Opinion: Pity the Scottish school-leavers when English fees rise

I’m a candidate in a council by-election in the Hillhead ward in Glasgow. I’m a Liberal Democrat, and the ward has a big old university slap bang in the middle of it. You’d think I’d be bricking it, wouldn’t you? After the tuition fees betrayal, students hate the Liberal Democrats, don’t they? Well they might do, but I’d like to explain how the real villains in Scotland are the SNP.

The SNP are in fact imposing thousands of pounds of up-front fees on each and every Scottish student and their families. “But the SNP have preserved free tuition!” I hear you cry. Yes they have. But how important are the level of tuition fees to students and their families? And how important is maintenance funding to the opportunities available to disadvantaged young Scots?

The SNP aren’t the only ones trying to fool you. What happens if UK fees are reduced from £9,000 each year to £6,000 each year as the Labour party have recently suggested? With the repayment structure as it is currently, then the wealthiest graduates are the only ones that would benefit. Labour say that higher earning graduates will pay a higher rate of interest. Ok, so essentially it’s a tax cut for the richest, while raising the amount they have to pay back. In other words, it’s cosmetic bullshit, that does absolutely nothing for students.

Let’s examine the SNP position. Free tuition. No fees to be paid at all. Again, relative to the current English position, it is a further tax-break for the successful graduates. When did tax-breaks for the wealthiest become so popular in Scotland? And how do the SNP pay for this? Well, you only need to examine the available maintenance funding for students to find an area where they are saving an awful lot of cash.

A Scottish student from a fairly typical family with a household income of £50,000 would have received a £2,164 loan for the year just finished. The equivalent English student would have received a £52 grant and a loan for £4,924. This leaves a £2812 gap that the Scottish student has to work part-time to fill, or that has to be produced by their parents in order for them to reach the English level.

When the household income gets to £60,000, the Scottish loan has dropped off to £915, the English one only to £3,564. I put it to you that free tuition is a smokescreen, behind which the SNP is screwing over Scottish students and their families, and ruining the chances of kids from poorer backgrounds both getting to university and staying there.

The Liberal Democrats fought to preserve and improve maintenance funding levels in England because we know how important it is that everyone who wants to go to university is not prevented from doing so by reasons of financial poverty. We should proudly defend our achievements in making higher education funding as fair as possible given the electoral arithmetic and the Conservative position.

But we should reject policies that concentrate wrongly on tuition fees as a barrier to access. Fee waivers for the poorest students will only benefit them long after they have graduated and are earning sufficient money to have repaid their reduced fee. Placing part of the burden of paying for these fee waivers on universities surely encourages them to accept fewer young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds as they would receive typically £18,000 instead of £27,000 over the course of their degree.

We urgently need to replace this idea with one which would genuinely address the issue of access to the most elite universities. The idea of a levy on high fees — lost between the Browne Review and the Government’s proposed policy — could be re-incorporated into the system as an access levy.

Oxford, Cambridge and others would be set a challenge to admit students that are suitably representative of society. The further they are from their target, the larger the chunk of fees the government recoups from the next year’s fee pot. Fee levels might have to be reduced and replaced with more funding from general taxation in order to reduce the incentive for universities to go private, but if that tax cut for the wealthiest graduates means that the smartest kids from the toughest estates in Glasgow can genuinely aspire to go to the best universities in the country, then maybe that’s a price worth paying.

There is one last niggling worry that I need to share. I’m worried that Scottish students who see the high fees being charged in England will refuse to broaden their horizons by studying there. Ordinary Scottish youngsters who will limit themselves to the “free” options in Scotland, will likely not live in England until much later in their lives, and so might be more likely to see the English as “other”. With Scots applying in Scotland, the increase in competition for spaces at Scottish universities, coupled with the incentive for universities to take in more English, Welsh and Northern Irish students for the fees they bring, could lead to even more Scots missing out on higher education, and might breed resentment of the other UK students that take their place.

I do so very much hope that I am wrong, but there is a real risk that preserving free tuition could create a generation of Scots for whom higher education is less accessible, who are restricted in the quality of their choices, unfamiliar with our English neighbours, resentful of their presence on our campuses, and more disposed towards the separation of our nations as a result.

With an SNP government at Holyrood you have to hope that if this happens it is by accident and not by design. We might just be sleepwalking to educational apartheid. If the SNP are deliberately leading us there then they should hang their heads in shame.

* Ewan Hoyle is a a Liberal Democrat member in Glasgow.

