I am disappointed that the plans to raise the tuition fees cap to up to £9,000 were approved by MPs, despite opposition from myself and many other Lib Dem colleagues.
I appreciate that the Lib Dems in Government had little room for manoeuvre, given the economic mess we’re in and given that the two other main parties went into the May election promising to retain fees and supporting the Browne review that was set up to increase them . But I am against fee rises that are likely to put off some people from going to university, which is why I voted against and why I’ll continue to speak out on this issue – I was on the BBC last week to highlight my concerns.
Looking ahead, I will continue to work for the removal of barriers to the benefits of a university education being put in the way of those on lower incomes. Universities should not be allowed to get away with hiking fees to the highest possible level.
Fees are only supposed to be above £6,000 in “exceptional circumstances”. I’ll be crying foul if that becomes widespread. I’ll also keep pressing the case for maintenance grants to be as generous as possible to allow wider access to university.
Thanks to increases in maintenance grants, an increase in the threshold to £21,000 before a graduate pays anything back and a more progressive repayment system that Lib Dems in Government fought for and won, the 25% lowest paid graduates will pay less in future than now. That’s welcome. But I want even greater state help so that as many graduates as possible are left with as little debt as possible.
As the economic situation improves, that’s something I’ll be pushing strongly for in parliament.