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.

Don’t take my word for it: here’s MoneySavingExpert.com’s Martin Lewis: ‘Whether you choose a course that costs £6,000 or £9,000 you’ll repay the same amount each month, as that purely depends on what you earn (9% above £21,000).’

However, we’re in a new world of higher education finance. The truth is we just don’t know yet what will be the consequences of raising tuition fees above the current level of £3k. Will potential students, especially from the lower-income groups, be deterred even from applying? Or will demand hold up across all income groups just as it did when fees were tripled to £3k by Labour?

If there is real debt aversion at the headline figure of £9k then Labour’s policy could have a positive impact. If that debt aversion has been over-hyped, and students take a cool look at the figures and realise their repayments (unless they become higher-rate earners) are unaffected under either Labour or the Coalition’s policies, then it will make no difference.

2) The politics of cutting fees

I am genuinely surprised Ed Miliband has chosen the issue of tuition fees to put in place a first tangible policy of his leadership. The fee rises have proved to be a vote-loser for the Lib Dems in the past year — but principally because of the breach of trust rather than the fine detail of Vince Cable’s policy, which many acknowledge as an improvement on the one it replaces.

Yet it’s hard to see this being a vote-winner for Labour.

For students, vowing only to double rather than treble fees is hardly the most earth-shattering piece of good news.

And for the rest of the public, fees have never been that big an issue. It ranks well down the list of voters’ concerns, and when asked specifically about tuition fees polls have shown a pretty even split between voters who support the Coalition’s policy and those who oppose it, albeit with slim majorities against. (For example, in this YouGov poll here: question at the top of page 5.)

Put bluntly, if I were Ed Milband I would be a lot more concerned with winning back the voters Labour needs to from the Tories than about wooing current and former Lib Dem voters. To do that, he needs to get real about the deficit, not commit to new spending promises which, no matter how well-costed, are going to look like an indulgence to most voters whose major concern right now is the state of the economy, not tuition fees.

3) What it means for the Lib Dems

It could cut either way for the party. On the one hand, Labour is now outflanking the Coalition on the left, committing to raise new taxes to fund a cut in tuition fees. That will be potentially appealing for those on the progressive, liberal-left, many of whom have voted Lib Dem in recent years.

On the other hand, by finally nailing his colours to the mast and signing Labour up to a doubling of tuition fees from their current rate, Ed Miliband has undermined Labour’s crude attempts to position themselves as the party most opposed to fees (fees which they introduced in 1998 and increased in 2003, both times specifically against their own manifesto commitments). Now Labour has a policy, and one which represents a shade of grey rather than black-and-white opposition to the Coalition, they have diluted a point of differentiation.

However, let’s remember that official Lib Dem policy is still to oppose tuition fees notwithstanding our MPs’ votes in favour of Coalition policy. It’s a point that’s often forgotten because to be honest it’s fantasy politics. In reality it’s inconceivable that the party could, with any shred of credibility, include a commitment to abolishing tuition fees in its manifesto in 2015. Yet currently that’s our position. Lib Dems may attack Labour for posturing on this issue, but we’re hardly free of guilt ourselves.

Here’s what Lib Dem bloggers have been saying…

Seek, locate, triangulate: The hypocrisy of Ed Miliband (Sara Bedford)

After all Labour’s hot air and hand wringing, reminiscent more of a public convenience that a political party, Ed has taken his previous distinctive policy of a direct graduate tax and binned it in favour of a small sticking plaster on the coalition’s policy of a graduate tax by another name. Both the Labour faithful and the LibDem deserters must be furious.

University funding: LibDems are trying to benefit lower earning households. Labour are trying to benefit the upper middle earning households (Paul Walter)

Ed Miliband’s Tax Cut for Rich Graduates (Graeme Strachan Cowie)

Lowering the limit on tuition fees to £6k has ABSOLUTELY no effect on the lowest-earning graduates, but represents a potentially HUGE saving for the most affluent of graduates! Since we have established that the funding system is effectively a kind of graduate tax, this means that Labour are advocating a TAX CUT on the richest beneficiaries of an English University education! …

Remember, this is the Labour Party. The Party of Keir Hardie, of Nye Bevan and of Clement Attlee. Those men would be turning in their graves if they saw what this manipulative and regressive cabal led by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls has become. The Labour Party. Party of the Poor? Words truly fail me.

