Tag Archives: higher education

Why Lib Dems shouldn’t keep schtum about tuition fees

tuition fees vote“University tuition fee rise has not deterred poorer students from applying”. That was the headline in The Guardian this week reporting new analysis by the Independent Commission on Fees chaired by Will Hutton:

The raising of tuition fees to £9,000 has not put off students from disadvantaged backgrounds from applying to university – although the gap in applications between those from wealthy and poor backgrounds remains wide, according to new analysis. …

The commission found that university application rates for 18-year-olds in England have continued to recover from their post-rise lows, with application rates for 2014 entry – including students who will receive their A-level results on Thursday – almost two percentage points higher than in 2010.

While students who are not eligible for free school meals – available for pupils from households earning less than £16,000 – remain more than twice as likely to go to university, the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students has narrowed from 30.5% in 2010 to 29.8% in 2013.

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LibLink: Tim Farron – In 2010, we promised to deliver the Pupil Premium. In 2015, I want us to promise to deliver the Student Premium

Tim Farron speaking - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsLib Dem party president Tim Farron has given his personal backing to the Lib Dems promising a Student Premium – modelled on the well-received Pupil Premium – at the next election. First proposed by his colleague Stephen Williams, Tim writes the Student Premium “could potentially change the game in terms of student uptake, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds”. Here’s an excerpt of his article for the April issue of the magazine, Politics First:

The Pupil Premium is being delivered only because the Liberal

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Opinion: The new tuition fees argument – having your cake and eating it

tuition fees voteOn Friday, the Guardian published an article pointing out that a lot more public money than expected will have to be contributed to tuition fees loans.

This has been greeted with a certain amount of glee by the usual suspects. On some level, I can understand the excitement, but nevertheless, it looks like a case of trying hard to have this particular cake and keep eating it.

People who used to shout about fees are now upset that after all, the state is putting more money into the system than …

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Nick Clegg and Vince Cable highlight Liberal Democrat achievements in higher education

When I went to speak in the St Andrew’s University debate last week, I did a bit of what I described as getting the tin opener and the worm can perilously close to each other, but pointed out that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds were twice as likely to go to university as they were 10 years ago. I also pointed out that those graduates on the lowest incomes would be paying much less than they were under Labour.

I was greatly assisted in preparing my remarks by Stephen Tall’s piece in January on the latest data in which …

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Opinion: A Liberal approach to Higher Education

University campusWhen people ask me why I’m a Liberal Democrat, I simplify it slightly. Yes, it’s because I have a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament and I think he’s pretty great, but it’s also because I quite like freedom, and I think it should be applied more liberally (see what I did there?).

I always describe Liberalism as being obsessed with freedom. It’s a very simple way of encompassing so many of the campaigns and issues we care so passionately about. We raised the tax threshold, because people on low incomes deserve freedom from a punitive tax burden. We legalised same-sex marriage because people deserve the freedom to marry whoever they see fit. The changes to benefits – controversial thought they are – are about ensuring that people aren’t beholden to the state without good reason.

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The Independent View: CentreForum’s three headliners for an alternative Queen’s Speech

The Queen’s Speech today looks set to be a relatively sedate affair. As Stephen Tall observes, “the Coalition is now pretty much intellectually dead” when it comes to its legislative agenda. Enthusiasm for pushing new ideas has been replaced with a business like determination to deliver what is already underway.

The content of the Queen’s Speech is nonetheless important. It will shape what happens over the course of the next parliamentary session, and will therefore influence the outcome of the General Election. If CentreForum had the privilege of writing the Speech, we would focus on three headline issues in particular: …

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Pack & Tall Debate… Tuition fees: what should Lib Dem party policy now be?

