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 Democrats are in government – and it continues to be one of the biggest successes of this coalition government. The Pupil Premium was our party’s second highest priority policy (after our pledge to increase the income tax threshold), with £2.5 billion of new money specifically ear-marked to help support the most disadvantage children in school. … Now what has that got to do with Higher Education, I hear you ask?

Well, I would like to extend the scheme to Higher Education. Currently, we help and support young people through the pupil premium, catch up classes and even specialist tuition – but then at 18, if they go onto University, we leave them to the institution and hope as part of the access agreement, they will be eligible for support. HEFCE (higher funding education council for England) provides up to £150 million to help disadvantaged young people, but often students do not know the size of the grant they will receive until they arrive at university.

I want to change that – I want to extend the pupil premium to Higher Education. I believe that that will help
create a student pathway and give certainty to pupils and parents/carers that their son or daughter can afford
Higher Education. I think that could potentially change the game in terms of student uptake, especially from
disadvantaged backgrounds.

A student premium would be designed to guarantee financial help for all children on free school meals entering
higher education. I have seen reports that it could be worth around £2,500 per pupil, per year. That could make a massive difference to young people. I would also like funding and support packages to be offered – this way young
people and their families would have certainty and would not have to fill in form after form and then be offered
nothing at the end of it.

Before I became an MP, I worked in HE. I saw its value at first hand and how it can change the lives, not only of
young people, but women and men of all ages and backgrounds. I saw how the experience allows people to grow
and develop. A student premium will help more people to take advantage of that experience. Other MPs have seen
that opportunity, too – my colleague Stephen Williams MP first floated the idea in a pamphlet by Liberal Reform
called “Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead”. …

Education is critical to our hopes of a fairer society. I hope, just as the pupil premium was front and centre of
our 2010 manifesto, that the student premium will be prominently displayed come 2015.

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53 Comments

  • Radical Liberal 16th Apr '14 - 3:09pm

    Ok, this idea is better than what we have now but why not just do what we promised and abolish all fee’s. Education is a right, however, there is sadly an increasing strain of anti-intellectualism in our party which does not accept this.

  • Of course education is a right but it’s also the responsibility of those who receive further/higher education to go on to pay back the extra funding they’ve received.

    It seems odd that we’re talking about giving £2,500 to each FSM HE student… not only is there no mention of FE but it’s way more than we’re spending on those lower down in primary education. The reason we put up fees was to redirect the money to where it matters most; on early years. Any extra money should once again be focused here.

  • Adam Corlett 16th Apr '14 - 3:59pm

    Far better to spend more on early years. Social mobility help at 18 is a not a good use of money.

    And far better politically to tell people that the tuition fee system is working better than ever for poorer pupils, rather than to suggest that following the coalition’s changes we need new support to get people into university.

  • Richard Wingfield 16th Apr '14 - 4:16pm

    I must be missing something here. Tuition fees are not paid upfront, so how will giving £2,500 a year to students from poorer backgrounds help them? All students are equally eligible for student loans which are not means-tested, so someone from a poorer background has no greater need for money to access higher education than one from a wealthy background.

  • Does Tim Farron think that voters would believe the Lib Dems on anything to do with students university costs? It’s a subject the Lib Dems should stay well away from or their party workers – who are having a hard enough time of it already – will be laughed out of town. It won’t matter how many “pledges” or “apologies” they make the student and their parents vote has long gone.

  • Graham Evans 16th Apr '14 - 4:53pm

    Tim Farron says he used to work in HE. Perhaps that’ s why he seems so uninterested in FE which often has to pick up the pieces of a failed schools system. However , though I think that FE should have a much higher priority for spending than HE, I agree with those who say spending money on preschool and infant education would represent much the best use of scarce financial resources.

  • Eddie Sammon 16th Apr '14 - 5:06pm

    I don’t like the pupil premium, it reduces incentives to work hard and provide for your own children. Therefore, I probably won’t like the student premium either.

    Money should go towards a stronger welfare state instead. We need to focus on meeting people’s essential needs, not trying to level playing fields everywhere.