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36 Comments

  • I’m no fan of the SNP, and they’re storing up problems with their fees stance, not least because they told universities in private they’d introduce some level of fees…

    but I can’t follow the argument above. Hows is an absence of fees, with university education paid for wholly by the state, a tax break?

  • Are you arguing Scots school leavers would be discouraged from attending a university in England because of fees? Maybe Scots youngsters do not go English universities in the numbers you’d like to see because the English education system is essentially a foreign system for different from that in Scotland. Just you leave our Highers and our 4 year degrees alone! Are you clear on the distinctions both historically and currently? I’m not sure you are and if I am correct, then should not be on the ballot paper to be honest.

    If you want access to universities to improve then ensure there are no fees and each student receives an adequate maintenance allowance to ensure they can afford decent shelter, clothing and books When I went up to University, to take even as much four hours work in a supermarket meant you were out of university. Either you worked, or you went to university. Not both.

    Arguing around fees and their level is a mere side-show. Around the world students are wisely demanding their education be free and their horrendous debts be written off. The neoliberal policies of commodifying everything you see around you have failed, indebting generations of ordinary people while enriching the few. Neoliberalism has failed and has been rejected around the world by people. We have produced millions of highly educated young people for decades, yet we failed to find adequate work, adequate salaries for graduates. Your neoliberal policies are nothing more than the enslavement of our people, our skilled, unskilled and educated people of all ages across this country.

    Why aren’t you talking about the number of graduates who have left? Why aren’t you talking about the number of graduates who have found it impossible to find full-time work with decent salaries? Why aren’t you talking about the smashed dreams of so many graduates told by employers they are over-qualified, why aren’t you talking about the broken dreams of those talented graduates who can only find work serving coffee? Why aren’t you talking about the impossibility of young graduates affording a home of their own? Why aren’t you talking about the proposed dreadful employment rights, or lack of for all of our people, not just graduates, not just students? Why aren’t you talking about the graduates sold a dream of better prospects who find themselves working as no more than slave labour for Tesco’s being trained to put beans on a shelf (dearie, what a miserable fraud of an idea!) just to keep those unemployment benefits so low they can’t feed themselves adequately let alone find the bus fares to a job interview, or working for free as interns? Why aren’t you taking these employers to task? Why aren’t you demanding our employers get a grip and play their role to ensure all our people, young, old, middle-aged, graduate or otherwise have decent work and decent remuneration? We all dream and work toward of a better world, whether we are graduates or not. Why aren’t you talking about those destroyed dreams and what you are going to do to ensure we all prosper without debt, without unemployment, without dreadful employers?

    55% of the UK population are not in full-time employment. Student debt? Who is paying that off in a country with such horrendous numbers? Create jobs, adequate jobs, decent paying jobs and a decent tax policy that ensures the tax dodgers are held to account and jailed, then there would be no need to refuse our students the maintenance grants most of our MPs benefited from in our day.

    Instead, why aren’t you talking about those adequate jobs, secure employment, and decent salaries?

    Save your breath in arguing about the details proposed of student debt, there isn’t going to be any soon enough. If you are going to appeal to the student vote, then at least familiarise yourself with the current demands of students, not just in Scotland, but around the world. To do otherwise is to be lazy, or belligerently dogmatic; no student will waste their vote on such qualities.

    From the case you’ve argued, I don’t see you, like so many LibDem candidates in Scotland, managing to get your deposit back.

  • I’m afraid that I could not agree less with Ewan. There is a principle at stake in free tuition – one which the lib dems have fought for at every election since 1992. Is Ewan trying to twist this principle to the point that he now seems to be arguing in favour of £9000 annual fees in Scotland?
    The rhetoric is all wrong – suggesting that lower fees are a break for the rich misses the whole problem of debt perception and aversion which is fundamental to working class kids.

    Will the Scotlibdems adopt a position essentially arguing for £9k fees with the money’s raised paying for higher loans for poorer students? There is an element of logic but the reality is selling a position which equates to “bigger debts for everyone”. Not a politically attractive one – and I say that as a Lib Dem who got a full student grant on account of my parents low income.

  • Am I right in thinking the SNP have also cut some money for schools to pay for free tuition? That’s hardly going to help the poorest if they don’t have the grades to go in the first place.

    Respect for being in Scotland and still openly LibDem!