Tuition Fees and Labour (John Hemming)

This is an interesting political placing. We are trying to benefit lower earning households. Labour are trying to benefit the upper middle earning households.

Miliband and the 6k tuition fees promise #lab11 (Andrew Emmerson)

So what we’ll see also is that the proposed reduction on tuition fees to £6k only actually reduces the cost of education for the richest graduates! Because only rich students pay £9k (even at universities which charge £9k), because poor students get assistance. Those same packages of incentives really won’t be available if Labour cut the price tag.

Ed’s tuition fees rationale in full (Carl Minns)

Please use the comments thread to highlight any other posts from Lib Dems responding to Ed Miliband’s announcement…

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34 Comments

  • it is ridiculous for people from this party to ridicule Edd Milliband and Labour for their announcement on reducing tuition fee’s from £9k to £6k

    Yes sure, we all know that whether fee’s are 6k or 9k it will not change the amount that has to be paid back each month 9% above the 21k, But the fact remains the whole amount of debt owed would be far less, and therefore paid off quicker.

    Student Loans are not supposed to factor into a persons credit file or the ability to obtain other credit i.e a Mortgage. However, Disposable income is taken into consideration.

    The fact that Labour proposal would only saddle students with £18k of debt, is a lot more preferable to the coalitions £27k.

    It is psychologically more attractive to potential students in the first place, as the overall amounts seem more manageable and would remove some of the fears of being saddled with a long term debt, which will have a longer term impact on disposable income and credit.

    Considering it was and still is Liberal Democrats policy to ABOLISH tuition fee’s all together, and instead you voted to TREBLE tuition fee’s, I don’t think the party is any position to criticize Labour on this one and to do so will show yourselves up as completely tribal

  • “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. ”

    No potential graduate looks at the monthly payments. Their decision to go to university is based on the increase in earnings over their lifetime, the repayments over their lifetime and their loss of earnings ovver the duration of the course. Statin that the monthly repyments re the same is almost completely irrelevant.

    “The fee rises have proved to be a vote-loser for the Lib Dems in the past year — but principally because of the breach of trust rather than the fine detail of Vince Cable’s policy”

    Yes, because of the lack of trust, but also because the lib dems have enacted a policy that is the diametric opposite of their election pledge – instead of sccrapping fees, the lib dems tripled them. People who voted for the lib dems on the basis of tuition fees ended up with a policy that is the complete oppposite. It’s not just the lack of trust – it’s the fact that the lib dem’s have delivered something that in no way represents what they campaigned on.

    “For students, vowing only to double rather than treble fees is hardly the most earth-shattering piece of good news. ”

    They’re going to be paying back 9k (plus interest) less than they were before (assuming they end up in a graduate job). That’s a significant amount and shouldn’t be so easily dismissed.

    “And for the rest of the public, fees have never been that big an issue. ”

    That’s because many are baby-boomers who are happy to avoid paying their taxes to pay for the younger generation’s education (it’s the behaviour we would expect of this group). However, that demographic will obviously change with time.

    Graeme Strachan Cowie is wrong (I’ve left a response on his page):
    “Since we have established that the funding system is effectively a kind of graduate tax, this means that Labour are advocating a TAX CUT on the richest beneficiaries of an English University education! …”

    The tuition fee system being introduced by the coalition in no way represents a graduate tax, This can be seen by looking at the figures in the MSE table. Those graduates that go on to earn a career average salary of 35-40k (around the average salary for graduates with a few years experience) are the hardest hit, paying 5 times as much for their degree as someone on 21k and 20% MORE THAN SOMEONE ON 50k!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As such, tuition fees are progressive below middle graduate incomes and regressive above and are nothing like a graduate tax (which would at least be proportional). The coalition’s plans allow the highest earning graduates to pay less for their degrees than those on middle incomes. How is that possibly fair?

