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Tuition fees not the crime of the century

June 28, 2014 12:51 PM
By Paul Walter in Liberal Democrat Voice

Many years ago, before self-imploding, I studied Land Management at University. It was more like Beer Management as I drank several pints of weak ale a night, using my luxuriant 100% grant.

This week I found myself back at University. I was there as a parent learning about student finance. How times have changed. Now, of course, graduates have to cough up 9% of what they earn above £21,000 after university. (Maria Pretzler, mind you, has pointed out that the taxpayer will pay more under the new system than originally predicted).

It seems a fair and reasonable system to me. The Sutton Trust part-funded a recent report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies. There is nothing in that report to frighten the horses. It's worth reading the details in full here, but one of the IFS' s conclusions is:

Higher-earning graduates, meanwhile, pay back substantially more under the new system than under the old one, making the new system more progressive (on the basis of graduates' lifetime earnings) than the old one.

The UCAS website states that there were 495,595 accepted University applicants under the new system in 2013, the highest figure in the years shown since 2008. There were 34,241 accepted applications in 2013 from the most disadvantaged areas (Polar 2 quintile 1), the highest figure for the years shown since 2007.

All of that makes it rather baffling that tuition fees are still venomously chanted as part of the indictment against Nick Clegg.

It suggests a rather blinkered approach, especially when you also consider that, in the same area of youth education/training, this government has created 1.8 million apprenticeships.

But all that gets swept aside in the headlong rush to beat up Nick Clegg.

He broke a promise but he did so because he had to compromise in a coalition government. He produced a reasonable alternative instead.

It is not the Crime of the Century which some make it out to be. If he had broken up the coalition because he'd signed a pledge about tuition fees, then it would have confirmed suspicions that the LibDems were not ready for government.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist in Newbury and West Berkshire. He is Photo Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.