In the week of the publication of university application figures, LibDemVoice co-editors Mark Pack and Stephen Tall debate what it means for the Lib Dems’ future policy…

Stephen Tall: The publication of the University application figures for 2012 — the first year of the new £9k maximum fees regime — has something for everyone. Those who have always claimed the prospect of huge debt would deter potential students can point to the headline 8.7% decline in applications. Those who say the new fees repayments system …

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Competition and Universities: building new Higher Education policy

We took a severe beating in late 2010, from which we’re still not entirely recovered. From here, we can go in two directions: we can build a Higher Education policy that we can be proud of, or we can leave our policy in the pieces it’s currently in, and prepare for 2015’s brutal assault.

It’s hard to see a treasured policy fall apart under the pressure of electoral and financial reality. We all know there are positive aspects of the increase in graduate contributions that we can claim as ours: a Labour or Tory government would not have faced the …

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Rennie challenges SNP to set fair access test for Scottish universities

The Press Association reports:

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called on the Scottish Government to put a fair access policy in place, or extend the remit of the the Office of Fair Access north of the border. He said this would not only address the fair access gap for poorer students from England and Wales, but also improve the chances of Scottish students deciding to go to university.

Mr Rennie said: “With Scottish universities now able to set fees of up to £9,000 a year, and Edinburgh and St Andrews universities now the most expensive place to study in the

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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 …

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The Independent View: Coalition’s social mobility strategy failing

The government’s plan to improve social mobility has been dealt a series of blows over the past week. New education data show that trends towards a more ‘socially mobile’ Britain are pointing in the wrong direction.

Nick Clegg launched the government’s social mobility strategy last April, promising to ‘open the doors of opportunity’ to children from disadvantaged homes as they move into adulthood. Children from poor homes are half as likely to achieve five good GCSEs as their better off peers, and they account for less than one in a hundred Oxbridge students. Clegg rightly pointed out that …

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How do the university application figures match up against my five questions?

On Sunday, ahead of the publication of the first tranche of university application figures, I posed five questions for judging what they meant. Now the full figures are out, how to do they compare to those five tests?

Let’s see…

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Five questions you should ask to make sense of the university application figures

Tomorrow the first UCAS application figures for this year are officially published, with some leaked figures having appeared in the Sunday Times today. Superficially the headline figures are not great with an apparent 10% drop. But I’m holding off forming a view until I’ve seen the full figures, because there are five key questions to ask about the figures:

1. Some courses, such as medicine, tend to have much earlier application deadlines than those for other courses. Are applications for those early closing courses dropping (which would indicate a problem) or is it that early applications for courses with later deadlines …

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Opinion: Why free university tuition for all is deeply regressive in today’s Britain

Political speeches are usually replete with statistics, numbers culled without context and thrown in the path of critics like metaphorical stingers strewn across a motorway.

But one statistic from Nick Clegg’s conference speech which deserves to live and breathe in its own right is that in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (where I currently live) more than half of children progress from school to university. In the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (where I lived before moving to Hammersmith) the figure is that just 4% of children go to University. These Boroughs are thirty minutes away from ach other …

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Opinion: What Nick should say about tuition fees at the 2015 general election

More than any other issue, tuition fees have damaged the view of our party in the country as a whole. For what it’s worth, here’s what I think our leader should say about fees when going into the next general election:

I would just like to say a few brief words about tuition fees.

As a party, we entered the last election with a promise to oppose any increase in tuition fees. As a party, we then broke that pledge. That was wrong.

Nothing can justify breaking a promise like that. Nothing. We made a mistake and we have been punished

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Labour’s odd messaging: how the party was for reversing Coalition cuts before it was against them

Mark Pack has already highlighted the pitfalls of political opponents commentating on other parties’ conferences. And he’s right of course. But it didn’t stop him, so I won’t let it stop me…

I am genuinely puzzled by Labour’s key messages based on the first two days of their conference. Day 1 kicked off with the Big Announcment by Ed Miliband that Labour is now committed to doubling tuition fees (dressed up as only The Observer could as Labour committing to ‘slashing’ fees).

