Tag Archives: universities

Opinion: the state should harness the power of markets

The story of Adam being enticed to take the apple by Eve is not merely an amusing insight into the human condition, its an example of the very first market at work.

Markets work on the principal that people respond to stimuli, economics tries to ascertain what those stimuli are, and what the impact of those stimuli on the wider community are.

The idea that the government, can or should, protect certain sectors of the economy from the market is a fallacy.

While I don’t agree with the Coalition’s (or indeed Labour’s) policy on University funding, the argument occasionally made, that charging fees …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 27 Comments

Opinion: Labour are to blame for the “lost generation”

Here’s a question for you. How have Labour got away with pretending that the crisis of a “lost generation” of young people has nothing to do with them? Listening to Ed Miliband pontificate about the plight of the young in Britain, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Government in which he served had nothing to do with the current crisis of devalued qualifications, lack of jobs, high house prices, crippling debts and a rising cost of living. Those young people who are thinking of joining Labour because they’re angry at the current situation should consider a few facts.

A …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 21 Comments

John Howson’s review of education policy

As we approach the end of the first year of coalition government it is worth assessing the balance sheet in respect of education. Can we as Liberal Democrats be pleased or dismayed at what has happened in education?

The two obvious big events provide contrasting pictures. On the one hand there has been the tuition fees debacle, and on the other, the Pupil Premium success. But, there has been much more to consider; new forms of academies; additional schools; changes to the ways schools are funded; abolition of EMAs; and of Quangos such as the GTCE and TDA; provision for deprived …

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The party strategy debate: rolling highlights

Note: If you’re catching up with this post after it was published, read it from the bottom up.

Final result – both amendment and motion passed overwhelmingly. The overall tenor of the debate was more good natured than might have been expected – people did not take the opportunity to express any unhappiness in strident tones, and the party being in coalition with the Tories until 2015 was accepted and expected, explicitly or implicitly, by all speakers. Tuition fees and NHS got mentions, but brief ones. Norman Lamb’s comments about the health debate (see below), however, were unexpected and welcome.

James Gurling, …

Posted in Conference and Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , and | 1 Comment

PODCAST: Nick Clegg Q&A

The Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Nick Clegg MP, made himself available for a question and answer session with party members this afternoon, and a packed Oval Hall at Sheffield’s City Hall called in to hear his answers.

Hear him as he talks about Lords reform and tuition fees and takes questions within topic from speakers on the floor.

And did he really forget he was in charge of the country? Find out by clicking the “play in another window” link below.

Posted in Conference and Podcasts | Also tagged , and | 7 Comments

PODCAST: Q&A with Business, Innovation and Skills team

Earlier today, Simon Hughes, Lorely Burt, Vince Cable and Ed Davey joined chair Sal Brinton to answer questions from the audience about post offices, tuition fees, the education maintenance allowance and cutting red tape for small businesses.

You can hear the session in full by clicking the “play in a new window” link below.

Coming up later today: our podcasts of the Nick Clegg Q&A and a recording of our own fringe meeting, which is happening right now.

Posted in Conference and Podcasts | Also tagged , , , , , , , and | 2 Comments

Opinion: Young Liberal Democrats – Life After the ‘F’ Word

The last year has obviously been a rather interesting one in which to be a Liberal Democrat, particularly a young one. Sadly, as a result of some coalition decisions, notably the increase in tuition fees, some young people have chosen to leave the party. More worrying are the people that may now never join. I have always believed that the Liberal Democrats are the party that best advocates policy for young people. However, the question remains, how do we engage more young people in our party after fees?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 29 Comments

Graduate jobs up nine percent

Coalition ministers will be glad to see that predictions last year of a continuing fall in graduate jobs seems to have been wide of the mark, with the latest survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters showing an 8.9% increase in graduate jobs, with a forecast of further improvement in 2011.

Average new graduate salaries remain rooted at £25,000  and there’s clearly some way to go before the graduate jobs market fully recovers (though £25 is a figure the typical parliamentary researcher can only gaze at longingly).

As the job prospects for graduates improve, Lib Dem ministers will be keen to …

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 16 Comments

Controversy over pay in the university sector

The Daily Telegraph reports:

The pay packets of Britain’s university heads rocketed by as much as a fifth last year, just as institutions lobbied for a huge hike in student tuition fees…

More than 950 university staff, including all vice-chancellors, were paid more than the Prime Minister – an eight per cent increase on the year before.

