SLF Statement on Lord Browne’s review of Higher Education funding

“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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5 comments on “SLF Statement on Lord Browne’s review of Higher Education funding
  1. Benjamin says:

    No more voting Lib Dem by me. My definition of progressive is NOT to saddle students, or anyone else, with piles of debt. The Lib Dems are by far the worst on this now – simply telling blatant lies to the electorate and turning round and doing the exact opposite just MONTHS later. That is arrogant and abusive even to the extent of outdoing Blair. Simply disgusting.

  2. tim leunig says:

    I am not sure that this is right. Compared with the current system, the Browne report would halve monthly repayments for people on median incomes (and cut them by even more for those on lower than median incomes). Isn’t that a good thing?

    It also means maintenance loans for all, which since many people do not have to pay back all that they borrow, means that many people will, de facto, get maintenance grants. Isn’t that a good thing?

  3. Terry Gilbert says:

    Some aspects of Browne may be marginally better than Labour’s appalling scheme, you mean, Tim?

    Nevertheless, it does seem that the highest earners (or those with sympathetic wealthier parents) will be able to pay off their loans more quickly, thus avoiding interest, which the hapless middle income people will have to pay.

    Prrsonally, from what I’ve seen so far, the SLF statement seems reasonable.

  4. Prateek Buch says:

    @Tim:

    Compared with the current system, the Browne report would halve monthly repayments for people on median incomes

    True enough, but doesn’t that just mean they’d be paying back over a longer period? Or have I misunderstood?

    I personally am not against students/graduates contributing to the cost of their education to some extent – provided the repayment structure is fair, which Browne’s system patently isn’t once you consider Terry’s point about early repayment by those who can afford it.

  5. Nigel Quinton says:

    The basic point that seems to be missing in 90% of the commentary about tuition fees is that the damage has been done NOT by the Browne report, or in discussions around the coalition agreement, but by the Comprehensive Spending review and the slashing of teaching grants to the Universities. Whereas previously funding was split between students (or graduates) via tuition fees, and general taxation via the teaching grants, the entire burden will now fall on students.

    This is what needs fighting, not the mechanism of graduate contribution, ie graduate tax versus Browne.

    This also means that I can see no reason why our MPs should feel bound by the coalition agreement on this issue. There was nothing in there about shifting the entire burden onto students, and neither was this part of Browne’s report as far as I am aware – (please correct me if I am wrong on this someone, as I have not read it cover to cover!)

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