Ed Miliband has confirmed that if elected, Labour will cut tuition fees in England to £6,000 from autumn 2016. He has also promised that the policy would be non-negotiable in the event of a coalition. Mr Miliband explained that the fee cut would be funded by reducing tax relief on pensions for those earning more than £150,000 per year.
Speaking in Leeds, at the College of Music, Mr Miliband said that the tripling of higher education fees by he Coalition has been a “betrayal of an entire generation”, as students struggled with average debts of $44,000. He added that Nick Clegg’s broken promise to abolish university fees caused young people to doubt anyone in politics can be trusted.
“I made you a promise on tuition fees. I will keep my promise,” Miliband has vowed.
Non-repayable maintenance grants would also be extended by £400 per year for families with a total income below £42,000, to help cover students’ living costs.
The National Union of Students (NUS) has welcomed plans for a cut in fees.
“Forcing debt on to students as a way of funding universities is an experiment that has failed,” said NUS vice president, Megan Dunn.
“Higher education is a public good which should be publicly funded and shouldn’t involve any additional charges for students or graduates, but lowering tuition fees and a move away from the market in higher education is a positive step forward.
We would also welcome any improved financial support measures like an increase in maintenance loans, as we know that students are currently in the throes of a cost-of-living crisis.”
Ed Miliband set out the true cost of the Government’s disastrous tuition fees policy which has not only burdened graduates with debts unimaginable for previous generations – but the taxpayer, also, with billions of pounds more in national debt.
In his speech in Leeds, he warned that young people have been betrayed by this Government from their first days in school through declining training opportunities, the trebling of tuition fees, rising housing costs and even changes in voting registration which is denying them a voice in the coming election.
- A total of £281 billion will have been added to the national debt by 2030.
- Students will graduate with an average of £44,000 of debt.
- National debt will grow by £16bn more by the end of the next parliament than the Government predicted only a year ago.
- Write-offs from student loans are set to jump to £21bn a year over the next three decades – almost double the total spent now on police services in England and Wales.
Key extracts from the speech:
Ed Miliband said that this is the first time in almost a century when the next generation cannot expect to do better than the last – a huge issue not just for young people themselves but for their parents and grandparents too.
“This used to be a country where it was almost taken for granted that the next generation would do better than the last. This was the Promise of Britain. Now we are a country where it is almost taken for granted they will do worse.
This is a promise unfulfilled: all that talent, ambition, hope for the future going to waste. Plans put to one side, dreams dashed; the Promise of Britain is being broken. Today I appeal to every parent and grandparent in Britain: we can turn this around for your children and your grandchildren. None of us want to see our kids treated like this.
This is a disaster for them and a disaster for the future of Britain too – a country where the next generation is doing worse than their parents is the definition of a country in decline.”
Ed Miliband said the Government is responsible for a betrayal of young people.
“What has happened over the last five years is more than just a betrayal of election promises, it is a betrayal of an entire generation: a betrayal from their first steps to the time when they stride into the world of work; a betrayal from nursery to school, from college to university, a betrayal to the jobs or homes they hope to have afterwards – and even on their ability to vote.”
Ed Miliband criticises the Government for failing to act.
“All the young people of Britain have had from government during the last five years is blame, denial and broken promises. Young people out of work? Blame them for not making an effort. Apprenticeships for young people falling? Rebadge some training schemes for older workers and claim they’re going up.
The cost of going to university? Promise one thing in an election and deliver exactly the opposite immediately after. Worried about being held to account by young people for all those broken promises? Change the rules and it is harder for them to vote.”
Ed Miliband set out how the trebling of tuition fees has affected millions of young people.
“We all know that under David Cameron and Nick Clegg the fee cap for full-time undergraduates was trebled to £9,000 per year. With most universities charging close to the maximum, graduates now leave university with more than £44,000 debt on average.
My generation would never have imagined beginning our adult life with that amount of debt. But this government expects it of this generation.”
Ed Miliband said this is not just burdening young people with debt but also the taxpayer.
“Today we are publishing our Zero Based Review into the current tuition fees system. Its findings are stark. It reveals beyond doubt that the scourge of debt is not just holding back young people, it is holding back our country.
The Government has designed a system which is burdening students with debt today and set to weight down the taxpayer with more debt tomorrow.
This is a system that will have added an extra £16 billion more than predicted to public debt by the end of the next Parliament. If left unchecked the system will have added £281 billion to debt by 2030. And much of this money will never be paid back.
By the late 2040s student loan write-offs will be hitting £21 billion a year – almost double the entire cost of police services in England and Wales. It must go down as one of the most expensive broken promises in history.”
We must extend equal opportunities to young people, widening access to higher education is one way of doing this. It also ensures we progress as an inclusive society, each generation building on the achievements of the last.
Fabulous memes by Robert Livingstone