  • Radical Liberal 16th Apr '14 - 5:24pm

    Thomas long – ”Of course education is a right but it’s also the responsibility of those who receive further/higher education to go on to pay back the extra funding they’ve received.”

    Why? Do you also apply that to healthcare? If not, why not? Not only do we all benefit from an educated population, but more importantly free universal education says something about the society that we should aspire to be – a society which values education; actually, we should not just value it we should be fanatical about it. As liberals we should want to take away obstacles which stand in the way or discourage etc people from cultivating their own intellect and developing and growing as individuals and citizens. Read Stefan Collini’s excellent book ‘What are Universities for?’. In the realm of education the only responsibility should be to question, challenge and try; money and debt has no role, or at least shouldn’t, for the student .

  • I am as puzzled as Richard Wingfield about this. The only assumption I could make of it would be if universities were granted an additional £2500 for each student from an identifiably disadvantaged background – presumably anyone who had attracted the pupil premium whilst at school.

    The benefit, I presume, would be to the university department and not to the student directly but would act as an incentive for universities to accept such students.

    I am sure someone can correct me if I am wrong.

  • Adam Corlett 16th Apr '14 - 5:39pm

    There’s also a risk that this could be bad for work incentives. If your family earns just below/above the threshold for Free School Meals, the promise of a £2,500 bursary for 3-4 years is a fairly huge incentive to limit your earnings in the relevant year(s) (far more than with the pupil premium – which goes to schools – or with actual free school meals).

  • Joe Otten:
    “malc, look how quickly Labour were forgiven for introducing fees after promising not to, despite having a majority in parliament and money to spend.”

    I know it should be the same , but it isn’t. I along with many others voted Lib Dem because we wanted to believe the “no more broken promise’s” Clegg talked about. We were sick of the lies from the two major parties and we honestly believed the pledges on tuition fee’s. Lib Dem leaders came on TV looked us in the eye and lied to us. Voters expected better and in many ways it turned out worse – hence the Lib Dems sitting on 7%in the polls.

  • Radical Liberal:

    Agree 100% with you. Didn’t people use to pay for their higher education by going on to be higher earners and therefore pay more tax. Why do they now have to pay twice.

  • “Didn’t people use to pay for their higher education by going on to be higher earners and therefore pay more tax. Why do they now have to pay twice.”

    The cost of sending people to university has rocketed due to rising numbers. The bottom line is the extra money has to come from somewhere. Which bit of that is difficult for people to understand?

    And why can’t some people who are apparently obsessed about higher education use apostrophes correctly?

  • David Evans 16th Apr '14 - 6:22pm

    Joe Otten: Of course, Labour came to be forgiven(ish) when they got rid of Blair and Brown. Can Nick and Danny take a hint?

  • Radical Liberal 16th Apr '14 - 6:24pm

    RC ‘The cost of sending people to university has rocketed due to rising numbers. The bottom line is the extra money has to come from somewhere. Which bit of that is difficult for people to understand?’

    I think you will find that many people who want universal free higher education accept this. I’m not sure why you think they don’t. It seems that you are trying to set up a straw man argument. Many of us would be happy to make the rich pay a bit more tax in order to have free higher education for all. Is that so difficult to understand? Costs associated with the NHS have also increased a great deal and will do so more as the population gets older. Guess we should start thinking about charging people for healthcare too then.

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Apr '14 - 6:32pm

    Wouldn’t it just be better to increase the current Pupil Premium, or perhaps expand it in some way? Or am I missing something obvious there?

    Graham Evans – You have a point. But be very careful what you wish for. It is not at all implausible that HE style loans/repayments would be seen as the route to, ‘getting more money to FE.’

  • David Allen 16th Apr '14 - 7:12pm

    I’m confused. The Pupil Premium goes to schools, not individual children. Yet the Student Premium seems to be aimed directly at the student. Shouldn’t it just be called a bursary, then? Or is that a banned word because it was what Labour did?