One senior administrator at Oxford was given a salary of almost £600,000, thought to be the highest-paid university post in the country…

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the Universities and Colleges Union, added: “Staff and the general public are tired of the hypocrisy from vice-chancellors and

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 29 Comments

Simon Hughes writes… Why I’ve taken up a government post

There are many good and legitimate arguments to be had about tuition fees and whether they are the best way to fund our higher education system. These include the big concerns about intergenerational inequality, and whether the market system is the best way to drive forward excellence in our higher education institutions. Liberal Democrats have long opposed tuition fees for these and other reasons, including of course the additional concern that fees are a barrier to access into higher education.

But the one criticism that cannot be levelled at the government’s proposals is that it will make university unaffordable for future students. The system of financing for the teaching of higher education which …

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LibLink: Simon Hughes – ‘We’re not trying to escape’

Over at The Guardian today, there’s an interview with Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes following his recent appointment as the Coalition’s ‘advocate for access to education’ despite having not voted in favour of the Government’s tuition fees proposals.

Simon talks about the difference between government and opposition:

What is it like, being in power? What’s it like, after decades of not a sniff of it? “It is entirely different, and it has taken me and other people in our party a bit of time to get used to, to be honest.” Hughes, 59, has a calm, practiced warmth, and while

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Simon Hughes takes up education post

The BBC reports:

A senior Lib Dem who abstained from the vote on tuition fees has been appointed by the government to help encourage poorer teenagers to go to university.

Simon Hughes was among Lib Dems to raise concerns about a hike in the cap on university tuition fees in England.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg said it would be a tragedy if youths were put off applying due to “misinformation”.

Labour said the appointment was “window dressing” and showed they were worried students would be put off by the rise.

The Lib Dem deputy leader has been appointed to the unpaid, six-month

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Grants not fees – squaring the Lib Dem circle

Liberal Democrats should not give up the battleground of higher education finance just yet. The Party should counter-attack by arguing the case within the Coalition for substantial maintenance grants for students paid out of cutting university bureaucracy and cross-subsidy from foreign students. The Party will have to take on the red tape merchants of British higher education and the immigration obsessives in parts of the Conservative Party. However, taking on bureaucrats and right wing obsessives in the cause of student grants is a far better place from which to win the higher education argument.

Amid the student demonstrations and party …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 25 Comments

Opinion: Richard Huzzey – “I resign”

Vince Cable and Nick Clegg have pursued a strategy that has resembled a poorly-scripted comedy as much as a bitter tragedy in the past month.

This week we have reached the final act of a farcical and disastrous process whereby Liberal Democrat MPs have squirmed to escape an explicit pledge and desperately tried to equate their promise to the level of a policy aspiration.

By now all readers know the argument that a pledge is more than policy and the arguments why more help for part-timers does not balance out the damage of full marketization of fees. So, instead of repeating them, …

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Tuition fees: How Liberal Democrat MPs voted

21 Lib Dem MPs voted against:

  • Annette Brooke (Dorset Mid & Poole North) Annette gives her reasons here.
  • Sir Menzies Campbell (Fife North East)
  • Michael Crockart (Edinburgh West)
  • Tim Farron (Westmorland & Lonsdale)
  • Andrew George (St Ives) See Andrew’s Tuition Fees Statement.
  • Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South)
  • Julian Huppert (Cambridge) See Julian’s website.
  • Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye & Lochaber)
  • John Leech (Manchester Withington) John’s tuition fees speech in full.
  • Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne) Stephen spoke exclusively to the Eastbourne Herald.
  • Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) See Greg’s article in the Daily Mirror.
  • John Pugh (Southport) John spoke to the Liverpool Echo.
  • Alan Reid (Argyll & Bute)
  • Dan Rogerson (Cornwall
  • Posted in Parliament | Also tagged and | 79 Comments

    +++ Tuition fees passes 323 vs 302

    Ayes to the right 323, Noes to the left 302. The Ayes have it, the Ayes have it.

    A very tight vote. Passes by more than the Lib Dem payroll vote of 18 but not by much.

    Names either way will be available when Hansard prints them.

    EDIT 1 – payroll vote diminished by 2 resigning PPSes, Jenny Willott and Mike Crockart, and of course Chris Huhne’s absence in Cancún.

    Also one Conservative PPS.

    EDIT 2 – Evan Harris of course is no longer an MP but had a piece for The Guardian today explaining why he would have voted against, but also giving …

    Posted in Parliament | Also tagged and | 71 Comments

    Telegraph turns on NUS over fees

    Today’s Telegraph reports that the NUS would prefer to remove almost all of the hardship grants than charge higher fees.

    The Daily Telegraph has seen emails from Mr Porter and his team in which the NUS leadership urged ministers to cut grants and loans as an alternative to raising tuition fees.

    In private talks in October, the NUS tried to persuade ministers at the Department for Business to enact their planned 15 per cent cut in higher education funding without lifting the cap on fees.