Regardless of what you think about the policy, and I think I’ve made my views clear

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Tim Leunig writes: The problem with Labour’s proposed tuition fees cap

Ed Miliband has seized the initiative at the start of his conference, announcing that Labour would cap student fees at £6,000 per year. This policy is superficially attractive, and is clearly designed to win over LibDem supporters who remain angry at the rise in tuition fees.

Today I have published an analysis of Labour’s proposal. It uses the Business Innovation and Skills graduate income “ready reckoner”, which is based on data from the ONS Labour Force Survey. The underlying data are as good as they can be, although of course predicting graduate incomes in 30 years time is a dangerous …

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Ed Balls has a new take on having your cake and eating it

There are two problems with a Liberal Democrat like myself blogging about Labour Party conference. First, as I’ve so often seen from the other side of the fence, an outside blogging about another party’s conference frequently misreads what is really happening. And second, no blogger can compete with Hopi Sen and his cat.

So caveats deployed and on to the confusion that Ed Balls’s speech today left me in. For he had two messages: first, that Labour can’t promise to undo the government’s cuts and, second, that many of the cuts are wrong. Either on its own would be a …

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Opinion: Ed Miliband’s tuition fees announcement – more a headline than a policy

On the eve of the Labour Party conference, Ed Milliband announced in an interview with The Observer, that he plans ‘to slash university tuition fees by a third’, by reducing the cap on tuition fees to £6,000. It’s a headline that appears to have been mistaken for a policy.

These past 15 months Labour has being decidedly light on policy. This surprised no-one. It was said of the previous Brown Government that Labour had run out of ideas; no-one seriously expected the ‘backroom boys’ who picked up Gordon Brown’s mantel to come up with new thoughts any time soon.

However, what …

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Opinion: Ed Miliband starts off his conference week with a damp squib

Many years ago I knew Tom Baldwin when he was a cub reporter on my local newspaper. He is now Ed Miliband’s chief communications guru. He’s a smart cookie, so I am surprised that Baldwin and Ed Miliband have decided to use the traditional opportunity for a trumpet fanfare for their conference week (i.e the front page of The Observer) to announce a distinctly underwhelming policy.

“It’s the economy, stupid” – no more so than at a time like this. So why waste your golden chance for a big media blast by returning, dog-like, to the site of your own …

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£6k versus £9k tuition fees: the real impact in pictures

Today’s announcement by Ed Miliband that Labour would double, not treble, tuition fees from the current £3k pa has prompted much vigorous discussion already. But what would be the actual impact for different income groups of the change in policy?

To find out, I fed different figures into Martin Lewis’s Student Finance Calculator. I made one assumption: that all students would need to take out the maximum maintenance loan to live on while studying. Here’s what the figures show…

Who pays nothing?

With fees at £6k…

… anyone whose salary doesn’t exceed £15,600 in today’s money.

With fees at £9k…

… anyone whose salary doesn’t exceed £15,600 in today’s money.

What if you earn the national average wage?

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Ed Miliband on tuition fees: £6k not £9k. The reaction so far…

Rejoice! Rejoice! Labour has a policy.

Party leader Ed Miliband has vowed that, if Labour were in government now, they would double tuition fees to £6k from the current £3k level set by the last Labour government with immediate effect. In other words, they would undercut the Coalition’s £9k fees by £3k.

Here are some early thoughts:

1) The principle of cutting fees from £9k to £6k

The reality is the cut from £9k to £6k makes no difference to the monthly repayments that poorer students will repay once they’ve graduated and earning more than £21k.

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Opinion: Why millionaire graduates should stop whingeing about fees

According to new figures published this week by the Office for National Statistics, graduates earn 85 per cent more than people with only GCSE qualifications over their working lives. Extrapolated over a 40-year career lifetime, graduates are likely to earn almost £1 million more than those on current average pay of some £25,000 pa.

The latest statistics show that the differential has fallen from 95 per cent in 1993, though the level of earnings has increased substantially over those 18 years. Their publication may reopen the debate on student fees – and incite some resentment among non-graduate taxpayers …

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LibLink: Simon Hughes – Make university an option for all

Simon Hughes, Lib Dem deputy leader and author of The Hughes Report on access to higher education, recently had an op-ed in the Daily Express outlining the thoughts he sets out in that report.

