“In his report on the financing of Higher Education (HE), Lord Browne has made several recommendations that, if implemented by the government, would put at risk the key principles in Higher Education – widening participation, fair access and financial equity – that must remain at the heart of Liberal Democrat policy. Business Secretary Vince Cable has recently sought to reaffirm the Liberal Democrat commitment, and that of the Coalition government, to the principle of fairness in Higher Education. Large increases in fees will lead to even greater debt, working against fairness because the poorest students will tend to have the greatest debts. Using differential interest rates rising with earnings as a means of providing for a more progressive system is less fair than a graduate tax, a graduate contribution or general taxation because those from wealthy backgrounds will have smaller debts as their families can afford to pay up front. Any benefits of higher repayment thresholds would be lost by the introduction of commercial interests rates, and low paid and women graduates would be faced with the prospect of rising debt through their twenties and thirties. The Social Liberal Forum now calls upon Dr. Cable, and all Liberal Democrat MPs, to continue to press for a system that ensures the abolition of student tuition fees, the reduction of student debt and their replacement with a graduate contribution, varying progressively with income and set at levels which do not deter students from taking less well paid, but socially beneficial, post-graduate employment. In particular, we call upon all Liberal Democrat MPs to honour their pledge to vote against any increase in tuition fees. The higher student debt proposed by Lord Browne would be a serious threat to fair, merit-based, access to Higher Education, . The abolition of fees remains central to Liberal Democrat education policy and the Social Liberal Forum believes that unless HE is paid for through general taxation, a fairly instituted graduate contribution, with repayments that reflect graduates’ ability to pay, is the best policy to help the UK’s HE sector remain world-class without placing a burden of debt on young graduates."
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