Tag Archives: tuition fee

Tory concession to young voters is too little and too reluctant

Theresa May has pledged to listen to young people. This is what she looks like when she tries [Image: Getty].

It’s also too obviously focused on the privileged young.

The announcement that tuition fees will be frozen is pointless, coming as it does after a rise of £250 a year was introduced earlier this month. When tuition fees were brought in, by Tony Blair’s New Labour, they were pegged at £1,000 per year and means-tested. Considering the astronomical increases since then – mostly under the Tories – it seems clear that Mrs May’s party has already done its worst here.

An increase in the repayment threshold will mean little to people who do not earn much after finishing their university courses as they are never likely to earn enough to do any more than pay interest on their loans. The offer to consider cutting interest rates on student loans is neither here nor there. Theresa May will probably u-turn on it as soon as it becomes expedient to do so.

Obviously, considering the cost of tuition fees and the debt burden of loans, being a student is now an occupation intended for the very rich; these are offers to the privileged, not to the population at large.

As for Help to Buy, which is intended to allow first-time buyers to get a mortgage – the scheme has been hit by several scandals: Some buyers were forced to pay ground rent at prices that increased hugely; others on Help-to-Buy ISAs found they could not use the money to actually buy a house. And in the meantime the scheme created an artificial increase in house prices, making them even less affordable for people on average or below-average wages.

So, again, this is a concession to the rich. It would be a trap for the poor.

It seems incredible that the media are touting this as Theresa May’s answer to Labour’s overwhelming popularity among young voters.

All anybody younger than 24 has to do is think about it, and they’ll never want to vote Tory again in their lives. I predict a u-turn on the whole idea.

Theresa May is set to announce that tuition fees will be frozen at £9,250, as part of an effort by the Tories to appeal to younger voters.

Speaking ahead of the Conservative Party Conference, the Prime Minister told the Sun on Sunday there will be an increase in the repayment threshold, meaning graduates only start paying their loans back once they are earning £25,000.

The changes to the loan system will be accompanied with another pledge to extend the Help to Buy scheme, with Ms May acknowledging that the generation gap in terms of wealth and opportunity has opened up in the country.

With the number of first-time buyers falling steadily, the Prime Minister will pledge another £10 billion to expand the Help to Buy scheme, which attracted criticism for artificially inflating prices in the already overheated London housing market.

The extra funding will go to a further 135,000 first-time buyers, allowing them to get a mortgage on a new-built home with a deposit of just five per cent.

The Conservatives are also considering cutting interest rates on student loan repayments – which have rocketed for recent graduates.

Source: Theresa May pledges to freeze tuition fees and extend Help to Buy scheme ahead of Tory conference


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Tuition fees: The Tories’ latest bid to be SEEN to do something without actually helping

Tuition fees could soon be reduced – but not by enough to make this student any less lonely (he must be rich) [Image: Getty Images].

At first sight, this means the Conservatives are running scared and Labour is dictating Parliamentary policy.

Labour won a vote in the Commons last week, for student tuition fees to be abolished, after all.

But there is a huge difference between abolition of fees and a cut of one-sixth (on the current rate of £9,000; the extra £250 was set to be imposed in the coming term, I believe).

The simple fact is that – for many young people of limited means – £7,500 a year is just as discouraging as £9,000, or £9,250. They’re still likely never to be able to pay it back.

So it’s pointless.

But the Tories can point to it and say they’re doing something – when in fact they aren’t.

The amount of revenue received as a result of levying the fees is unlikely to change hugely in any case. As most students never earn enough to pay back the £57,000 or thereabouts that they owe by the end of their college courses, the only cash generated is via interest payments, which are made at an extortionate six per cent rate.

With the level of fees still discouraging many, the number meeting those interest payments is unlikely to change greatly from the current level. It’s still a nice little earner for whoever runs the system, though!

Cuts to tuition fees that would save students at least £5,000 over a three year course are being considered by the Chancellor, it has been reported.

Philip Hammond is looking at capping annual charges at £7,500 instead of the current level of £9,250, according to The Sunday Times.

