Photo: Flickr, Ben Firshman

Labour fee pledge could benefit students

The Labour party has revealed plans to reduce university tuition fees by at least £3000 if they gain power in the 2015 General Election.

Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary and Labour election co-ordinator, has confirmed that the Labour party manifesto for the 2015 election will include plans to reduce the current tuition fee of £9000 by at least £3000.

This revelation follows a pledge concerning tuition fees made by party leader Ed Milliband in his speech at the 2011 Labour party conference, where he stated that the party would cut fees to £6000 by increasing the amount of corporation tax paid by banks.

The re-emergence of Labour’s plans comes as the Coalition’s current tuition fee loan repayment scheme has been attacked by reports which claim that 45% of loans will be left unpaid.

However, whilst Labour’s planned cuts may seem appealing to prospective students of Warwick and other UK based universities, Milliband’s plans also include the imposition of increased interest rates on loan repayments for graduates earning over £65000 as a so called ‘graduate tax’.

The shadow higher education minister, Liam Byrne, suggested that the Labour party’s plan would start with the fee cut and then incorporate a graduate tax, he argued: “our long-term goal must be to move towards a graduate tax”.

However, the Conservative party dismissed the plans as they questioned how Labour would fund this policy. A Conservative spokesperson urged: “Ed Miliband is making an £800m unfunded spending promise. That will mean more borrowing and more taxes to pay for it”.

These concerns were echoed by current students, who also fear that future students may end up paying well above the current £9000 fee level after graduate tax is taken into account.

First year Politics and Economics student Alex Shaw argued: “Labour are again showing their lack of fiscal and social credibility. The imposition of yet more taxation by them on achievers will only discourage hard work and commitment to further education”.

Mr Shaw also thought Labour’s apparent concerns over tuition fees somewhat hypocritical, since the party was responsible for introducing them in 1998 and subsequently raising them to £3000 in 2004.

Peter Dunn, Head of communications at the University of Warwick, has insisted that the university will welcome any changes to tuition fees that “assures access to higher education for those able  to benefit from it”.

Mr Dunn, however, pointed out that if any future government wishes to change tuition fees they must first ensure “that universities have the resources required to continue to deliver the high quality teaching and learning experience that those students expect”.


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