slightest intention of financing.

Chris Whiteside said...

Unfortunately the behaviour of an awful lot of politicians on this subject has indeed been deeply corrosive of public trust.

I don't see any way to avoid making students pay a higher proportion of the cost of the higher education they receive - which I expect to hit me severely in the pocket in a decade and a half's time as the father of two nine year olds.

I accept that we need to crack down on all kinds of illegal fiddling whether it is tax or benefits.