The reported move comes amid concern from Conservatives about their low support base among young people, who voted for Labour in huge numbers in the June election.

The government has come under intense pressure to ease the burden of student finances after warnings that most graduates will never clear their debts.

Read more: Tuition fees could be ‘slashed to £7,500’ a year under Government plans, report says


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Theresa May has been laughing at the poor again

Theresa May thinks pushing us into poverty is a big joke.

Remember when Theresa May dismissed the possibility of raising the salaries of public sector workers, saying she didn’t have money to spend on “this, that and the other”? Some of us do:

Well, in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday (September 13), she went one step further – and laughed at the plight of the students she intends to leave with an average debt of £57,000 after they leave university.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had said: “The Prime Minister’s Government, with the support of the Lib Dems, trebled tuition fees. This afternoon, will the Prime Minister take the opportunity to vote against another Tory hike in student fees?”

No; she laughed.

Then she said: “Once again, there are a few things about people’s circumstances that the right hon. Gentleman failed to mention—things that the Government have done, such as giving a tax cut to 30 million people. For a basic rate taxpayer, that means £1,000 more in their pocket. That is what sound management of the economy by a Conservative Government delivers for people.”

What utter nonsense.

The tax cut to which she referred was the increase in the basic allowance – the amount people can earn before paying tax – that was prompted by the Liberal Democrats, not the Tories, during the Coalition Parliament of 2010-15. The amount of extra money it provided to people is meaningless when one remembers that real wages have fallen by more than 10 per cent over the last decade.

And in any case, it has absolutely no bearing on the amount of debt the Tories are pushing on students. None at all.

Responses on the social media have been scathing:

https://twitter.com/Parveen_Comms/status/907973603886592001


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Labour demands scrapping of tuition fee increase – but who will support it?

Angela Rayner said the government could not trust Tory MPs to back the fee rise [Image: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian].

Let’s be honest: Tories who asked Theresa Maybe to cut student fees will squirm – and then vote to increase them, like the good little poodles they are.

And the DUP? Sorry, students, but £1.5 billion in their hands will mean more to them than cutting your debts!

Excuse This Writer’s cynicism, but this vote will turn out to be an opportunity for the Conservatives and the DUP to remind us all that they cannot be trusted with government because they have no principles at all.

These crawling invertebrates will say whatever they like outside Parliament, but the minute their words are put to the test, they will be swallowed – and the party line followed.

Let us hope the names of everybody who fails to support Labour’s motion are taken, so this can be used against them at the next general election (which isn’t very far away).

Labour is to force a parliamentary vote to scrap the government’s latest rise in university tuition fees.

The move, led by the shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, will put some Conservative MPs in an uncomfortable position at a time when they have been pushing [Theresa] May to reduce the burden of fees on students.

Under the government’s plan, the annual tuition fee cap of £9,000 is to rise by £250 a year, increasing the debt of a student on a four-year course by £1,000 overall.

Jeremy Corbyn’s gains at the general election in June were partly attributed to a large vote from students after he promised to scrap tuition fees and look at ways of writing off existing fee debt.

The vote on Wednesday could also prove difficult for the Democratic Unionist party, which is supporting the Conservative government but voted against increasing the cap on student fees to £9,000 in 2010.

Source: Labour to force vote on government plan to increase tuition fees | Education | The Guardian


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The SNP’s great education betrayal

Some facts about education in Scotland. SNPfail is a Liberal Democrat site but the information is accurate.

Some facts about education in Scotland. SNPfail is a Liberal Democrat site but the information is accurate.

That’s right – betrayal. For all its bluster about free University tuition, the SNP government at Holyrood seems more interested in providing cheap education for the already-well-off than helping the disadvantaged achieve their potential.

Holyrood abolished tuition fees for Scottish universities – but who did that help? According to research by Edinburgh University in 2013, it helped those who were already wealthy.

The report on widening access to higher education was submitted to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) after Ferdinand von Prondzynski, the university principal hand-picked by SNP ministers to review higher education, said abolishing tuition fees has mainly benefited the middle classes.