    As others have said, we are going to have a huge uphill struggle to be taken seriously whatever we say about this issue. The one thing that might gain credence would be to explain what we got wrong and how we should change that. We got it wrong, and the Tories got it wrong, because we messed up the financial calculations big time. A scheme which was supposed to save money, costs money. It needs a fundamental rethink. No promises, no pledges, but we do need to tear it all up and start again.

  • RC:

    “And why can’t some people who are apparently obsessed about higher education use apostrophes correctly?”

    Not all of us had the advantage of higher education, but I would like to see todays young people have that opportunity without ending up with mortgage size debt’s . I’m afraid your comment says more about your shortcomings than mine.

  • @ Malc

    “Not all of us had the advantage of higher education”

    A decent school teaches pupils to use apostrophes properly by the age of ten. Higher education doesn’t enter into it.

    “I’m afraid your comment says more about your shortcomings than mine.”

    No it doesn’t. It says that I’m a stickler about grammar and that I wish more of our state schools were too, because it would drive up standards in education.

    @ Radical Liberal

    “Many of us would be happy to make the rich pay a bit more tax in order to have free higher education for all”

    The rich ARE paying more tax. There still isn’t enough money to make higher education free because there’s still a huge deficit. What you are really talking about is making *everyone* pay more tax, whether they are graduates or not. If you were to argue for that, I would respect your position more, rather than the “free money for all” fallback position of “Oh, we’ll just tax the rich, won’t we?”.

  • There is a relatively simply way of delivering £2500 financial support to university students, apprentices and others undertaking FE or skills training i.e. a universal Citizens Income.

    By delivering the targeted £12,500 tax free allowance in the next parliament – not as a personal allowance but as a tax credit – those with zero income would receive £2500 per year as a monthly tax refund towards their support . Those in part-time work would get a smaller tax refund, but be able to earn income of up to £12,500 tax free i.e. keep 80p in the pound of all additional income – as would students with income from accumulation and maintenance trusts.

    With term time living costs covered – maintenance grants would remain for those requiring them for accommodation costs – and supplementary bursaries from educational institutions for study materials etc., would continue to be targeted at students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

  • Radical Liberal 16th Apr '14 - 8:00pm

    RC – ‘The rich ARE paying more tax’.

    I know, after all they can afford to. But as I said ‘many of us would be happy to make the rich pay a bit more tax in order to have free higher education for all’. My point remains.

    ‘There still isn’t enough money to make higher education free because there’s still a huge deficit.’

    So is your opposition to universal free higher education confined to the period that we have this ‘huge deficit’. Once this has been dealt with you will advocate universal higher education? Or is there, in fact, something else doing the work in your argument?

    ‘What you are really talking about is making *everyone* pay more tax, whether they are graduates or not.’

    No I’m not and I’m unsure how you would jump to this very bold conclusion from what I said. Why does making the rich pay more, by for example, increasing the rate at which income tax is paid or having a land value tax, mean all must pay more in tax? I don’t want either the graduate and non-grad who earns under say £13,000 paying any income tax whether to fund universal higher education or not. I do, however, want the graduate and non-graduate who makes say £150,000 plus per year to pay more or perhaps it can be done via a land value tax. I’m not too concerned with the means but I am concerned with the principle.

    ‘If you were to argue for that, I would respect your position more, rather than the “free money for all” fallback position of “Oh, we’ll just tax the rich, won’t we?”.’

    I am unsure why you are so eager to provide other people with their supposed stance on questions rather than simply asking them.

    @Malc – Ignore his grammar points. It’s often just a tactic some people use in online discussions to try and intimidate people.

  • Radical Liberal:

    Thanks, I have have met RC’s type before. Thick as xxx xxxx, but always uses lovely grammer.

  • Good god I’ve just noticed I put an “e” in grammar. RC will be having a heart attack.

  • Andrew Suffield 16th Apr '14 - 8:55pm

    why not just do what we promised and abolish all fee’s

    Bluntly, because giving more money to rich people is not what our education system needs. Simple handouts to all undergraduates would predominantly favour wealthy families. It was a nice-sounding idea, but we really need to give up on it and be serious about means-testing here.

