Brown supports lifting £3,000 cap off top-up fees


YESTERDAY Chancellor Gordon Brown joined hands with two of the leaders of the capitalist class to signal his willingness to raise the £3,000 cap on tuition fees in 2009, even before the £3,000 tuition fee comes in this autumn.

At the same time as he was showing how willing he was to cane poor students, he said that he would also consider tax breaks on endowments for the rich universities.

Brown spoke at the launch of a right wing pamphlet, written by Richard Lambert and Nick Butler for the Centre for European Reform (CER), warning that European institutions must act to stop lagging behind the US.

Lambert takes over as director general of the Confederation of British Industry in July, and Butler is the group vice-president for super rich BP.

The pamphlet calls for increases in tuition fees, improved standards in teaching, more resources for research and more autonomy for universities to spend the cash that the state provides them with.

On tuition fees, this rich duo shows a special contempt for the working class and also for the Welfare State.

Lambert and Butler grandly declare a la Marie Antoinette that the ‘People do not value free goods or services.’

Lambert and Butler support ever increasing tuition fees as a way of teaching the young a lesson that they will never forget.

The lesson is that ‘It will be less easy for young people to think about higher education as a convenient way of filling time. Instead, they will have an incentive to complete their course at a less leisurely pace and they will have to think harder about the costs of dropping out.’ By this logic, the more expensive university education becomes, and the more students suffer, the better the moral fibre of the student will be.

Of course this does not just apply to education.

These gentlemen no doubt have the National Health Service, and a number of other benefits and services in their sights, along the lines that if people have to pay thousands of pounds for their healthcare they will only go for treatment when they really need it. We can’t have the needy wasting time and money.

That these two businessmen are reactionaries speaks for itself. That the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer is willing to stand alongside them to help sell the political message of their pamphlet speaks volumes about the real politics of the man who would be the next Labour Prime Minister.

The Lambert, Butler report says that elitism must be fostered and nourished, and that the business sector must be able to make profits out of it. They recommend that businesses receive greater rewards and incentives to become more involved in higher education.

Britain spends 1.1 per cent of national income on higher education, compared with an EU average of 1.2 per cent and 2.6 per cent in the US.

Brown told an audience of academics and industrialists at 11 Downing Street that this was ‘not a figure that can stay at that level’.

Rest assured he was not talking about taxing the rich. Brown volunteered that he was ready to ‘enter into the debate’ on how funding could be increased from private and public sources. He indicated that he would not rule out a reassessment of the £3,000 tuition fee cap, which is set until 2009, but which many university chancellors already regard as being far too low.

The chancellor, who went through university with the aid of a student grant, said that the principle of top-up fees, which come into effect this autumn, was ‘the right one’, because it ensured that students who benefit from higher education must make a financial contribution towards its cost.

The lesson from this episode is clear. Trade unions and students must act to defend free state education and the Welfare State. They must bring down the Blair government and bring in a workers’ government that will restore students’ grants and carry out socialist policies.