Today Ed Milliband promised that he would cut university tuition fees by a third if elected and, crucially (as we learnt from Mr Clegg last time), this would be non-negotiable in any post-election coalition deals. There has already been a lot of cynicism in the media about this, and I am preparing myself for more of the same, but I think this cut in tuition fees would be a great thing.
A lot of the naysayers are saying that the promise is tokenistic, and that it wouldn’t make much of a difference to students. If a student takes a 4-year university course today, it will cost them £36,000. If they take the same course after the tuition cut it will cost them £24,000. They would save £12,000 (this isn’t taking into account other expenses such as accommodation). That’s simple mathematics. £12,000 is a lot of money. If a person doesn’t think £12,000 is a lot of money then they’re out of touch with the real world.
The universities are also saying that this is a bad idea (surprise, surprise). They seem to be concerned that they might not be able to function properly if the tuition fees are capped at £6000 a year instead of £9000. This is all talk. A few short years ago (as recent as 2010) fees were capped at £3000 a year, and they were coping just fine. Now, suddenly they’re horrified at the prospect of having to cope with 6k.
Lowering tuition fees is good for the country but, personally, I think the cap should be even lower. Ideally, I believe higher education should be free.
Up until the late 90s it was, essentially, free to go to uni. But for much of this time university was something that was only accessible to the more privileged, and it wasn’t generally considered an option for the working class. During this time it was acceptable for the taxpayer to foot the bill for higher education. When university became an option for most young people, even the working class, that’s about the time they decided that people should have to pay for university. If you see something wrong with that, then you and I are on the same page.
Why should the wealthy have more of a right to a good education than the poor?
The Nordic philosophy to higher education is what we should aspire to. They have always been strongly opposed to tuition fees. The same goes for Scotland. The difference with Scotland is that they are actually a part of the UK. I also live in the UK, but I wouldn’t get free tuition fees because I happen not to have been born in the right part of the UK. If Scotland gets free higher education I think we should all get the same privilege.
I feel privileged to have been able to go to university. I’m the first person in my family to have done so (in fact, when I got my first GCSE I became the most qualified member of my family, which comprises of coal miners and steel-workers). University is a great opportunity to develop, meet people, and broaden your horizons while in the pursuit of knowledge. I believe it has made me a better person, and I believe our country would benefit from it greatly…IF people didn’t come out of the other side of it with crippling debt.
Cuts to tuition fees would be a big step in the right direction.