12th October 2010
Alan Whitehead has kept his promise to oppose plans that could see all but the richest students priced out of the market for a university education.
The HE funding review conducted by Lord Browne on behalf of the Government recommends that the current cap on fees of £3,290 a year be removed to allow universities to charge unlimited fees, and that higher rates of interest be charged on student loans. Lord Browne said that these measures mean the government could remove public funding from all but "priority" subjects, such as medicine, science and engineering.
Alan Whitehead (who was Professor of Public Policy at Southampton Institute before becoming an MP) drafted an amendment to the Higher Education Act 2004 stating that the cap on tuition fees in the UK cannot be raised unless Parliament votes in support of the rise. Alan was also one of the Labour MPs who signed the NUS pledge before the election to oppose a rise in fees.
Speaking from Westminster about the proposed changes, Alan said:
“I was part of a team of MPs who made sure that Parliament would have to vote on any increase in tuition fees, precisely to ensure that universities would not be at liberty to charge unlimited fees as these proposals suggest. It is important to ensure that Higher Education funding is put on a sustainable long-term footing, but not at the expense of creating a two-tier university system.
“If adopted these changes will benefit no one but the children of the super-wealthy, who will be the only ones to have total choice over where they go to university. Students from poorer backgrounds will be put off from applying to elite, more expensive universities because of the fear of crippling US-style student debts, and those whose parents are on middle incomes who do not qualify for assistance will be hit with the same costs as much wealthier students.
"Lord Browne claims that these proposals will give power back to students, but in reality they would ghettoise higher education, making real choice an option only for the rich.”
“David Cameron needs to make it clear where he stands in relation to these proposals. If Higher Education funding is cut in the Comprehensive Spending Review later this month, he must reassure families on middle and low incomes that their children will not be footing the bill.”
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