County Campaigner Condemns University cuts

Dr Charles West, Local Liberal Democrat campaigner today condemned government proposals to cut university funding by more than £500m.

Dr West, said:

“This is yet another blow to University education. Students will now be faced with less choice, lower standards and fewer teaching hours.

Dr West continued:

“Students from Shrewsbury are already facing a triple blow. They have high and increasing travel costs in getting to university, student loans have been paid late and now there is a real possibility that top-up fees will go up while choice and standards will go down.

Peter Mandelson has already been laying the groundwork for a massive hike in tuition fees that will leave students with tens of thousands of pounds of debt and deter those from poorer backgrounds from studying at university at all. This week David Blanchflower has suggested that students should pay fees of up to £30,000.

“Only the Liberal Democrats are prepared to stand up for students from all backgrounds. That’s why we’ve pledged to scrap tuition fees and fight any plans to raise them.”

Local Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, Dr Charles West has signed a National Union of Students (NUS) pledge to voters ahead of the forthcoming General Election that if elected, he will oppose any increase in fees in the next Parliament, and put pressure on the Government to introduce a fairer alternative to variable top-up fees.

Labour and Tories both keep quiet on costs

Dr West added:

"This feels like a conspiracy between Labour and the Tories to avoid saying what their plans are for student fees until after the election. When Peter Mandelson announced the review of Student tuition fees he said that the review would not report until after the general election.

“As we get to the end of this tired Labour Government ministers are putting off as many difficult decisions as they can, and it seems that the Tories are no more keen to be open about their plans. Students deserve to know what the different parties propose. The Liberal Democrats want to scrap tuition fees and will fight any attempt to raise the cap."

Shropshire student Danny Sweeny said:

“Reducing or scrapping tuition fees would be beneficial to everybody as some potential students are put off university by the fear of debt, which means a less skilled population in the long run and damages the economy. Another big issue particularly for students that have to travel far to university, as most do from Shropshire, is the cost of train fares.  There can be times at which students are wondering if they can afford to eat. This issue needs to be addressed urgently.”

NUS President Wes Streeting said:

"The vast majority of the general public are against higher fees, and although this review has been set up to report after the general election, voters deserve to know where their prospective MP stands on this highly emotive issue.

"I am delighted that Charles West has stood up for students and young people in Shrewsbury by signing this pledge.   He has demonstrated his determination to give every young person in Shrewsbury a fair chance to go to university.”

A recent YouGov poll commissioned by pressure group Compass revealed that only 12% of the public think the review should even consider increasing fees, while a majority believes that it should look at alternatives to fees.

Background.

  • 1998 annual tuition fees were introduced for students. £1,175.
  • In 2006 the fees became variable subject to a maximum of £3,000.
  • For the year 2009-2010 Students from England have to pay up to £3,225 if they go to a university in England or Wales. They pay £1,775 if they go to a university in Scotland.
  • Scottish students attending a university in Scotland pay no tuition fees.
  • Welsh students attending a university in Wales pay a reduced fee of £1,285.
  • June 2009 Vice Chancellors call for an increase in student top-up fees. Various figures have been suggested from £5,000 to £8,000
  • November Lord Mandelson announced a review of Student tuition charges. The review will be chaired by Lord John Browne, and will not report until after the next general election.
  • 7th December Lord Browne’s review panel called for evidence and announced that hearings will be heard in public.
  • 27th December economist Danny Blanchflower calls for student fees to rise to as much as £30,000 per year.
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