Proposals from a review of higher education funding are a ‘very mixed bag’ according to Green MP Caroline Lucas.
The Government-commissioned piece of work recommends cutting tuition fees from £9,000 to £7,500 a year, but also suggests the earnings threshold when students have to start repaying their loans should be lowered.
Repayments should also continue for up to 40 years rather than the current 30, according to the panel chaired by Philip Augar.
Ms Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “Dr Augar’s proposals are a very mixed bag. Tuition fees will go down, but loans will have to start being repaid sooner and for longer, so many graduates will still be paying back their loan when their own children are heading off to university.
“It is right that funding should be available for students gaining technical qualifications in further education colleges. But what matters for colleges and universities, like the University of Sussex and Brighton University in my constituency, is that funding is secure and there is no guarantee that the Government will make up any shortfall. It also looks like ‘priority’ subjects will be given preference, which means the many outstanding arts and humanities courses they offer could suffer.
“What’s clear is that the current student loan system is broken and this will not fix it. We need to start recognising further and higher education as a national asset of long-term economic value, with all those who benefit from it contributing to the cost.
“That is why I have for a long time supported the UCU proposal for a business education tax, with the top four per cent of UK corporations who make more than £1.5 million a year, paying their fair share, and the government making up any shortfall in funding.”
Brighton and Hove mayor Alexandra Philips, who was elected a Green MEP at the weekend, tweeted: “Tuition fees should be abolished, not cut. Lifelong learning should be a right and aspiration for everyone, no matter what background they’re from.
“It’s only my generation and generations after me who’ve been straddled by this debt, thanks to Labour, Tory/Lib Dem governments.”
What do you think? Are you a prospective student who is put off going to university by tuition fees or would like more access to vocational training? Share your stories by emailing the newsdesk.