It’s easy to knock the Lib Dems on tuition fees, but what’s the solution?

Another December post that got delayed till now, but now if I blog on the New College of the Humanities you have some idea of where I might be com­ing from.

If I were a Lib Dem intent on break­ing a pledge, or a Conservative who genu­inely believed the policy I were sup­port­ing, there’s one simple change I would make to the bill.

David Cameron has stated that when it comes to the fin­an­cial crisis, we’re all in it together. Here is his oppor­tun­ity to prove it. I would add a clause to the Education bill that any MP vot­ing in favour of fees will be be expec­ted to pay back a ‘loan’ at the equal to the highest value of ‘loan’ paid by a stu­dent. If the nation is not bene­fit­ing from a stu­dent gradu­at­ing from a course Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford in 2015, then nor can it have bene­fit­ted from someone gradu­at­ing from the same course in 1988. If the MPs are sin­cere that the free ride at the tax payer’s expense has to stop then they should be the first to get off.

There are some reas­ons why such a clause could not hap­pen, but they don’t hold water.

  1. You can’t just drop a massive bill on to someone with little or no warn­ing.
    Actually you can, and this is exactly what Parliament intends to do to sev­en­teen year olds in England from 2012.
  2. You’re elim­in­at­ing choice, some MPs would not have taken a degree if they were aware of its cost.
    Incorrect, if the gov­ern­ment it to be believed. They are very clear that the pro­spect of start­ing work­ing life £50,000 in debt to the state is in no way a dis­in­cent­ive to education.
  3. The MPs already have fin­an­cial com­mit­ments, they could not afford to pay such fees.
    Students pay­ing off these ‘loans’ will still be pay­ing off these ‘loans’ when their own chil­dren start uni­ver­sity. Further, fees will only be paid by people who can afford to pay them. Any MPs earn­ing under £21,000 will not pay a penny.

This isn’t going to solve everything. There’s still the small mat­ter that thou­sands of people feel the Liberal Democrats have stolen their vote. Still, at the moment the pub­lished plan is to force chil­dren who have had no oppor­tun­ity to vote to pay for an edu­ca­tion that MPs got for free. It’s the polit­ical equi­val­ent to hanging around the school gates and bul­ly­ing the small kids out of their lunch money. Paying the fees won’t magic­ally make everything alright but it will make a dif­fer­ence. It will at least allow MPs to estab­lish their sin­cer­ity rather than leave them with the odour of pig­gies who want to keep their noses in the trough.

We might all be in it together, but at the moment some of us are def­in­itely more in it than others.


When he's not tired, fixing his car or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.

2 Responses

  1. Great minds think alike it would seem… (Last para­graph is the rel­ev­ant one.)

  2. Alun says:

    I’d missed that! Though by January I was tied up with other things. Thanks.