    I’m not sure this is anything other than an exercise in the dark arts on the day …

    Posted in News and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , and | 16 Comments

    PMQs: A points draw amidst chuntering, Morrissey and Mornington Crescent fun

    Vince Cable lined up as a “bookend” for the Prime Minister at his question time today. One had a feeling, then, that university funding would be high on the agenda. And so it was.

    In the first section of Q&A (with Ed Miliband) I think Miliband edged a points win – perhaps in decimal places. A “Rizla” win – a fag paper’s width between them.

    Cameron failed to pick up Miliband on some obvious points. The opposition leader referred to English students likely to have the “highest tuition fees” in the world. But presumably that involves a comparison with tuition fees paid during study in other countries – rather than after graduation as in the case of the government’s proposals, which suggest “graduate contributions” rather than fees.
    Miliband also referred to the system causing debt for graduates, but the system really can’t be described as instilling “debt” in the conventional sense. Cameron missed that one also.

    In fact, Cameron only seemed to be warming up with Miliband but went on to score some corkers when Labour backbenchers asked further university funding questions.

    Quite rightly Miliband highlighted the “80% cut” figure. He seemed more on top of his game this week and made an excellent joke:

    Things are so bad that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (John Hemming) is offering his own unique solution to the votes tomorrow. He says that if you run quickly, you can vote both ways. I have to say that if the Kremlin were spying on the Liberal Democrats, we would know why: they want a bit of light relief.

    Miliband quoted back David Davis on social mobility and the university funding plans. He also quoted back Cameron from last week “not so much waving but drowning”.

    Cameron then gained a bit of composure with this rally (yes, it’s like tennis):

    We are introducing a situation where nobody pays fees up front, including part-time students—which is 40% of students—and nobody pays anything back until they are earning £21,000. Under the new system, everyone will pay back less than they pay under the current system—They will pay back less every month; that is the case. The poorest will pay less, the richest will pay more. It is a progressive system, but the right hon. Gentleman has not got the courage of his convictions to back it.

    Posted in PMQs | Also tagged , , , , and | 27 Comments

    LibLink: Tuition fees roundup

    Ahead of Thursday’s vote on student fees, advice is coming in thick and fast.

    Here’s what some senior Lib Dems have been writing publicly on the issue.

    First, Chris Rennard, who concludes:

    The crucial test for wavering Liberal Democrat MPs this week should be: is what has now been negotiated fairer and more progressive than the system Labour left behind? If it is, and I believe that it is, then I believe they should vote for it. For me, there is a simpler test. Under these new proposals, I know that an 18-year-old like me who had no parental income would

    Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , , , and | 108 Comments

    Tuition fees: which way will MPs vote on Thursday?

    Today saw a weird piece of media face with an impostor conning several news outlets into reporting that Edinburgh West MP Mike Crockart was going to resign as a PPS and vote against the tuition fees increase. The impostor even got as far as being interviewed by the BBC on the World at One before the hoax was rumbled. His office said that, “Mike is still waiting to see what the final offer will be before he votes and that has always been our line”.

    (Ironically just before this took place, I was in Millbank to appear on the BBC’s

    Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , and | 76 Comments

    Nick Clegg on life with the Conservatives, tuition fees and the coalition’s future

    Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is interviewed today in the Independent on Sunday, with the report inevitably featuring tuition fees:

    He says he is still determined to tackle social disadvantage and educational underperformance, and says that a £150m national scholarship scheme will give a year’s free tuition to 18,000 students on free school meals. Universities wanting to breach the £6,000 cap on fees, to charge up to £9,000, will have to give another free year to the poorest students.

    In the coming weeks, months and years he will need to “grit my teeth, display a bit of resilience, and explain calmly and

    Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | 93 Comments

    Opinion: tuition fees – our moment of truth

    Sometimes political life is just one controversy after another. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, a special issue takes centre stage and becomes totemic – a key decision which sets the course for a whole period of government. So it was for Blair’s Iraq. So it is now for Clegg’s tuition fees.

    William Cullerne Bown has described our dilemma well. The options are to trash the Coalition or to trash the Liberal Democrat brand. There is no third way. It is far too late to rethink whether we should have signed the NUS pledge, …

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 93 Comments

    Opinion: A letter from students to Lib Dem MPs

    LDV has had sight of this letter, written by a group on facebook, and sent to Lib Dem MPs.

    Dear Liberal Democrat MPs,

    We, the undersigned students, recognise the benefits of tuition fee reform and urge you to vote for it.

    We see that our annual loan repayments will fall due to the substantial rise in the loan repayment threshold, and that the grants system will become more generous. We see that part-time students will no longer be forced to pay up-front fees and that poorer graduates will benefit from a rise in the repayment threshold.