  • Radical Liberal 16th Apr '14 - 9:25pm

    Andrew Suffield writes ‘Bluntly, because giving more money to rich people is not what our education system needs. Simple handouts to all undergraduates would predominantly favour wealthy families. It was a nice-sounding idea, but we really need to give up on it and be serious about means-testing here’.

    Do I therefore take it that you wish to means test people for healthcare? Should we basically just end the NHS?

    Also why would making education free for everyone mostly favour the rich if we are also taxing such families more to fund such universal free higher education? Sure they would benefit from free higher education, or rather their children would, but they sure as hell would be made to pay for it via other means, such as a land value tax or higher inheritance tax or a whole range of other taxes that would hit the richest. It seems to me that those who would benefit most from such a policy would be the poorest who would have no debt – they would be the real gainers. The children of the rich won’t benefit much from not having 30k worth of debt because it was never a burden or disincentive to them in the first place. It is the poor who will thus gain most from free higher education, the benefit to the rich that you fear is not much of a benefit at all.

    Finally, I think it ultimately comes down to the type of society we want to live in. For me education is something to be valued in and of itself. By saying we believe in free universal education we stress how much we value it; it is not some commodity like a car or a house, it is an indicator of what we as a community value. It is for that reason wrong to use the language of the Daily Mail in referring to free higher education as ‘handouts’. Why stop them, is secondary education a ‘handout’ or is it a right based on the view that all should have the opportunity to flourish and develop and not because it helps some employer but because, as liberals, we believe (or at least some of us do) in individual autonomy and individuality.

  • Andrew Suffield 16th Apr '14 - 9:55pm

    Do I therefore take it that you wish to means test people for healthcare?

    We already have that. Prescription fees, dentists, etc. Yes, I think that these things are an acceptable part of our society.

    Also why would making education free for everyone mostly favour the rich if we are also taxing such families more to fund such universal free higher education? Sure they would benefit from free higher education, or rather their children would, but they sure as hell would be made to pay for it via other means, such as a land value tax or higher inheritance tax or a whole range of other taxes that would hit the richest.

    That is not the proposition on the table. If you have a specific proposal to make, other than a vague “we’ll mug some rich people for the money”, then we can talk about that proposal and how well it might work.

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Apr '14 - 10:09pm

    Andrew Suffield – [To be clear, I’m not getting at you]

    What do you think about the pension triple lock and the gamut of no-questions-asked pensioner perks, often given to people sitting on hyperinflated houses?

    You appear to refer to tax as mugging. The biggest mugging in the UK today is I would suggest generational.

  • John Broggio 16th Apr '14 - 10:14pm

    Prescription fees are a trifle (and not at all reflective of the whole cost – for a start, GP appointments are free to the user) when one compares the costs of say picking up the tab to a premature baby, serious road traffic accident victim, a stroke, a heart attack or cancer patient. Presumably those that find means testing acceptable will be looking forward to extending “pay or die” to these people in the not too distant future…

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Apr '14 - 10:25pm

    Helen Tedcastle – Well….With the NHS there is, I suppose, a valid argument that there could be some sort of insurance system. Germany (or parts of it) manage with one. And indeed if you go to the doctor in most of Germany you will be presented with a bill to be recovered from insurance.

    But your overall point stands. The arguments used to justify HE fees could be used with just about any area of public spend. As I said earlier, why not present FE students with a debt system? The question is whether we want a pay and go society. Perhaps the majority does?

  • Radical Liberal 16th Apr '14 - 10:45pm

    Andrew Suffield – ‘We already have that. Prescription fees, dentists, etc. Yes, I think that these things are an acceptable part of our society’.

    Please don’t be disingenuous. Are you in favour of replacing the NHS, as we have now – universal and free at the point of use – with mean-testing? That was my question. Yes, we have means testing for prescriptions but we don’t have means testing for say cancer treatment. Do you think we should? I can only assume you do, after all, why should we pay for rich people to have cancer treatment? That’s the logic of your argument and given the chance to rebut that you decide to go in the opposite direction.

    ‘That is not the proposition on the table. If you have a specific proposal to make, other than a vague “we’ll mug some rich people for the money”, then we can talk about that proposal and how well it might work’.