  • Simon McGrath 30th Oct '11 - 3:31pm

    “Oxford, Cambridge and others would be set a challenge to admit students that are suitably representative of society”

    You mean instead of admitting the best qualified candidates they should admit those who meet some vague criteria of suitability. Sounds like a great way to ruin some of the worlds best universities.

  • Sid Cumberland 30th Oct '11 - 4:04pm

    If you read to the end: ‘… the smartest kids from the toughest estates in Glasgow can genuinely aspire to go to the best universities in the country …’ Smartest, not ‘some vague criterion of suitability’.

    The problem at the moment is that ‘best qualified candidates’ means: have they been to a posh school? rather than ‘do they have the most potential?’

  • Tony Dawson 30th Oct '11 - 4:57pm

    “A Scottish student from a fairly typical family with a household income of £50,000”

    I didn’t realise that Scotland was rolling in it so much. This must be an upper quartile income, surely, since the average full-time income is about £25,000 in Scotland and most couples do not have two full-time incomes coming in.

    But thanks for filling in about the SNP’s smoke and mirrors. Can someone equally ‘dis’ their police number increases?

  • I’m fairly knowledgeable on this subject, but I just can’t understand some of what you said (except the bit about students hating the LibDems – they do!)

    “I’m worried that Scottish students who see the high fees being charged in England will refuse to broaden their horizons by studying there.” – I think you are absolutely right. As I understand it, Scottish kids going to English Universities will now have to pay their own fees (£9K/Year) – do you really expect them to reject Edinburgh & St Andrews to head south and incur huge debts? – even if they did, I’m not sure they would qualify for the loans that the English kids get because that has been devolved to Scotland.

    To an English kid, they’ll pay the same wherever, so they may still apply to Scottish institutions, and despite patriotism, if I’d expect them to view English applications more favourably since the bounty on an English student is three times that of a Scottish one.

    “We should proudly defend our achievements in making higher education funding as fair as possible” – no – we didn’t and we should be ashamed. If we had all voted as we promised but been out voted by the Conservatives then that’s Democracy in action, but we bent over and allowed the Government to ride roughshod over the future aspirations of a generation. Even worse than the tuition fees is the removal of EMA – In my constituency one family is enduring real headship so they can pay the £3.50 PER DAY bus fare for their daughter. I’m sure their are others who just decided not to continue with post 16 education. I guess that isn’t a problem in Westminster where all student travel is free!

  • The SNPs attack on us is one sentence. Your rebuttal is 1000 words (well something like that I’ve not counted!)

    It doesn’t really matter whether you some excellent points or not in campaigning terms that’s death.

    Of course you can slim down this message – but my point is our rebuttal on fees issues takes us longer to get across than people are willing to listen for.

  • Others have called me on the fairly typical household income of £50,000. Perhaps it wasn’t the best choice of words. I had figured parents of a university student have usually reached their peak earnings and the average family sending kids to uni would be wealthier than the true average family.

  • Hywel, I just really want the conversation to shift back on to maintenance funding and access in Scotland.

    Here’s a line:
    With the SNP, Scottish students get up to £2800 less in maintenance funding relative to their English counterparts. Scottish students and their families are paying thousands in up front fees for food and housing.

  • Simon McGrath 30th Oct '11 - 9:58pm

    @Sid “The problem at the moment is that ‘best qualified candidates’ means: have they been to a posh school? ”

    Really – do you actually believe this. tell you what would you be in favour of school blind applications – candidates judged purely on their applications and grades? Given the dominance of top A level grades by independent schools they would probably get even more people into the top universities?

  • Old Codger Chris 30th Oct '11 - 10:19pm

    A Graduate Tax is the only sensible approach – repayment by those able to do so regardless of parental wealth or poverty.

    “there is a real risk that preserving free tuition could create a generation of Scots for whom higher education is less accessible, who are restricted in the quality of their choices, unfamiliar with our English neighbours, resentful of their presence on our campuses, and more disposed towards the separation of our nations as a result”.

    Or students from anywhere in the UK could take themselves to mainland Europe where courses (many conducted in English) are cheap or even free. A powerful argument against UKIP if and when we get the “in or out” referendum promised by the Lib Dems.

  • Ewan – sorry, like others I just don’t get this. The point is fundamentally that higher education is a point of principle; the only barrier to entry should be ability. What you completely fail to grasp (along with many supporters of fees and loans) is that for many students from lower income families the prospect of debt is enough to put them off. And on the point of students going to England – frankly we want the best and brightest to stay in Scotland, and that’s been a policy of all parties (not just the SNP) for many years.

