Ed Miliband has made his long awaited announcement on tuition fees. According to the Guardian:
Ed Miliband has set out a £2.7bn plan to slash tuition fees in England from £9,000 to £6,000 a year and increase maintenance support for students by £200m, funded by higher interest rates for wealthier students repaying their fees.
The maintenance grant will be lifted from £3,400 to £3,800 a year for students for families who pay basic rates of income tax and will help about half of all students. The interest rate on loan repayments for the highest earning graduates will rise from 3% to 4% to pay for it.
This blog will carry further analysis very soon but for now, the announcement is a vindication of those in the student and wider movement that the current system of fees and loans is failing, creating a funding blackhole at the heart of higher education finances and accelerating the marketisation of our education system.
However, it does not go nearly far enough. Fees still still be almost £3,000 more than when Labour was last in power, representing an acceptance that students should be forced to bear the brunt of funding higher education. Moreover, it does nothing to affect the structure of HE funding started by Labour and deepened under the Coalition: the system is still funded by fees and loans rather than direct public investment; and students are still seen as consumers of commodities from competing providers.
In this sense, Pam Tatlow, chief executive of the Million+ group of new universities, was correct when she commented: “A reduction in fees has the potential to save the Treasury and taxpayers’ money because it will reduce student debt and more graduates are likely to repay their loans.” In other words, Miliband’s proposals will make students indebted more sustainably.
If you want to discuss these proposals and how we can take the fight forward for a fully publicly-funded and accessible higher education system, free at the point of use, then come to the Labour Campaign for Free Education Conference on 21 March in University College London.
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/346817718837951