The Social Liberal Forum has expressed its concerns regarding Lord Browne’s review of Higher Education funding, and called for a fairer system to be implemented.
In responding to the Browne review, both Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP and Business Secretary Vince Cable MP made it clear that although they ‘supported the thrust of the review,’ the government will take into account alternative views before presenting their actual policy. This gives all of us, in particular Social Liberals within the Liberal Democrat party, to lobby hard to ensure that the reforms to tuition fees are fair, progressive and equitable.
The SLF therefore calls on all its supporters to write to their MP, expressing their concern over Lord Browne’s recommendations and reaffirming our belief that unless HE is to be funded through general taxation, any graduate contribution must be fairly instituted without saddling students – particularly those least able to afford it – with more debt. Below is a draft letter, which we would encourage you to copy, amend and send to your MP – using the box below (kindly provided by the folks at mySociety.org via writetothem.com) you can go straight to a website which allows you to write to your elected Parliamentary representative.
Copy and Paste the text from our letter into the form on that site, amend the text to personalise your letter (remembering to add you name, address and contact details as well as you opinions!), and send it to your MP.
Dear [MP’s Name]
I am writing as a constituent to raise concerns over Lord Browne’s proposed reforms to the funding of Higher Education (HE). Whilst I recognise the need to adequately fund HE, I believe that many of the key principles in Higher Education – widening participation, fair access and financial equity – would be at risk if Lord Browne’s proposals were implemented in full. My main concerns are that:
- Large increases in fees will lead to even greater debt, which I believe would work against fairness because the poorest students will tend to have the greatest debts.
- Using differential interest rates rising with earnings is less progressive and less fair than a graduate tax, a graduate contribution or general taxation because those from wealthy backgrounds will have smaller debts if their families can afford to pay up front or soon after graduation.
- 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.
In responding to Lord Browne’s report, Deputy PM Nick Clegg MP and Business Secretary Vince Cable MP have made it clear that government policy need not follow the Browne’s recommendations in full – that they are willing to consult with MPs and the public over the bet way to fund HE in a fair way.
I therefore request that you 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. Structural reform of HE – including but not limited to shorter degrees, greater emphasis on non-academic training and technology-driven distance learning – should be considered to avoid costly increases in fees.
Prior to the General Election many Liberal Democrat MPs signed a 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, not to mention a threat to the Coalition.
I urge you to meet with Business Secretary Cable and present my concerns to him, and to contact me once you have done so; this will help ensure that government institutes a fair graduate contribution, with repayments that reflect graduates’ ability to pay, as it is the best policy to help the UK’s HE sector remain world-class without placing a burden of debt on young graduates. I look forward to hearing back from you on this matter.
As and when you hear back from you MP we’d also appreciate it if you could update the comments section below!