    So you only ever talk about things that are ‘on the table’? Things only get on the table when people start talking about them, unless you are happy to allow a small elite to determine the conversation that is . As a liberal I am not.

    Also my aim is not to get into whether a land value tax would work or a higher income tax would do the job etc (it would be a distraction from the main point of whether we should have universal free higher education or maybe that is your aim in pursuing this line), rather the point is to first establish the following principle: Do you agree with the principle that it is possible for the UK to raise sufficient funds to fund free universal higher education? Is it a practical idea? I think it is. It might be achieved by X or Y, I don’t really care what we tax etc but I do think it is possible. Do you? If you do then what exactly is your opposition to what I am suggesting, because it can’t be based on the idea that we just can’t afford it ? If, however, you do not think it is possible to raise the money why do you think it is not possible for one of the richest countries in the world to fund universal free higher education?

    In any case I’m not sure what is ‘vague’ about a land value tax – its been part of the liberal agenda for a hundred plus years, or even longer if we wish to go before Henry George and trace the liberal lineage to Tom Paine. Guess all this lot have just been ‘vague’.

  • A Social Liberal 16th Apr '14 - 11:28pm

    Little Jackie Piper said

    “Well….With the NHS there is, I suppose, a valid argument that there could be some sort of insurance system”

    I thought we had one, a government run one? One that ensures that we do not have to pay further, it ensuring that our health care remain free at the point of use. Why on earth should we pay further? And what about those unable to pay for health insurance, would they have to suffer the injustices the poor in the US have to suffer?

  • “What do you think about the pension triple lock and the gamut of no-questions-asked pensioner perks, often given to people sitting on hyperinflated houses?”

    Not to mention bouncy castle’s.

  • I agree with those who say that the Student Premium has not been explained very well. However to those who say we can’t afford to abolish student fees I say that in 2010 we said we had costed it and we said we had identified where the money would come from. Therefore those who say it can’t be afford must be saying not only did half our MPs break their personal pledge on student fees but we lied in our manifesto as a party! The argument against the abolishing of student fees was that we couldn’t get the Conservative to agree to making the changes in other areas we had identified to fund it. Also as a party I believe our long term aim is still to abolish student fees.

  • All I can say is that if Tim Farron thinks it’s a good idea to direct the electorate’s attention back to tuition fees in this way, then his political judgment is as bad as Nick Clegg’s. And that’s saying something.

  • I looked for enlightenment about the details online, and found some:
    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/may/21/nick-clegg-student-premium-university
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9278977/Student-premium-to-guarantee-help-for-children-on-free-school-meals.html

    This was announced by Nick Clegg in May 2012, apparently as something that was going to be done by the coalition. What happened about it I don’t know, but it was suggested then that it would just be a “rebranding” of help that was already available. An official comment appeared to lend weight to that suggestion:
    A government source said; “There is quite a lot of funding available in the system, but it is not available until very late on so we want children and families to get earlier line of sight of what is on offer and to guarantee it”

  • Where students from poorer backgrounds are most obviously disadvantaged, is when they want to enroll on a post graduate course. this would be a better target for a student premium.

  • Chris Manners 17th Apr '14 - 8:08pm

    “malc, look how quickly Labour were forgiven for introducing fees after promising not to, despite having a majority in parliament and money to spend.”

    Forgiven by whom? You went after the student vote very effectively, made a much more high-profile promise, and it turned out you wanted far more fees not far less.

    The Labour fees, IIRC, were extra money for universities. Your fees to a large extent make up for cuts to the higher education grant.

    I don’t think this can end well for you.

  • Chris Manners 17th Apr '14 - 8:16pm

    “The Pupil Premium is being delivered only because the Liberal Democrats are in government – and it continues to be one of the biggest successes of this coalition government. The Pupil Premium was our party’s second highest priority policy (after our pledge to increase the income tax threshold), with £2.5 billion of new money specifically ear-marked to help support the most disadvantage children in school.”

    New money? Really? How can we tell that bit hasn’t just been knocked off the existing budget and had the name changed?