Here’s a sample:

Last week I submitted my report to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, with more than 30 recommendations on what can be done to improve access to higher education.

These do not focus only on university admissions but on what can be done to encourage young people to think about university from an early age.

This is crucial because from the age of 13 children

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LibLink | Stephen Tall: Would you hire someone without interviewing them?

Stephen Tall has an article over at Dale & Co on the Hughes Report on Access to Higher Education, which he previously outlined here on Lib Dem Voice.

Stephen comments:

However, there is one recommendation in ‘The Hughes Report’ with which I take issue:

It is my firm view that interviews which are conducted by an academic who will end up teaching that particular student are too subjective. … interviews should be conducted by trained admissions personnel who will not have face to face teaching responsibilities for the interviewee. (p.33)

It’s an odd comment for two reasons. First, it

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‘The Hughes Report': Lib Dem MP’s 33 recommendations to improve access to higher education

Last week saw the publication by Simon Hughes, the Government’s advocate for higher education access, of his report for the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister on how more young people can be encouraged to apply for university. It’s received little attention, perhaps understandably given the current frenetic news cycles — but it’s a shame because the report is a serious piece of work.

Though 45 pages long in total, it presents clearly, readably and concisely 33 recommendations designed to ensure that everyone, from young to old, has the chance to experience higher education. You can read the report in full below, but there are five aspects which struck me as worth highlighting:

  • Importance of early years: the report recommends that, from primary age onwards, ‘schools can play an important role in motivating children to think about their future career and start working towards achieving their dreams’. These range from work experience opportunities to, in particular, ensuring proper advice is available at age 13-14 ‘when a young person starts to make the choices of courses influenced by the qualifications they hope for and the careers they plan.’
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End of term report for Lib Dem MPs’ Class of 2010

As the House of Commons rises this Tuesday, the BBC’s Gavin Stamp gives new MPs of all parties his end-of-term report.

Here’s what he has to say about the new Lib Dem intake:

New entrants were small in number but still accounted for almost one in six of the Parliamentary party.

No new MPs made it into the ranks of ministers or were asked to head up a series of backbench committees designed to help the party retain an independent voice on issues outside the coalition.

However, Gordon Birtwhistle and Duncan Hames became parliamentary private secretaries, the latter also finding time to

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Opinion: The flaw at the heart of the Higher Education White Paper

Get your hands on a copy of the Higher Education White Paper and take a look at what the university sector might look like in the future. The government is promising a shiny-bright student-focused experience for all as you make your well-informed choice from a multitude of quality providers jockeying to meet your every higher education need. Welcome to Uni-Mart, where the student -consumer is king.

Except… their consumer experience won’t feel very regal under these proposals, because this White Paper contains a major flaw: it wants to encourage competition between HE institutions in the belief that a …

Posted in Op-eds | 18 Comments

Young people must get the facts on Higher Education – Hughes

Simon Hughes MP, the Government’s advocate for access to Higher Education, has a piece over at Left Foot Forward today, on the confusion surrounding student finance.

He cites the Sutton Trust’s findings that more than a fifth of 11-16 year olds believe their families will have to pay for the cost of university tuition, while a further 10 per cent believe students paid for university with money they earned before and during their studies:

This situation is clearly unacceptable. And now as we start a month where higher education is again back on the agenda, with today’s publication of the

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged and | 18 Comments

John Pugh writes: is an apology in order?

There was little real choice about choosing to enter the coalition. There was little real choice about addressing the nation’s colossal budget. There was no way to avoid risking unpopularity.

As the Liberal Democrat councillors took the bullet for the coalition on local election day and Conservatives emerged relatively unscathed, it must be asked whether the extent of our defeats was avoidable. To put it another way could we have played the coalition game better – both in terms of presentation and in terms of policy?

The answer is unequivocally yes and for that reason MPs owe an apology to …

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