The report found the lack of fees in Scotland has meant initiatives to widen access have had “lower priority” and less funding.

The amount of grants available to poorer Scots has fallen and the funding packages offered north of the Border are virtually the same, regardless of the student’s wealth.

Meanwhile, there has been a huge drop in the number of students attending colleges since the SNP came to power in Holyrood and inflicted “savage spending cuts”, axing part-time courses which MSPs derided as “hobby courses”. The figures came from the Scottish Funding Council and show that 130,000 college places and teaching staff have been lost.

Those most affected by the cuts are young people who are less academic and are looking for vocational qualifications, and women returners – it was said that 100,000 fewer women were in education as a result of the SNP’s cuts.

And almost 4,000 teachers have been lost since the SNP took office in 2007. The party froze council tax that year, meaning local authorities were forced to make cuts in their spending.

As a result, instead of reducing class sizes to 18, the loss of enough teachers to fill 50 average-sized secondary schools has pushed class sizes to more than 30.

Again, the well-off are the winners. They benefit more from the council tax freeze because it leaves them with more disposable income; lower earners still have to spend most – if not all – of their income on the bills. And wealthy parents can afford to supplement their children’s education with extra, private, tuition – or opt out of the state system altogether and send them to private school.

So the SNP’s education policy is to penalise the poor and reward the rich. So much for that party’s left-wing credentials!

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

150227milibandtuitionfees

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:

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Labour’s tuition fees cut

Here it is – Labour’s much-anticipated announcement on its plans for tuition fees:

150227labourtuitionfees

For some of you, this won’t be enough. “Labour introduced tuition fees,” you’ll no doubt be saying. “Labour should be getting rid of them altogether.

Clearly the money for that isn’t known to be available at the moment. This is part of a costed plan for all government services, remember.

It’s a step in the right direction, and it will help.

The Conservatives have nothing like it, nor do the Liberal Democrats (it would be hypocritical). UKIP would scrap tuition fees for people from poorer backgrounds, subjecting them to demeaning means-testing, no doubt. Plaid Cymru seeks the abolition of fees when the public finances allow it; the SNP would continue to pay tuition fees itself. And the Greens would abolish them altogether – but have not said where they will find the money to do so.

This is being trailed as a big move for Labour.

Is it?

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Tax the rich? Hardship payments for benefit claimants? Sorry Nick – we believed you once before

Nick Clegg: He must have had his forked tongue in his cheek when he wrote the Liberal Democrats' latest list of pledges.

Nick Clegg: He must have had his forked tongue in his cheek when he wrote the Liberal Democrats’ latest list of pledges.

The Liberal Democrats have launched a desperate attempt to win back voters, packing their General Election manifesto with meaningless pledges.

Why are they meaningless? Because the Liberal Democrats, under the same leader (Nick Clegg), made pledges to us before the 2010 election – having already hammered out an agreement with the Conservatives that meant they would not be able to honour those commitments.

There is evidence that teams representing the Tories and Liberal Democrats negotiated what would be in a coalition agreement on March 16, 2010 – and abolishing student tuition fees, a principle Liberal Democrat pledge, was not part of it.

In this light, how can we believe Liberal Democrat plans to push for higher capital gains tax, bringing it more closely in line with income tax? How can we believe they would change tax relief for entrepreneurs, so it does not provide a tax loophole for the super-rich – or even the modest plan to cut tax relief on pensions from £1.4 million to £1 million? And how can we believe they will restrict access to “non-dom” tax status for foreigners living in Britain who do not pay tax on their earnings abroad?

The BBC has an even more hard-to-believe report that the Liberal Democrats will cut the Winter Fuel Allowance and free TV licences for better-off pensioners, in order to pay for a 66 per cent discount on bus travel (in England only) for young people aged 16-21.

This is doubly insulting to our intelligence. Firstly, a concession on bus fares is no consolation for the tripling of student tuition fees in which the Liberal Democrats participated after promising to abolish them instead – and don’t they know that means-testing benefits to discover who deserves them is not a simple matter? It is complex and costly – as Alex Little told us only a few days ago.

