POLL: Is Labour’s tuition fee pledge a vote-winner?


Ed Miliband has today unveiled Labour’s pledge to cut tuition fees – on the grounds that they are causing rising debts for graduates and the taxpayer.

It is part of Labour’s overarching pledge for young people: tuition fees reduced to £6,000, an apprenticeship for every school leaver who gets the basic grades, and smaller class sizes for five, six and seven-year olds.

Labour says the Government’s £9,000 tuition fee system is bad for graduates because it loads them up with an average of £44,000 each in debt.

It is also disastrous for the public finances, though – adding £281 billion to the national debt over the next 15 years and with £2 billion in unpayable debts being written off every year by the 2040s.

In response, Labour is planning to introduce reforms of Higher Education earlier than intended so that from September 2016, the next Labour government will have:

  • Reduced the tuition fee cap from £9,000 to £6,000, and
  • Increased student maintenance grants by £400 – benefitting half of all students.

The aim is to:

  • Reduce the national debt by more than £10 billion over the next parliament and £40 billion over the next 15 years.
  • Ensure our universities remain world-leaders with increases in the teaching grant matching pound-by-pound the reduction in fee income.

The reduction in tuition fees will cost £2.7 billion. It is funded by:

  • Reducing tax relief for people on very high incomes paying into pension schemes, so it is set at the same rate as for basic rate taxpayers
  • Capping the total eligible for tax relief in a lifetime at £1 million, and
  • Limiting the annual sum eligible for tax relief at  £30,000, but with greater protection for those in defined benefit schemes.

The increase in maintenance grant is funded by making the system of graduate repayment of loans fairer, with the highest-earning paying slightly more.

Ed Miliband, announcing the planned measures, said: “These are fair choices, fair choices that allow a better future for our young people, a better future for Britain. Britain must not penalise the young, if we’re going to prosper in the future. Our economy and our country can’t afford to waste the talent of any young person.”

He added: “Let me say to Britain’s young people: I made you a promise on tuition fees. I will keep my promise. I don’t simply want to build your faith in Labour, I want to restore your faith that change can be believed. I owe it to you. We owe it to our country.”

And he appealed directly to parents and grandparents to help turn around the prospects for the next generation: “Today is about our responsibilities to the young – and that is the concern of every generation, every parent, every grandparent, every person in our country who cares about the future of our young people.

“Today is the day we say: We will not make the young pay the price of hard times. I am a father of two young boys, and I appeal to every parent and grandparent in Britain, every concerned citizen: Let’s together turn around the prospects of young people; let’s restore the promise of Britain; let’s make ourselves again a country where the next generation does better than the last.”

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls added a few big points, too. He said: “This government’s system is not only bad for students; it’s bad for the public finances too.

“Students are graduating with a bigger burden of debt and our Zero-Based Review has exposed how it is leading to higher national debt too… it’s not sustainable and we need to fix it.

“Unlike the Tories we won’t make promises without saying where the money is coming from – and unlike Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems we will not make promises we cannot keep. We will pay for it in a fair way by limiting the tax breaks which go to the richest in society.”

“Our fully funded plan will cut the debt burden on students – and it will reduce the national debt by £40 billion by 2030.

“It’s the right thing to do – for students, graduates and taxpayers as a whole.”

Ed Miliband’s full speech is available here: http://press.labour.org.uk/post/112217705819/a-better-plan-for-a-better-future-fairer-for

Ed Balls’ full remarks are available here: http://press.labour.org.uk/post/112217840524/ed-balls-mp-labours-shadow-chancellor-remarks

That’s Labour’s plan – but what do you think?

Let’s have a poll:

[polldaddy poll=8687571]

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  1. Gareth February 27, 2015 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    Nice leading question there Mike. I thought I was doing a Tory questionnaire for a moment!

    • Mike Sivier February 27, 2015 at 7:04 pm - Reply

      It seemed like the obvious question, to me – particularly because, according to the BBC article, at least, it seems some would have discouraged Ed Miliband from bothering with this, saying nobody was interested.

      • Gareth February 27, 2015 at 7:39 pm - Reply

        You need to include an option along the lines of “doesn’t go far enough,” else the results are biased. Most of us on the left would never say that reducing student loans is a “bad idea”, but given that it still leaves them massively high – and especially given that it was Labour who introduced them – it seems a of a watery policy.

        • Mike Sivier February 27, 2015 at 11:09 pm - Reply

          That wasn’t the question. It was a simple, straightforward, “Is it a good idea”? I think the answer so far speaks for itself.

  2. Steve Grant February 27, 2015 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    Any reduction is useful however it’s the quality of lectures and the fees the universities charge for sub standard teaching that worries students.

  3. Callum February 27, 2015 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    A reduction is great, however 6000 a year is still a huge debt (expecially when combined with living costs including exorbitant rent). Doing my course at an English University (even with the year less that it takes there compared to here in Scotland) at the proposed rate would still leave me £24000 in debt just for tuition fees – how glad I am that I am a Scottish student studying in Scotland! Given that it appears to be possible here, could labour not replicate the free tuition fees south of the border?

    On a related note, do labout have any plans to reform the way graduates from outwith the EU can remain in the UK after graduation whilst looking for a job which we have trained them for? The fact that we send away extremely talented students who would be a great benefit to society and the economy, who would love to stay but cannot due to the excessively strict visa rules, and short time period to find very well paid graduate job in their field, is a travesty on an individual as well as national scale, which I have seen in my friends too often.

    • Mike Sivier February 27, 2015 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      Of course, the reduction means that the Scottish Parliament will have a lower bill for the tuition fees it subsidises – so there is a benefit in that respect as well.
      I remember when the Coalition government brought in this rule about foreign graduates; you are right that it seems silly to kick these people out, after educating them, if they want a job here. I don’t know the answer but it seems logical to make changes.

  4. Ian February 27, 2015 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    It’s a good thing he wants to reduce tuition fees but he did well to include something on apprenticeships, for too long Labour has been a party of the middle classes now. A hell of a lot needs to be done on badly underfunded further education, too. Good, useful courses just aren’t well funded now and if you’re on JSA there’s no point taking a course because you need to be available to work and run a high risk of being sent on some workfare thing or one of those interminable jobsearch courses, making it impossible to attend college.

    I guess that’s the working class chippiness in me showing, every year the media show A level results and have university guide supplements when 70% never go to university. (Have you noticed when the ‘legalise cannabis’ debate pops up – as it surely does, like clockwork – the talking heads always say there’s a risk of criminalising students, as though middle class kids should be left alone or working class kids don’t smoke weed?)

    End of mini rant.

  5. Brian C February 28, 2015 at 7:09 am - Reply

    It’s a small step in the right direction.

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