    And the income tax threshold was supposed to be paid for by the Mansion Tax, wasn’t it?
    It wasn’t supposed to be paid for by cutting tax credits and child benefit.

  • Andrew Suffield 18th Apr '14 - 1:27am

    Presumably those that find means testing acceptable will be looking forward to extending “pay or die” to these people in the not too distant future…

    Don’t be ridiculous. It’s “pay or go to jail, unless you can’t afford it in which case you don’t have to pay anything”. That’s how our system has always worked. If you’re uncertain, try refusing to pay your tax bill sometime – you’ll find that you’re still alive, you still receive all the same government services, but you also get prosecuted. We have no need to take essential services away from people in order to recover the costs from those who are supposed to pay them.

    What do you think about the pension triple lock and the gamut of no-questions-asked pensioner perks, often given to people sitting on hyperinflated houses?

    Voter bribes for pensioners are a long-standing tradition in the UK, based on the fact that pensioners vote and other groups do not. I have ranted at length on this subject before, as anybody who’s been here long enough might remember. Old pet peeve.

    Yes, we have means testing for prescriptions but we don’t have means testing for say cancer treatment. Do you think we should?

    I have absolutely no qualms with the idea that people who are rich enough to pay for their own cancer treatment (we’re looking at the top 1% income bracket here) should be expected to do so. They do anyway – they go to private hospitals for better care – so this is an entirely reasonable notion. I don’t see it being productive to legislate for this because it happens anyway with no need for such things. Wealthy people are not a drain on our hospital system – but they do predominate in our university system.

    So you only ever talk about things that are ‘on the table’?

    Yes. I absolutely refuse to debate fluffy nonsense with you, where you handwave about “getting the money from some rich people” without saying who or how or how much. State your proposal or go away and stop wasting our time.

    LVT, which you handwave about at some length, is not a revenue-generating proposal because it would be a replacement for council tax, expected to raise the same amount of revenue in a more fair manner. This is an excellent example of why you have to give a specific proposal, so that we can examine whether it works, and not just say “we’ll get the money somewhere”.

    Do you agree with the principle that it is possible for the UK to raise sufficient funds to fund free universal higher education?

    Yes, it is possible. Most things are, so that’s not a very exciting question.

    Is it a practical idea?

    No, and additionally it is unjustifiable and, in practice, immoral. We have a limited amount of money to spend. Every pound that we spend on free stuff for rich people is a pound that we did not spend on unemployment, international aid, and actually disadvantaged people. This proposal is not free: it has a very real, very human cost, in all the people you didn’t spend that money on who really needed it.

    I fully endorse the continuation and expansion of the programme which means people who are from disadvantaged backgrounds have reduced or no tuition costs. That’s already agreed, done, and benefiting real people in our country, thanks to our ministers in government.

    You are proposing that, in addition to this, we should also spend more money on giving the same thing to people from wealthy backgrounds who don’t need it. This money doesn’t come from nowhere – no matter where you thought you could tax it, I would instead have spent that money on somebody who needed it. You want to take the money away from those people who needed it, and give it to people who already have plenty. No, I do not agree with that. I am a liberal and I am against that sort of thing. I also don’t think you’ve made a very compelling argument for doing it.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Apr '14 - 1:58am

    Great post by Andrew Suffield. It is both practical and principled.

  • Radical Liberal 18th Apr '14 - 11:15am

    Andrew Suffield – as David Cameron would say ‘calm down dear’.

    ‘I have absolutely no qualms with the idea that people who are rich enough to pay for their own cancer treatment (we’re looking at the top 1% income bracket here) should be expected to do so’.

    Why is it only the top 1%? Why not the top 10% or for that matter the top third? This is the can of worms your sort of thinking leads to: the gradual unworking of the entire system once the principle of universal care is removed. Beofre we know it it is not merely the rich who would have to pay for their own treatment it would be everyone but the poor and a service that is soley for the poor tend to become a rather poor service. This is what the means testing that you advocate leads to.

    ‘Wealthy people are not a drain on our hospital system – but they do predominate in our university system’.

