‘IT is not enough for tuition fees to be reduced they must be abolished in their entirety!’ said Joshua Ogunleye, national secretary of the Young Socialists.
He was responding to yesterday’s announcement by Labour Party leader Ed Miliband that if elected Labour would reduce tuition fees for university from next September from £9,000 to £6,000.
Ogunleye continued: ‘Labour brought in tuition fees at £1,000 in 1998, then top-up fees of £3,180, and now the Tories’ £9,000 fees with private universities charging what they like.
‘Buckingham University charges £150,000 for a five-year medical degree.
‘Free education must be restored and private universities must be shut.’
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘Any proposal to reduce the debts faced by students entering higher education is a step in the right direction. However, we are disappointed that Labour did not go further and opt for a business education tax.
‘By modestly increasing corporation tax, tuition fees could be abolished altogether with the most profitable businesses paying their fair share towards the higher education bill.’
Speaking in Leeds, Miliband called the raising of tuition fees to £9,000 by the Tory coalition government a ‘betrayal of an entire generation’.
He added: ‘The average graduate is leaving university with more than £44,000 of debt.
‘… Three quarters won’t be able to pay off that debt even as they head towards retirement.
‘We are going to reduce the debt on university students, we are going to reduce the debt on taxpayers.
‘From September of next year, the next Labour government will reduce tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 meeting our obligations for the next generation.
‘It will benefit those starting courses next year, it will benefit those already at university.’
Miliband said that the reduction in fees would be funded by reducing the tax relief on pensioners who earned over £150,000.
He continued: ‘We won’t just cut the debt of students. We want to make it easier for students from all backgrounds to get through their studies.
‘So for those with family incomes up to £42,000 we will raise the maintenance grant by £400 a year from 2016 because we are determined to help students with their living costs.’
YS leader Joshua Ogunleye responded: ‘Students demand the full reinstatement of the Maintenance Grant to each and every student, which is not a loan, a grant that covers students’ living expenses and accommodation while they are studying.
‘Presently the Maintenance Grant for students from the poorest backgrounds is only £3,387 which even with Labour’s promised £400 increase will not even cover two thirds of the tuition fee, let alone students’ living expenses.’
Endorsing Labour’s tuition fee cut pledge, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers highlighted the ‘woeful support’ for students citing the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance and the lack of student grants.
Blower said: ‘This does not address, however, the cost of students’ weekly outgoings.
‘With the ever-increasing cost of food, fuel bills and rents, many families or students cannot afford, or struggle financially, to provide the shortfall left over from the maintenance loan to meet the bills.
‘All political parties also need to look at the woeful support for students aged between 16–19 years.
‘The Education Maintenance Allowances for students from low-income households that totalled £560 million were replaced in 2011 with a Bursary Fund of £180 million.’