    I’m sorry Ewan, but as a mature student at the other main higher education institution in Glasgow I fundamentally can’t accept your argument on this. Sorry to say this, but you’ve just lost a potential by-election helper.

  • Douglas McLellan 30th Oct '11 - 10:58pm

    Where to start? I am a Scottish Lib Dem. I am pro-student contribution to their higher education (grad tax). I was involved with the Dearing Review & the Scottish-only Cubie report. Yet I still cant understand what you are saying here.

    I get that maintenance funding is an issue. Access is wholly about culture (primarily parental) and desire and sod all to do with actual ability.

    But I dont get the tax break thing you are talking about.

  • Tommy – I am certainly not speaking for the Scottish Lib Dems. If anything I am arguing for a complete re-examination of our approach to higher education which regards the level of tuition fee as a very much lower priority. The issue of debt perception and aversion is not one we should accept. I have argued previously that we need a concerted education campaign, easily delivered through schools and colleges, which explains that fees are not a debt but a tax that will only be paid if it can be afforded.
    For me the most important factor in higher education policy is ensuring children have the necessary careers advice to decide whether to go to university, and which course will suit their abilities, aspirations and interests. Too many students go to university only to lose interest and feel like a failure, or to graduate in a field they have no interest in working in. Good careers advice should deter those for whom university would not help or could even hinder their career development. Good careers advice should also minimise the deterrence caused by the level of the fees where the school-leaver has the character and abilities required to make good use of a university education.
    We haven’t got the vocational/academic balance anywhere near right in this country and good careers advice could help redress that balance.

    Ellie – I do think that too many people go to university, and so there is too little maintenance assistance to go around, and not enough resources to ensure that the education is of a satisfactory quality. Higher education is no longer a guaranteed path to a career. For too many it is just something people do after they leave school. I think I share a great many of your concerns and I think the careers education ideas I have written in reply to Tommy might address them.

    g – Relative to the English system, the absence of the 9% tax over £21,000 (that is used to repay the fee plus interest) is a tax cut for people who are earning more than that amount. More than half the working population earned less than that figure in 2008. So free tuition is a tax break for the highest earning half of the population… or at least those of them that went to university.

  • Andy Buckley 30th Oct '11 - 11:14pm

    @Simon & @Sid, I completely agree with Simon re. what appears to have been a barely-considered call to force university entry to match some ad hoc demographic.

    Current university applications are judged based on grades and some more nebulous indicators of potential, with a ranking of school sometimes being used as a positive discrimination towards applicants from disadvantaged areas as a tie-breaker — the idea being that if two candidates are available for one place and are otherwise equal, then having achieved those grades despite adversity bodes better for potential at university. Replacing this mostly objective performance measure with an explicit external pressure to select based on origin rather than ability is actually pretty offensive and would indeed spoil some excellent universities.

    I can’t believe that Ewan has really applied very much though to this idea at all… perhaps it sounds superficially populist, but in reality would be unfair and self-defeating. In truth universities, especially “elite” (which just means high-performing) ones, spend much effort agonising over exactly the issue of fairness of access, but they end up representing private schools disproportionately because the top Higher/A-level grades are concentrated there. There are a variety of reasons for that, but universities being some sort of selective posh kids club isn’t one of them.

    A much better, although politically harder, route than bashing universities for sampling from a biased distribution, is to address the social and schooling problems that lead to pre-university grade inequality. The same social issues are behind the disproportionate likelihood of large university fees to dissuade would-be students from poor backgrounds. Both are real problems with the current situation, and neither is really addressed by this mess of an essay. Have to say I’m disappointed to find a Lib Dem spewing something that looks a lot like party political circle-squaring when there are real problems to be addressed.

    Andy

  • KL

    I absolutely agree that the only barrier to entry should be ability. The barrier to entry that we focus upon should not be fees but maintenance funding, and I am arguing (though obviously not very clearly) that maintenance funding has to improve to make higher education accessible to all pupils from all backgrounds.

    We should not accept that fees be a barrier to lower income students and I am furious that we have retreated from the debate on fees before we made it absolutely clear that this is not a debt like other debts. It is a tax you pay when you become better paid than the average UK employee. The PR on this has been appalling and I’m becoming a little mortified that my blogpost doesn’t seem to have helped matters.

    Happy to discuss further in person if you’d like.

