Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has pledged to cut tuition fees in England from £9,000 to £6,000 from Autumn 2016, Duncan Kenyon reports.
This pledge had been hinted at since his Party conference speech in October 2011, but has not been finalised until now. In his speech, Miliband called higher tuition fees a ‘betrayal of an entire generation’ with average student debts of £44,000.
The Labour leader has said Labour would pay for this by reducing tax relief on pensioners who earn around £150,000 a year. He declared that this would be non-negotiable in any post-election coalition agreement. They believe that this move will save £40bn for the taxpayer by 2030.
They also plan to give universities an extra £2.7bn per year to replace the cut in fees. Graduates earning over £42,000 will pay 4% interest rates, up from 3%.
Gisela Stuart, Labor MP for Edgbaston, said: ‘We need to find a way that balances the need to fund universities adequately with providing access to students from all backgrounds. The reduction in fees is one step, but, when in government, Labour will also have to make sure that cities like Birmingham provide the right employment conditions for graduates.’
Tuition fees in England were raised for those who began their course from 2012 by the current Coalition government. The tripling of tuition fees has been widely attributed as a reason for the unpopularity that the Liberal Democrats have recently enjoyed, especially amongst students. Nick Clegg has previously publicly apologised for the raise.
The Green Party have declared that they would go further if they were elected into government, by scrapping tuition fees entirely. UKIP’s position has not yet been made clear.
Tuition fees currently have a max cost of £9,000 for English students. The Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have pledged to keep subsidising the costs for their students who study at English universities to £3,000 per year.
Joe Armer, Vice President of Education, tells Redbrick his views on Labour’s pledge to reduce tuition fees for students. ‘Labour’s fully costed announcement on tuition fees and maintenance grants is a really positive, pro student and progressive announcement. The increase in maintenance grants is long overdue. Most importantly is the speed this will be introduced with the reduction in tuition fees which will benefit first years and second years who will go on their year abroad or year in industry next year should the Labour Party be elected at the General Election. I will be interested to see the other parties costed proposals on student finance before the general election.’
However, Liberal Democrats quickly dismissed the idea in the event of a coalition government being formed between themselves and the Labour Party. Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, called the idea ‘stupid’ and said he would refuse to back the agreement. This is in contrast to the Liberal Democrat position in 2010, when they supported abolishing tuition fees entirely. Davey said that ‘we will stand up for making sure we can get the economy right, the deficit down, and not wasting money on stupid policies like this latest Miliband policy’.