This comment of his is particularly apt: “Old Tories are often popping up to say they don’t need their £250 winter fuel allowance. It may be true that they don’t need it, but their motives for mentioning it are so these things will be means tested, the budget will be slashed and then they think they can ask for lower taxes, or more ‘contributory benefits‘ (code for benefits not available to the ‘undeserving’ who’ll need to rely on charity).”

The Liberal Democrats are being more than a little disingenuous with that promise, then.

And does anybody really think the plan to decriminalise possession of restricted drugs for personal use will ever happen? The Liberal Democrats know their performance in the Coalition means they won’t win any elections soon and are hoping to be part of another hung-Parliament alliance. This means they would be sharing public office with one of the other parties who, they state, have “blighted” UK drugs policy with “kneejerk prejudice and the wish to appear tough”. This is another pledge they can make safely, knowing it is never likely to happen.

You’ll notice, also, that the Liberal Democrats say next to nothing about the National Health Service – that foundation stone of British fair play and decency that they allowed the Conservatives to sell off to private companies (in which many of them are shareholders) in order to make a profit from the suffering of the sick.

They will increase its budget in line with inflation so the private companies leeching off of it won’t lose profit. How caring of them.

To cap it all off, Clegg repeated what has become the Liberal Democrat mantra ever since he first used it in December 2012: “Liberal Democrats are committed to building a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling people to get on in life.”

It’s the ‘party message script’, you see. Back in 2012, he added: “We will stay the course on the deficit. We will cut income tax bills and help with childcare bills. We will invest in boosting jobs and we’ll reform welfare to get people into work.”

Considering his party’s record on those matters, there is certainly no reason to buy any of what he’s peddling today.

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Are these gibbering buffoons really the Conservative Party’s hope for the future?

The caption on this picture reads: "Nick Robinson, former Young Conservatives chairman and current BBC political editor, taking a selfie with some young Tories (Photo courtesy of theblueguerilla.co.uk). Perhaps you'd like to dream up your own caption for this image of wild-eyed, slack-jawed decadence (he's the political editor at the BBC and people still think it's left-wing; the mind boggles).

The caption on this picture reads: “Nick Robinson, former Young Conservatives chairman and current BBC political editor, taking a selfie with some young Tories (Photo courtesy of theblueguerilla.co.uk).” Perhaps you’d like to dream up your own caption for this image of wild-eyed, slack-jawed decadence (he’s the political editor at the BBC and people still think it’s left-wing; the mind boggles).

How bizarre. Apparently the right-wing social media want us to believe that, even though Conservative Party membership is believed to have dropped below 100,000, the number of young people joining up or supporting that party is reaching its highest in a decade.

Never mind. If, like Alice, you try to believe six impossible things before breakfast, you still have five more slots available to you.

The new information comes from a website called Vice.com, in an article entitled ‘Rise of the Tory Youth: Meeting Britain’s Young Conservatives’.

And meet them we do, along with some of the most spectacularly ignorant and ill-informed opinions this writer has encountered in a month of Sundays.

Try this, from 24-year-old Louisa Townson, current Tory Society President at University College, London. She tells us she became a member because of Tory economics: “We’d had this huge crash and we knew we had to sort out the national debt and the deficit.” Doesn’t she know that the last four years of Tory economics have cost the UK more than Labour spent in its entire 13 years of office and reduced the deficit by a staggeringly meagre £10 billion?

Louisa thinks the tripling of tuition fees was “fair” – presumably she won’t be saddled with student debt until she’s in her fifties, then.

As for workfare, she thinks “it would be good if [the unemployed] can give something back”. So this young woman, who joined the Conservatives for their economic policies, thinks it’s a good idea to remove paying jobs from the economy by making unemployed people do them – at the taxpayers’ expense – while the rate of corporation tax has nosedived so the host companies take all the profits? How will that help reduce the national debt?

And this is supposed to be an example of the brightest Young Conservative thinking. Oh my word. Oh dear.