  • Sorry

    Let’s break this down

    LibDems said no charges, they broke their word in the first Scottish Parliament trying to disguise their actions with the weasel words ‘not up front’, you are still charging for university attendance .

    You also want Scotland to further subsidise England by not charging the fees that are your policy in England?
    How is that a rational argument?

    You don’t want kids living in England paying fees, chane the policy you are imposing!

  • I also omitted from the original post an example from less wealthy households. Scottish students from a household with an income of £26000 received a £3377 loan and £1453 grant for last year. English students with the same household income received a £3597 loan and £2706 grant. The total funding gap was £1473 between £4830 and £6303, with £1253 of that being a shortfall in the maintenance grant.

    And here is the evidence that the level of maintenance funding will rise further under the new English proposals. http://www.supermarket.co.uk/students/university-fees-from-2012-2013.html

  • daft ha'p'orth 31st Oct '11 - 1:30am

    @Ewan “I am furious that we have retreated from the debate on fees before we made it absolutely clear that this is not a debt like other debts. It is a tax you pay when you become better paid than the average UK employee. The PR on this has been appalling”

    In short, you’re furious that many people refuse to accept this line of reasoning, and conclude that it is because these dissenters have not had the chance to hear it stated clearly enough or frequently enough.

    It’s possible that many people refuse to accept your conclusion for another reason – because in their eyes, the argument is unacceptable. Perhaps it’s time to stop blaming poor communications?

  • Ewan – you’re absolutely right about this, so don’t let people shout you down. Of the post-1999 settlement on fees and grants, the reintroduction of maintenance grants (via the unfairly derided Graduate Endowment Scheme) was much the more important achievement.

    KL, you make a pretty broad assertion – do you have anything other than anecdotal evidence and dogma to back it up? Do you think poorer students would be deterred in this way by a graduate tax, payable above a certain income threshold? How is the system in England different from that except that the tax eventually ceases to be payable? Free education for all above 18 is a nice dream, but it’s miles away from reality anywhere in the UK – and the worrying thing is that many ‘no tuition fees’ dogmatists don’t seem to care very much, so long as full-time HE undergraduates are heavily subsidised by everyone else.

    As for ‘the brightest students should stay in Scotland’… Of course, we should want our universities to attract good people – from home and abroad. But the position we’re drifting into isn’t about attracting them: it’s about trapping them (and casually sticking two fingers up at foreign students while we’re at it). At risk of a rant from someone about ‘commoditisation’, we’re unpicking one of the best things about the EU in favour of a thinly-veiled protectionism. Few things could be more harmful to the long term future of Scottish universities.

    Hywel – I take your point, but we can’t afford to make policy by slogan alone (and then refusal ever to revisit the question). That’s what got us into this mess. So we are told, George Osborne thinks we should ‘walk away from the body’ but I think he’s wrong. We should write it a considered eulogy and bury it with a bit of dignity.

    Politics is about choices. If the SNP’s choice is to airbrush out the real ‘up front’ financial barriers to university and let the education of poorer students pay the price while they publicly polish their halo, that tells you everything you need to know about them. As for us, we made the wrong choice before the 2010 General Election and that meant there was no right choice for us after it.

  • Callum Leslie 31st Oct '11 - 9:09am

    KL – in Scotland, being poor is more of a barrier than in England. Dont you get it? Some Scottish students get just nine hundred pounds a year from the Government, with parrnts expected to coug up thousands. English students get around £3000, which perhaps with a small part time job, is enough to survive. Scottish students have a higher drop out, work more hours, and have higher levels of commercial debt. These are the true barriers to higher education.

  • One aspect of the Scottish University system which no-one appears to be addressing is the fact that the Scottish Universities are taking more and more students from non-EU countries because they get paid more in fees for non “Home” students. This makes competition for places much more difficult for Scottish students because they are competing against these non-EU students for places. It is even worse when you reach Postgraduate level – the Scottish Universities are favouring non-EU students more because they can fill their coffers with the non “Home” fee levels!

    It is also more difficult for “home-grown” Scottish students to receive Research Grants because they are competing against members of staff at the universities who are applying for the same research grants when they are on sabbatical “researching” or “writing books” – presumably whilst still on full salary! That, in my view, is iniquitous!

    You have to know how “the system” works in order to get even close to receiving a Research Grant for postgraduate study – there’s definitely a “trick” to it which I never fathomed out! As a mature student I had to pay for all my tuition at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

  • – Andy Buckley

    I’m sorry you find my essay a mess. Perhaps it would have been better to try to communicate these ideas at greater length in more than one post. I have though addressed some of the points made in my subsequent comments.