    John Hemming’s blog incorrectly uses the salary deciles for all earners, not graduates. If he had looked atgraduate incomes then he might have realiesed that the coalition plans hit hardest those on middle incomes (the majority of graduates), whilst allowing those on high incomes to pay less.

    By reducing the cap to 6k then the disproportinate burden placed on middle incoming earning graduates (teachers, scientisits, engineers, etc) is levelled slightly and the disincentive to go to university creaed by the coalition is corrected slightly.

    Miliband’s policy is bad, but it is not as bad as the coalitions. A fairer system is a proportionate (or even progressive) graduate tax.

  • I don’t know if you are aware but there is a bill going through Parliament that will set the GE election date for May 2015 (more than 3.5 years away). Although we would expect to start seeing some of the Labour Party policies to take shape over the next few years, they would be stupid to say too much seeing we are in economically turbulent times. If you want to see the Labour policies for Government then call an election. I don’t remember seeing too many of Cameron’s policies pre-201 and the ones they had they have changed (matching labour’s spending commitments, lighter touch regulation of the banks, no top-down reorganisation of the NHS etc)

    Letme ask as a voter for the LD in 2010 – what are your policies for the 2015 election? We see the Coalition policies in action but what will be the LD positioning in 2015.

    What will be the LD policy on tuition fees? Labour have set out theirs!

    Every day reading and seeing the comments from the current Liberal Democratic membership makes me regret more and more my votes from 2001 onwards. It seem s you are becoming as one with the Tories with no free will unless agreed with by them in order to make you look ‘hard’

    Unfortunately, there now seems to be no centre-left liberal party for me to vote for, the only option is voting anything to prevent the continuing on a Government with Tories in it (and I include your leadersip in that)

  • Grammar Police 25th Sep '11 - 11:48am

    @ Matt “The fact that Labour proposal would only saddle students with £18k of debt, is a lot more preferable to the coalition[‘]s £27k.”

    But that is a chimera – the “debt” is irrelevant, students will either pay more or less than they borrow depending on their actual income. Eg a graduate on £22K will pay about £3K over 30 yrs, whether they’ve borrowed £27 or £18.

    The only people who directly benefit from Labour’s policy are higher earners.

    I agree that sadly, a lot of people won’t appreciate this. But this sums up everything about the Labour party for me.

  • Yes sure, we all know that whether fee’s are 6k or 9k it will not change the amount that has to be paid back each month 9% above the 21k, But the fact remains the whole amount of debt owed would be far less, and therefore paid off quicker.

    It would only be paid off quicker by high earning graduates. Lower earners are less likely to have to pay back the full amount as the debt is written off after a period of time. Hence Labour’s policy gives a break to top earners and little for low earners.

    In fact, having the 9k funding available to Universities allows them to offer more scholarships to students from poor backgrounds. Certainly Oxford chose to charge £9k because they realised it allowed them to offer more full scholarships to poorer students than £7k.

  • Grammar Police 25th Sep '11 - 11:55am

    That’s £27 or £18 *thousand*, obviously! ;o)

  • Simon Foster 25th Sep '11 - 12:04pm

    Annecdotal evidence from my college:

    Neil Fawcett gave a talk on liberalism last week, which my A2 Political Ideology students are studying. At the end, he added on a small bit about the importance of going to University, and asked how many of my students were applying to University:

    Every single one of my 12 students put their hand up (hardly an exodus away from HE in my class).

    OTOH, last year, I quickly asked how many of my students would be put off college if EMA was scrapped, and wouldn’t be able to come to college:

    In both groups of 20 students, 2 put their hand up (10%).

    However, a third of my students who got EMA then said they didn’t need it. Eg: The student from a single parent family, who got it automatically (from being from a single parent family) but whose parent earned over £50k. “Nice beer money” was their comment.

    Now, this is about as small and unscientific as you can get, but may be useful in a qualitative sense. My gut feeling as a teacher says that if you want to do something about access to higher education, you need to look again at EMA and the system of bursaries and grants that has replaced it (which my college runs).

