Conservatives plans: An attack on the aspirations of a generation (Part 2)
- 10:03 am, Thu 25th Nov 2010
Part 2 – University Fees
In my last blog I talked about how 6th form students could be affected by recent Government announcements. Those students who do continue into higher education will most likely use college as a stepping stone to university. The Coalition’s plans will make many people think again about progressing to University because of the size of debt they will now be faced with.
The Liberal Democrats used to say that it was the responsibility of the state to pay for university education while the Conservatives believe the cost should come from the individual students. Today we see the Liberal Democrats turning their back on their election promises and supporting the Conservative vision.
The last Labour Government made it clear that there should be a partnership between these two ideas to ensure both good university funding and a sure footing for graduates. Yes, graduates benefit from having been to university so it seems fair that they should make some contribution, but it is also true that the economy as a whole benefits from a good university system, so Government should also contribute and assist students.
The Coalition has now withdrawn huge amounts of funding from higher education and it is now expected that up to 80% of university courses will receive no government funding. Courses will now be exclusively financed by tuition fees. The higher fees serve only to replace the lost funding, many universities could actually have less money available under this new system. Given the contribution that graduates make to our economy it makes sense to invest in them and not burden them unjustly.
The possibility for variable fees is fundamentally unfair. It is right that the students who show the best academic promise should go to the best universities and it is right that students should be able to choose their courses based on what is best for them. When you introduce the possibility of variable fees and a market for education, money will inevitably influence these decisions.
If elite universities are able to charge £3000 a year more for their courses, they will inevitably become more elite. Students from less well off backgrounds will be less likely to apply there because of the extra debt. Even with schemes in place to help the poorest students meet the cost, many others will lose out on that chance.
Everyone should have the right to a good education; ability to pay should not be an issue.
The Labour Party is taking time to look over the proposals that the Conservatives have put forward, along with the information provided by the Browne Review and other sources. I’m sure there will be much discussion about the type of University funding system that would best serve students, universities and tax payers before we present an alternative.
What is clear, however, is that people are not happy and there are key issues still to be addressed. The Government owes it to generations to come to rethink their proposals and put fairness before their market driven ideologies.
Conservative plans: An attack on the aspirations of a generation
- 10:27 pm, Wed 17th Nov 2010
In the last few weeks we have heard much about the Government’s plans for people in higher education. Those wanting to go to University will face higher fees, those in college will no longer have the support of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and those looking for work will be left to struggle with no clear way forward.
Together these policies are a formidable road block to many young people, particularly those from poorer backgrounds. In my next few blogs I will outline the potential impact that this could have in the years to come.
EMA is a simple payment of £30 a week available to 16-19 year olds from low income families to help ease the additional financial pressures. Many students use it to pay for their transport to college, for any books they may need or for their lunch. It gives them the option to choose their own path, rather than base their choice on whether their family will ab able to continue to support them.
During the Comprehensive Spending Review George Osborne indicated that EMA would not continue. I believe that this will discourage many young people from taking their studies further after they complete their GCSEs.
Bolton students were among the first to have EMA available to them and thousands have benefitted from this, thousands more are right now. I believe that those children working their way through school today should be given the same opportunities to fulfil their potential.
Removing the £30 a week payment would be the equivalent of handing some of the poorest families a bill for £1100, at a time when family funds are already being spread thinly.
Each 16-19 year old who is discouraged from higher education because of cost is now left with fewer options for their future. The scrapping of EMA is the demolition of a bridge between school and university, apprenticeships or training for many young people.
The Government refers to EMA as an “incentive”, but the reality is that for many it is a vital source of support.
George Osborne has not yet been specific about his plans to remove EMA. I shall be listening closely to his proposals and pushing to make sure that he doesn’t forget about the aspirations of young people across Bolton and the UK.