    On your specific point about access, there is evidence that school-leavers from comprehensive schools perform as well as those from grammar or independent schools with results one or two grades higher. Taking in students from comprehensive schools over independent school-leavers with better results would seem to be perfectly fair on examination of this evidence: http://www.suttontrust.com/news/news/comprehensive-pupils-outperform/

    “A comprehensive school student with A-level grades BBB for example is likely to perform as well in their university degree as an independent or grammar school student with A-level grades ABB or AAB – ie one to two grades higher. Comprehensive school pupils also performed better than their similarly qualified independent and grammar school counterparts in degrees from the most academically selective universities and across all degree classes, awarded to graduates in 2009.”

    There are a great many school-leavers who arrive from independent schools to the best of universities who some might describe as polished turds being promoted beyond their actual abilities.

  • Average rent for students in the UK in 2007 was £60 per week. In same year average rent paid by students in key Scottish university cities was

    St Andrews £82 per week
    Glasgow £70 per week
    Edinburgh £68 per week

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2007/mar/07/studentfinance.studenthousing

    It’s expensive to study in Scotland.

  • I’m encouraged that so many LibDems find the policy (and the sell out by LibDems MPs in the vote) unacceptable.

    Now tell your local party that you won’t be supporting them (as I have done and as KL does above)

  • Ewen,

    Did you support the Liberal Democrats in the last Westminster election when your policy was to abolish tuition fees?

  • Rachel Coleman Finch 1st Nov '11 - 1:36pm

    Ewan and Andy Buckley, on access:

    Cambridge University has recently been carrying out research which indicates that school background makes no difference to success at Cambridge: http://www.cam.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/research/school_background.html “there is no evidence of the phenomenon observed at other UK universities of state sector students out-performing their privately educated peers”

    You might also find interesting the University’s research on what is an achievable target for state-sector applicants: http://www.cam.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/research/docs/offa_pi_report.pdf and the financial support in place for 2012: http://www.cam.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/finance/2012entry/ which includes maintenance grants.

  • Andrew Chamberlain 1st Nov '11 - 7:37pm

    I think Ewan’s article makes perfectly valid points (except the end about Scottish students being discouraged from attending English universities – if you’re intelligent enough to attend university then you’re intelligent enough to understand the fees/maintenance system). The SNP should be ashamed of their support for “free” education, as should any progressively-minded Lib Dem. It’s a disgraceful sop to the middle classes and nothing more.

  • @ Andrew Chaberlain
    “if you’re intelligent enough to attend university then you’re intelligent enough to understand the fees/maintenance system”

    Are you saying that if you were a Scottish kid applying to uni you’d be prepared to pay an extra £30K+ to study south of the border?

  • Tommy Ball – I only came to examine the issue when the Browne review was published. I thought about it at great length and came to the opinion I hold currently.

    Free tuition is a universal benefit that is disproportionately taken up by the middle and upper classes. It discourages the careful consideration that every school-leaver should go through as to whether to attend university and which course to study. The most important consideration in higher education policy is ensuring the decision the school-leaver makes is the best one for their future prosperity and happiness. I think a deferred fee of some level (perhaps smaller than it is currently to ensure unis don’t go private) combined with the best careers advice we can muster, is the best way to ensure that kids make the right decision. Free tuition encourages kids to just drift into university before they actually confront the big question of what they actually want to do with their life. The 3 or 4 years of study are too important years of their life to be wasted because of a poor decision.

  • Thanks Aveek,

    I think if they presumed no parental contribution in England then there would be a flat grant or loan, with no account taken of household income. As this is not the case, I can only presume that either the Scots are expected to be more generous towards their children or the government is just mean.

  • It is still official liberal democrat policy to abolish tuition fees.

    If this ludicrous attempt to contort the principle of free tuition into some facile debating point about it helping the rich is the best you can come up with then it’s no wonder you have already lost a lib dem supporter on this thread who could have helped you campaign. I hate to break it to you but you need to encourage grass roots support not further alienate it.

    The simple and deadly point, “you lied about tuition fees” will only carry more weight by pretending tripling them in england was somehow a victory for the poor and not apologising for lying about the pledge to abolish them.

    I suspect your arguments have just ensured your by-election will not be short of upset students following you and the lib dems around making their voice heard.

    Great move tactically. I’m sure those lib dems left in Glasgow will thank you for it.

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