    But it needs to be really targetted to get to that bottom 10% of students who may be missing out, and the top third of students who did get EMA need to be looked at.

    It’s just like campaigning – constant targetting at where resources will make a real difference.

  • @Grammar Police

    But you are missing the point, it is not just about the monthly “amount” they would being paying out each month for the next 30 Years.
    Under Labours new proposals the “overall debt” would be far less, having a more positive psychological outlook for potential students considering university.

    Someone earning £25k may still only be paying £360 a year from their student loan and their monthly disposable income in reduced by only £30 a month, However it is far more preferable to know that your student loan is only £18k and not £27k for instance.

    A young graduate could then have a better outlook for the future and make more realistic plans for their futures, mortgage etc, what they need to be saving to either pay off their loans early, or save up towards a deposit on a mortgage.

    Peoples decisions are not swayed by what the monthly repayments will be, It’s more about, the total Loan amounts and the feasibility of how long this debt will have an effect on their disposable income and ability to look towards the future of owning their own homes.

    Yes Labour introduced fee’s, yes Labour topped up fee’s, However, Labour did not treble fee’s, and what they are proposing is a far more friendly and better for students and graduates compared to what the coalition have done to them

  • Yes Labour introduced fee’s, yes Labour topped up fee’s, However, Labour did not treble fee’s

    I beg to differ:

    Fees 1998: up to £1000
    Fees 2010: £3290

    That’s more than tripling if my maths doesn’t fail me.

  • @Ed
    “That’s more than tripling if my maths doesn’t fail me.”

    So, tripling something that’s already been tripled is equivalent then?!

  • It is Matt that is missing the point. The whole ‘tuition fee’ hysteria has not been about the Coalition policy – it is actually much more beneficial to students than the present arrangement and it is very disappointing that students, who are supposed to be bright, haven’t bothered themselves to look at the detail. What the vilification of Clegg and the ‘I’ll never vote LibDem again’ is all about is that the LibDems signed a stupid pledge which then came back to haunt them. As has been said already Labour broke two promises on student fees, the second one every bit as emphatic as the LibDem ‘pledge’ and it broke those promises when it was in a position to keep them – unlike the LibDems who were in no such position [ unless they had refused to go into coalition in which case we would have had a General Election in October last year which the Tories would have won hands down]. The real problem for the LibDems is that everyone expects Labour & Tory to be an opportunistic bunch for whom ‘principle’ is a difficult word to embrace – look how they both sucked up to Murdoch – whereas voters expected the LibDems to be different. So to find out that they too can be overtaken by compromise is a big disappointment. However looked at objectively [there’s a novelty – especially for the media] the LIbDems have much to offer & are not, & never have been, the plaything of the Financial Barons or the Trade Union Barons & are a better bet than the TweedleTory or LabourDum.

  • could someone release my comment above please

  • Good reminder George.

    This policy is great for Lib Dems, as it shows everyone just what a mess Labour are in this area, and because it will make no one happy.

  • There should be free educational funding for all people up to tertiary level to be taken at any time in their lives. Unaffordable – well it depends on priorities – I do not see the need for a trident replacement myself.

    I am no apologist for Labour on this issue but this shows two things.

    i. Why would an opposition hold themselves hostages to fortune with announcing a policy 3.5 years before they have any chance too implement it and allow a Government to turn the focus on them rather than keeping the focus on those whose decisions matter now. I want to see opposition policies ready for a GE campaign, not 3 years before – perhaps then we would not see so many broken promises

    ii. What is the LD policy for 2015? The current policy is a coalition one – do you plan to continue with this in your manifesto or would you still try to reduce the tuition fee burden? I have no idea on this or any other LD policies. As far as I can tell abolition of tuition fees still remains the party policy. Perhaps you could tell us how you are planning to implement this?