    Evidence? It’s a pretty bold claim that the wealthy, as opposed to say the middle class, ‘predominate’. Also does this mean that you are in favour of everyone who is not wealthy getting a free higher education? After all, such people, according to you don’t predominate so they would not be a ‘drain’ surely?

    ‘Yes. I absolutely refuse to debate fluffy nonsense with you’

    So a policy that was party policy up until 4 years ago is ‘fluffy nonsense’. Amazing how Germany is able to put into practice such ‘fluffy nonsense’.

    ‘where you handwave about “getting the money from some rich people” without saying who or how or how much. State your proposal or go away and stop wasting our time’.

    Firstly, tone down the aggression. I’m not forcing you to engage with me so I’m not sure how I am wasting your time. I like to keep topics on the actual topic rather than getting into a debate about who should we tax and how much etc. Although I understand your desire to deflect attention. Also I didn’t say anything about council tax being replaced – why not just look at a LVT on its own – why do you feel the need to push in other things to try and then pretend I am advocating it?

    ‘Yes, it is possible. Most things are, so that’s not a very exciting question’.

    It’s not meant to be exciting so I’m not sure why you felt you needed to get that in. However, I am glad you have conceded that is it possible – so we now know its not an affordability issue that drives your opposition to universal free higher education.

    ‘No, and additionally it is unjustifiable and, in practice, immoral. We have a limited amount of money to spend. Every pound that we spend on free stuff for rich people is a pound that we did not spend on unemployment, international aid, and actually disadvantaged people. This proposal is not free: it has a very real, very human cost, in all the people you didn’t spend that money on who really needed it.’

    So you accept its possible but then say its not practical. Why?
    You are trying to make this into a question of ‘free stuff for rich people vs less for the unemployed, aid etc’. This is, of course, wrong. We could, as noted above, raise taxes on the rich for example. Why can’t we have both and in the process we of course would have fewer rich people as they would be paying more taxes.

    ‘I fully endorse the continuation and expansion of the programme which means people who are from disadvantaged backgrounds have reduced or no tuition costs. That’s already agreed, done, and benefiting real people in our country, thanks to our ministers in government’.

    How is 9k a year reduced or no tuition costs? Are you saying higher education is free for some people already?

    ‘You are proposing that, in addition to this, we should also spend more money on giving the same thing to people from wealthy backgrounds who don’t need it’.

    From all backgrounds. Class warfare has never been part of liberalism.

    ‘This money doesn’t come from nowhere – no matter where you thought you could tax it, I would instead have spent that money on somebody who needed it. You want to take the money away from those people who needed it, and give it to people who already have plenty. No, I do not agree with that’.

    You have set up a false choice and all your errors follow from that. I don’t wish to take money from people who need it, quite the opposite. I wish to tax the rich more. You, however, don’t seem to want to. You are the one advocating the status quo. Why is it that you think that if we give free universal higher education this means others will lose out in terms of benefits etc? It displays a curious stunted view of things. What about cutting defence or getting rid of Trident to save money or is that ‘fluffy nonsense’ too?

    I suppose you are also the type who is against state funding for the arts on the grounds that the wealthy tend to predominate at the opera etc or if this could indeed shown to be true you would be. You fail to value of these social goods in themselves – education, culture etc – for the simple reason you know the price of everything and the value of nothing (although of course you have also ready conceded that the ‘price’ or affordability argument is not a good one against universal free higher education).

  • Radical Liberal 18th Apr '14 - 11:31am

    On a separate point I note that a poll today reveals that student support for us is at 6% – no doubt due to the fee’s disaster. Not only an immoral policy but disastrous politics. I wonder if Sheffield Hallam will go?

  • daft ha'p'orth 18th Apr '14 - 1:35pm

    “I have absolutely no qualms with the idea that people who are rich enough to pay for their own cancer treatment (we’re looking at the top 1% income bracket here) should be expected to do so. They do anyway – they go to private hospitals for better care – so this is an entirely reasonable notion. I don’t see it being productive to legislate for this because it happens anyway with no need for such things. Wealthy people are not a drain on our hospital system – but they do predominate in our university system.”

