Monday, January 11, 2010

No Wonder Howarth Jumped…

The Lib Dems inched closer to economic reality today by saying, “Extending free childcare, free personal care for the elderly and a "citizen's pension" would have to be "put on hold" and tuition fees ended over six years.”

It’s the tuition fee tick that will hurt the Lib Dems most in Cambridge. By kicking the tuition fee cut into the long grass for six years – that’s at least two general elections – they have made it the kind of promise that nobody believes will ever happen (both because of the policy and the national prospects of the party putting it forward).

Tony Blair’s introduction of tuition fees were one of the big issues in the defenestration of Anne Campbell as the Labour MP for the city. It’s going to be hard to motivate the current generation of students to campaign for a theoretical cut in six years time… and I can see how this would have made for some rather awkward campaign moments for the current MP who made his name driving an anti-tuition fee bandwagon.
There is an earlier post on the usefulness of a Lib Dem MP.


  1. Hi Richard,

    What is Conservative policy on tuition fees?

  2. I am sure Nick Hillman, the Conservative Parliamentary candidate, can provide you with the official position for the 2010 election.

    The Conservatives called for a review on higher education some time ago, modelled on the Dearing Review which was done in the 1990s. The government has agreed one but we won’t have the results until after the election. See and this story for some interesting details

    Cambridge University’s competitor is not Anglia Ruskin University, found down the road, but the likes of those found in Cambridge Massachusetts, USA. My view is that the fees for places like Cambridge University will probably go up but, and these are vital caveats: it is for the institutions to make the case for the higher levels, to prove that they can deliver higher quality learning for students with the extra funds, as well as to provide assistance to keep a ladder of opportunity for the less well off.

    Oh, and we need an overall funding mechanism that gets the politicians dirty hands off the admissions process. Merit should be the only criteria.

  3. At his selection caucus Conservative Candidate Nick Hillman was asked what his view was on tuition fees. He said "I'm not in favour of higher fees or lower fees - I'm in favour of a review". When pushed on what his personal views are he still didn't take a clear stance. He did say that UK students in Cambridge would still be getting "good value" if they paid £7,000 K a year.

    There's more on this on my website at:

    My own view is that the tuition fee cap should not be lifted. One of the main arguments for tuition fees was that as paying consumers students would be able to demand better value for their (and taxpayers) money. This hasn't happened. I would like to see student unions strengthened; I think they have the potential to drive up standards in higher education. In terms of funding I think universities, and the country, ought be making a lot more out of the valuable discoveries and innovations which come out of universities; that ought be a major income stream but isn't.

    I am concerned that the current income from overseas students will be at risk if standards decline. It is right that the Higher Education is a major UK "export", we need to ensure we maintain it as something which those from other countries are willing to pay for.