    We feel that the NUS, by spreading …

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 112 Comments

    Opinion: On Broken Promises

    I’m sure many of you, like myself, watched Vince Cable’s interview on the Politics Show last week where he denied breaking any promises to oppose a rise in tuition fees, with a certain feeling of discomfort. But now I think the time has come to discuss a change in narrative.

    Lib Dem MPs and Ministers (including up until now Vince Cable,) have a reputation for giving straight-forward honest answers to journalists questions without coming across as evasive or revisionist. However, with the tuition fee pledge to deny a promise was ever made and as such never broken is not a …

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 45 Comments

    Nick Clegg writes to Aaron Porter on ‘Right to Recall’ and tuition fees

    Nick Clegg, has written to Aaron Porter, President of the National Union of Students, in response to the NUS’ ‘Right to Recall’ campaign.

    His letter in full:

    Dear Aaron,

    Thank you for writing to me about your ‘Right to Recall’ campaign.

    The idea of a right to recall was something I proposed when I first became leader of the Liberal Democrats and I am proud that it is now part of the Coalition Agreement. However my proposal was for it to apply to MPs who were found guilty of serious wrongdoing by the parliamentary authorities. My intention has always been that it should be

    Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , , , , and | 60 Comments

    Tuition fees: will Lib Dem MPs split three ways?

    How to avoid a three-way car crash with most ministers voting for the Browne Report, some ministers and many backbench MPs abstaining and yet a further group of Lib Dem MPs voting against is now the main debate within the Parliamentary Party over tuition fees.

    Some changes to the original Browne report proposals have already been promised, but the debate has now moved on from the question of whether or not there could or should be more modifications to how people will vote on that modified package, which is unlikely to change any further at this point.

    Until fairly recently, the party’s …

    Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , and | 88 Comments

    On the receiving end of a tuition fees protest

    I recently spent the day at the office of a Lib Dem MP, who’s been targetted for a protest about the proposed increase in tuition fees. As a veteran of quite a few protests myself, especially back in my student days, it’s interesting and quite fun to be on the receiving end.

    My personal view on the Lib Dem tuition fees position is one I’ve previously written about.  With hindsight, the pledge was clearly a mistake and our MPs shouldn’t have made it.  However, we are where we are and MPs have to consider not just the pledge but actually …

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 26 Comments

    Vince: there has been no betrayal

    The BBC is reporting that Vince Cable has argued that there’s been no betrayal of students by the Lib Dems, and that he’s working to get the best deal for students.

    We didn’t break a promise. We made a commitment in our manifesto, we didn’t win the election. We then entered into a coalition agreement, and it’s the coalition agreement that is binding upon us and which I’m trying to honour

    Vince speaks in an interview to be broadcast on the Politics Show later today.

    Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , and | 45 Comments

    Opinion: Let’s hear from Labour their tuition fees policy

    What a mess we seem to have got ourselves into over tuition fees. How on earth did we get here?

    I can only speak for myself. I joined the party because of its policies on green issues, clarity of thought on civil liberties, regard for international law, opposition to nuclear energy and renewal of Trident, and tuition fees.

    This latter policy was very important to me.

    I don’t come from a privileged background. At school I was one of the kids on free school meals and to go to university I had a full grant.

    I hated free school meals because everyone knew who …

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 59 Comments

    Charles Kennedy MP responds to tuition fees open letter

    Chris Mills has blogged Charles Kennedy’s reply to the open letter organised by Sophie Bertrand asking all MPs to honour their pledge on tuition fees.

    Former Liberal Youth Executive member Sophie Bertrand wrote last month on Lib Dem Voice:

    We all know that the review is merely a suggestion for how the government should approach this situation. Yet the fact that Nick and Vince seem to be jumping on the Browne bandwagon leads me to expect the worst. It would seem that they need reminding of the slogan we fought with during this year’s General Election

    Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , and | 57 Comments

    Recent Comments

    • User AvatarDavid Raw 12th Dec - 10:35am
      Is it too Machiavellian to suggest that Mrs May was the 48th Tory MP to send in a letter ?
    • User AvatarAndrew Melmoth 12th Dec - 10:23am
      I hope she gets 52% of the vote.
    • User Avatarpmknowles 12th Dec - 10:15am
      That should have been "I will be out in Bedale on Saturday"!
    • User Avatarpmknowles 12th Dec - 10:14am
      I have been campaigning for a Peoples Vote and will be out in Became on Saturday morning. I don't want a Peoples Vote though because...
    • User AvatarMartin 12th Dec - 10:05am
      At any other time, a PM in this position would not be able to continue. Joe Otten's assessment that roughly three quarters of Conservative MPs...
    • User AvatarBill le Breton 12th Dec - 9:51am
      Am tempted to write, "It's the DUP, st*pid". I wouldn't like to predict this vote, but for Conservatives remaining in office is the absolute priority....