  • Sandra Folliot 25th Sep '11 - 5:18pm

    using Martin Lewis’s calculator (http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/family/student-finance-calculator)
    taking the max maintenance loan, a £6000 fee only reduces the total repaid for graduates whose STARTING salary is above £38400. barely the top 10% of graduates do fall in that category.
    it falls to £32000 if taking the ‘live at home’ loan, still only represent only the top 20%..
    even for those that take no maintenance loan at all (part-timers, or those that mum and dad can finance for 3 years), it makes a difference above £25k, which is about the average starting salary (depending on sources, it might actually be far less)

  • daft ha'p'orth 25th Sep '11 - 5:22pm

    What a brilliantly conceived trap.

    They’ve picked the sum that Lib Dems claimed would be standard in all but the rarest of rare cases anyway – Cable himself claimed that fees were capped at 6k, rising to 9k in exceptional circumstances – so if you claim that sum is unrealistic you are shooting yourselves in the foot.

    If you say they’re proposing to charge too little (which seems to be a common position on these boards) you not only fall into the trap above, but also end up on record as believing that your proposed fee hike should be larger, and that you see no problem with sums that to most people are astronomical – with the accompanying implication that you would be happy to see fees increased further in the future. Also, it provides further opportunity to again describe huge amounts of debt as ‘progressive’. This in itself is risky, given that the term ‘progressive’ has entered the British vocabulary as ‘a self-congratulatory slippery-politician code, defined as “pulling a fast one”‘.

    And of course – if you say they’re proposing to charge too much, you are absolutely satirising yourselves.

    There is no Lib Dem reaction to this that doesn’t involve taking a spade and digging yourselves a deeper hole.

  • @Sandra Folliot
    That figure you quoted of £38k involves taking out the maximum maintenance loan available for all three years of study. If the maintenance loan is reduced to £0 (perfectly possible – many students these days do lots of holiday jobs and part-time jobs to fund their maintenance) then the the threshold is £25k, which is slightly below the projected average graduate starting salary for 2015.

    So, without the dodgy figures, graduates that begin earning on greater than £25k per annum will be better off with a 6k cap rather than a 9k cap. This is the majority of students, not just those on high incomes – and given that those on low graduate incomes (21k – 25k) pay less anyway or not at all (<0k), then a 6k cap is better news for most graduates (provided they don't take out large maintenance loans).

    The Lib Dems do seem to be really keen on arguing themselves into a hole on this. It really is quite risible (imho) that many on here are, effectively, trying to tell the voters that a £9k cap is fairer than a £6k cap. Do you not also realise that students from poor backgrounds asspire to earn a decent salary by earning a place at university (this point seems to be completely lost on everyone here)? By hammering away at the (increasingly marginal) financial advantage that university delivers, you are thwarting the aspirations of those from poor backgrounds.

    This isn't about access (everyone agrees that fees shouldn't be paid upfront) – this is about how fair the burden of payments is shared across different graduate (and non-graduate) income groups. Tuition fees are completely mental in that someone starting on £35k will pay 5 times as much for their degree as someone starting on £21k, and also 20% MORE than someone that starts on £50k (according to the table on MSE). A graduate tax would be far fairer.

  • I have just read one person’s answer to the questions I posed. Might I direct readers to the Telegraph at
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/liberaldemocrats/8784515/The-Liberal-Democrats-will-never-be-forgiven-for-backing-tuition-fees.html

  • Daniel Henry 25th Sep '11 - 10:05pm

    @ Steve
    You mention that students won’t need to take the maximum maintenance loans.
    That all sounds nice in theory, but does your hypothetical scenario occur in real life at all?

    Is there a significant percentage of students that apply for loans to cover tuition fees without applying for maintenance? If we were to go the student loans company, I think we’d find that such a percentage is VERY small. And therefore, Ed’s plans simply amount to using a huge amount of tax payers money to fund the highest earning graduates. The worst of both worlds!

    Feel free to prove me wrong.

  • @Daniel Henry
    “That all sounds nice in theory, but does your hypothetical scenario occur in real life at all?”