Oliver Cooper, president of Tory youth movement Conservative Future, is still under the impression that his party stands for “economic freedom” – the party that, in government, has pushed millions onto the dole to keep wages down; destroyed much of Britain’s remaining industrial base, decimating the economies of entire regions of the UK, to undermine working-class self-confidence and security; de-democratised nationalised industries through privatisation; created a mushrooming of homelessness by promoting house ownership, creating a chronic shortage of social housing and perpetuating it by denying councils the ability to build more; and increased inequalities of income and wealth by cutting the relative value of benefits along with wages, boosting the social exclusion of the poorest in society.

This is supposed to show that it is cool to be a Tory again? Oh good heavens no. It demonstrates the “cancerous… classist and out-of-touch view of the modern middle class youth of today”, as Theodor Ensbury states in the comment column.

“Mix privilege with a lack of life experience … and you have a heady cocktail of political and social empowerment without understanding of consequences,” he adds.

There is much more of this, but there really isn’t any need to go into further detail. Read it yourself, if you can stomach it.

Today’s Tory youth, ladies and gentlemen: Ignorant, insular and insolent.

The last thing they deserve is responsibility.

I wouldn’t give them the time of day.

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No lawbreaking required: Secret police are spying on students to repress political dissent

Caught with his trousers down: Herr Flick from 'Allo Allo' - possibly the last secret policeman to be revealed in quite such an embarrassing way.

Caught with his trousers down: Herr Flick from ‘Allo Allo’ – possibly the last secret policeman to be revealed in quite such an embarrassing way.

So now not only are our students facing the prospect of a life in debt, paying off the cost of their education (thanks, Liberal Democrats!) but they know they can expect the police to be spying on them in case they do anything radical, student-ish and treasonous like joining UK Uncut and occupying a shop to publicise the corporate tax avoidance our Tory-led government encourages.

Rather than investigate and solve crimes, it seems the police are embracing their traditional role (under Conservative governments) as political weapons – targeting suspected dissenters against their right-wing government’s policies, trying to undermine their efforts and aiming to apprehend key figures.

They are behaving like secret police, in fact. Allow this to go much further and we will have our own Gestapo, here in Britain. Before anyone starts invoking Godwin’s Law, just take a look at the evidence; it is a justifiable comparison.

According to The Guardian, police have been caught trying to spy on the political activities of students at Cambridge University. It had to be Cambridge; Oxford is traditionally the ‘Tory’ University.

The officer concerned tried to get an activist to rat on other students in protest groups in return for money, but the student turned the tables on him by wearing a hidden camera to record a meeting and expose the facts.

The policeman, identified by the false name ‘Peter Smith’, “wanted the activist to name students who were going on protests, list the vehicles they travelled in to demonstrations, and identify leaders of protests. He also asked the activist to search Facebook for the latest information about protests that were being planned.

“The other proposed targets of the surveillance include UK Uncut, the campaign against tax avoidance and government cuts, Unite Against Fascism and environmentalists” – because we all know how dangerous environmentalists are!

Here at Vox Political, it feels as though we have come full circle. One of the events that sparked the creation of this blog was the police ‘kettling’ of students demonstrating against the rise in tuition fees, back in 2010. It was a sign that the UK had regressed to the bad old days of the Thatcher government, when police were used (famously) to intimidate, annihilate and subjugate picketing miners.

Back then, BBC news footage was doctored to make it seem the miners had been the aggressors; fortunately times have changed and now, with everyone capable of filming evidence with their mobile phones, it is much harder for such open demonstrations of political repression to go unremarked.

In response, we see the police being granted expanded powers of arrest against anyone deemed to be causing a “nuisance” or “annoyance”, and now the infiltration of groups deemed likely to be acting against the government, even though they may not have broken any laws at all.

This would be bad enough if it was a single incident, taken in isolation – but it isn’t. It is part of a much wider attack on the citizens of this country by institutions whose leaders should know better.

The UK is now in the process of removing the rights it has taken nearly a thousand years for its citizens to win.

It is a country that abuses the sick and disabled.

And it is a country where free speech will soon be unheard-of; where the police – rather than investigate crimes – proactively target political dissenters, spying on anyone they suspect of disagreeing with the government and looking for ways to silence them.

Who voted for that?