    For the top 1% to ‘predominate’ in the university system would be a really impressive trick, considering that by ‘[2012] 34.4% of the working age population of Great Britain, aged 16 to 64, achieved NVQ4+’. I’m going to go with ‘You what?!’ as a response here. If every one of the top 1% go to uni, they represent a whopping 3% of the university system. That’s an…unusual… definition of the verb ‘to predominate’.

    This thread is a wonderful illustration of LD blinkers. Blah blah free school meals, blah blah one percent. Whilst I’m all for supporting the disadvantaged, there is a large demographic space between these two extremes, considering that one of them involves around sixteen percent of schoolchildren and the other involves … well… by your definition, one percent. Why not put a little actual thought into the impact of policies on the underexamined (and not remotely homogeneous or ignorable) eighty-three percent, instead of spending all this time building rhetoric around miniscule Occupy-movement inspired edge cases of no relevance to the vast majority of us?

    As a sidenote, the richest few percent enjoy a hefty early-repayment discount for their education compared to a good proportion of that eighty-three percent. Of course: kick around the middle eighty-three percent, while government supports the one percent and, in between bouts of vituperative abuse, casts a little token largesse at the sixteen.

  • Peter Watson 18th Apr '14 - 2:40pm

    “The Pupil Premium is being delivered only because the Liberal Democrats are in government” .. and because it was also in the Labour and Conservative manifestos.

  • Radical Liberal
    Sheffield Hallam was the last constituency in Sheffield to elect a Conservative MP. Nick Clegg probably goes down well with Sheffield’s local Conservatives; they probably admire someone whose father worked in banking with Ken Clarke and lived next door to Lord Carrington.
    At exactly the same time Nick Clegg was at Cambridge, records show someone by the name of N. Clegg joined the Cambridge University Conservative Association between 1986 and 1987.
    Clegg says he has “no recollection whatsoever” of joining the Conservatives.
    After university, Clegg worked for EU Trade Commissioner and senior Conservative Party member, Leon Brittan in his private office, as his speech writer and adviser.
    Are we still allowed to mention Leon Brittan ?

  • Peter Watson 18th Apr '14 - 4:55pm

    As mentioned by Radical Liberal, a poll of students in HE reported in The Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/exclusive-student-support-for-lib-dems-collapses-to-just-six-per-cent-9267942.html) puts Lib Dems in 4th place with 6% support. This is behind Labour (43%), Conservative (24%), Greens (14%) and only just above UKIP (5%). At the same time, 83% of those students would vote to stay in the EU. So despite being “the party of IN”, it looks like the Lib Dem brand is still pretty toxic with students.

  • Joshua Dixon 19th Apr '14 - 1:11pm

    The goal should still be full accessibility through scrapping fees and making education truly free. However, I’m glad Tim is pursuing radical ideas to help improve HE for the most disadvantaged.

  • John Broggio 20th Apr '14 - 8:28am

    @Andrew Suffield

    Do you have any evidence that private healthcare in cancer is better in any clinically significant way? If so, please share it.

  • James Thompson 20th Apr '14 - 9:17pm

    Joe Otten:
    “malc, look how quickly Labour were forgiven for introducing fees after promising not to, despite having a majority in parliament and money to spend.”

    Quote from Labour 1997 manifesto

    “Higher education

    The improvement and expansion needed cannot be funded out of general taxation. Our proposals for funding have been made to the Dearing Committee, in line with successful policies abroad.

    The costs of student maintenance should be repaid by graduates on an income-related basis, from the career success to which higher education has contributed. The current system is badly administered and payback periods are too short. We will provide efficient administration, with fairness ensured by longer payback periods where required. ”

    Quote from 2005 manifesto.

    “The maximum annual fee paid by students will not rise above £3,000 (uprated annually for inflation) during the next parliament”

    Quote from LD manifesto 2010

    “We will scrap unfair university tuition fees so everyone has the
    chance to get a degree, regardless of their parents’ income.”

    Big difference, plus the LD MPs signed personal pledges against the policy and believed Clegg’s “new brand of politics” and “no more broken pledges” which will haunt him until polling day whether he likes it or not.

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