    Well, it happened with my wife – she managed to pay her way through four years of university without taking out a maintenance loan (and without support from her parents). The size of mainetenance loans I took out at university (when adjusted for inflation) would be under 2k per year today. The threshold (for the 6k cap being better) using my wife as an example is £25k starting salary and £28k for myself. (I haven’t looked at sthe size of maintenance loans for some years now – why on earth do people need to borrow the silly amounts available??).

    So, my two anecdotal, but quite personal, examples give a threshold of the reduction in the cap being useful for salaries starting at 25k to 28k rather than the figure of 38k derived on LDV using the maximum maintenance loan.

    As for those from poor backgrounds (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this as I’m not well informed on grants), don’t those from households with less than £25k income receive a grant of over £3k? – that amount is greater (in inflation adjusted terms) than the money I received in maintenance loans for my first degree, so it should be enough to cover maintenance without taking a loan, thus making £25k the starting salary for those who benefit from Miliband’s cap.

    Not that I think Miliband’s proposals are much good – I just don’t think they’re as awful as the coalition’s plans. A graduate tax would be far fairer (i.e. it wouldn’t have such wild progression and regression across the income deciles, producing the perverse incentives the IFS talked about) and simpler.

  • bazsc – The 6k fees is not Labour party policy (yet). All Miliband has said is that, if Labour were in government now, they would cut the maximum fee from 9k to 6k a year. So to criticise the Lib Dems for having no policy for 2015 when Labour still have no policy for 2015 is nonsensical. This is from the same Labour leadership that voted against tuition fee increases last year, which makes it look like political posturing in search of a cheap headline, which is ironically what some in the Labour party this week have blamed their loss at the last election on.

  • @alex agreed to a certain extent but the difference is that we are in government – a government that not long ago was dismissing talk of £9k fees as scare tactics by people who didn’t know what they were talking about… Perhaps the public would like some relief from VAT rises, inflation, cutting of services and job losses.

    Just like AV – nice to have academic debates while missing what people might be thinking – and most people I talk to are genuinely worried by the overall size of the porential student debt rather than how it’s paid back – not surprising really when Cameron keeps preaching how important that is to the country.

  • Alex Paul

    If you read what I say it is that I do not think it is wise for a party to set out its policies this far out from a fixed election (May 2015). I would not expect the LD to do so either. The Labour Party have reacted to the clamour of the media and not thought this through – I would however also refer you to the first line of this article and suggest that the political posturing is not confined to one side

  • I do wish people would stop repeating this myth that Labour ruled out fees in their 1997 manifesto. They didn’t. In fact they talked about the need for students to make a financial contribution to their education though without committing to a specific policy.

  • Julia Davies 26th Sep '11 - 9:48am

    I thought there were concerns that if the money was not sourced from tuition fees but from general taxation it might not end up being handed over to the universities.

  • Peter Chivall 26th Sep '11 - 2:02pm

    Surely the important point here is not the small print. It’s the fact that the Labour leadership have accepted the need for a significant rise in student contributions to undergraduate degree funding. I wonder how many Labour MPs also signed the NUS ‘pledge’ in 2010, and how many would vote for the £6,000 fee cap if it came before the Commons again.
    That still doesn’t take away from the fact that we were stupid and allowed ourselves to be shafted by both Labour (via the Browne report) and the Tories (who insisted on ‘fees’ rather than a ‘graduate tax’ or ‘graduate contribution’ for free market ideological reasons.) over the issue.
    Bit like the AV referendum really.

  • Nigel Quinton 26th Sep '11 - 8:23pm

    I don’t pretend to understand Miliband’s motivation for announcing this now. My first reaction was that it undermines totally the criticism that has been heaped on the LibDems over their “reversal” on tuition fees in that it tacitly accepts the model of higher fees and the imposition of what is effectively a graduate tax in all but name.

    The comments above also highlight the difficulty we have as LibDems in framing a new policy on HE funding. For many of us it is simply a case of continuing to argue for what we have always argued for – education to be paid out of general taxation, with no graduate contribution. (Of course, as graduates generally earn more than the average they are already paying a greater proportion of these costs than those who did not get the privileges of a higher education.)

    However, we have to be realistic. With both Labour and Tory parties long committed to a system of fees paid by graduates or students, getting rid of fees completely will be a tough ask. So we will be left with exactly what Ed Miliband is trying to do, make the new system fairer than it is already. One way may be to reinstate some of the teaching grant, allowing Universities to charge less as fees. Another way – which I think we should be calling for even now – would be to remove the punitive RPI plus 3% interest which is what makes the scheme most expensive for the middle earners, and less expensive for the rich who can pay off their tax liability fastest.

  • daft ha'p'orth 27th Sep '11 - 12:13am

    @Nigel Quinton

    “it undermines totally the criticism that has been heaped on the LibDems over their “reversal” on tuition fees in that it tacitly accepts the model of higher fees and the imposition of what is effectively a graduate tax in all but name.”

    Those who were watching the tuition fees issue knew years ago that Labour were planning on raising fees sky-high (although it is faintly possible that even they might have quailed at an immediate hike to £9k/y, but I wouldn’t have bet on it). If Miliband seriously attempted to deny this fact he would be laughed out of town. The writing was on the wall as soon as the issue was put into the hands of Mandelson’s mate, Lord Browne. Mandelson, a man whose dodgy dealings are legendary, oversaw integration of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills… the clue is in the name. If Labour hadn’t been such weasels in dealing with the university sector, far fewer students would’ve turned to the Lib Dems in the first place.

    For some reason politics seems to lead a lot of people to thinking in purely competitive terms; ‘it doesn’t matter if my favourite party screwed up, as long as we keep on reminding people that other parties screwed up too.” Weird playground logic.

    Other than that, though, I agree that free education is something that no party is likely to champion any time in the near future. Whether it is a failure of imagination or of action, no party seems to be able to convincingly promote anything but debt. Poor old England…

  • Old Codger Chris 27th Sep '11 - 1:43am

    I’m fascinated to learn that fees of £9K are a better deal for students than £6K. Perhaps we should treble fees again – to £27K – to give students an even better and fairer deal.

    Either the £9K figure is bad news for students or – as per the Daily Telegraph piece on 16th Sept – it’s bad news for taxpayers who apparantly will be burdened with £191 billion of debt by 2047 thanks to the scheme. It’s probably bad news for students AND taxpayers. Hasn’t PFI taught us that someone has to pay eventually – or is money now growing on the proverbial trees?

  • Steve,
    ” why on earth do people need to borrow the silly amounts available?”

    the cheapest first year accommodation at Birmingham uni is £3294.95 Unfortunately the accommodation fills bottom up and most students end up paying a lot more, the most expensive is an eye watering £14,400 but the average is about 5k. Most maintenance grants don’t even cover the accommodation costs let alone food. A lot of student jobs are now on zero hours contracts i.e. they are not guaranteed any hours of work, they are just called in as and when, the maintenance grant is the only fixed income they can count on.

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  • User AvatarRoss McLean 19th Oct - 2:10am
    Yep. This is excellent. Well done Daisy. I hope Norman Lamb reads it. Norman is being reported in the Guardian to be considering voting for...
  • User AvatarRoland 18th Oct - 11:46pm
    @frankie Norway+ is not on offer, at best it is Canada- and if the ERG get their way it is WTO. Actually, if the ERG...
  • User Avatarfrankie 18th Oct - 10:50pm
    I'm afraid John there are too many frightened Labour MP's along with some very mad ones, that coupled with Jeremey tacit support is likely to...
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 18th Oct - 10:38pm
    @frankie Who says that Norway Plus is “not on offer”? Who knows what might happen if the deal fails tomorrow? It’s all up for grabs....
  • User Avatarfrankie 18th Oct - 10:05pm
    If anyone is interested in keeping up with events in Syria may I recommend https://mobile.twitter.com/desyracuse Agathocle deSyracuse @deSyracuse Historian, Conflict analyst, #Map maker, #MiddleEast, #Syria....
  • User Avatarfrankie 18th Oct - 9:50pm
    There isn't anything special about people John that means they can or cannot handle democracy. We tend to think we are special because we live...