Evening Standard retreats over tuition fees

The Evening Standard was forced to change its headline this evening after complaints from David Willetts. But student activists stood by to outline the implications of an increase in tuition fees, apparently favoured by the Conservative Party.

The Evening Standard was forced to change its headline this evening after complaints from David Willetts. But student activists stood by to outline the implications of an increase in tuition fees, apparently favoured by the Conservative Party.

The Evening Standard’s headline this afternoon announced, “Students to face £7,000 a year fees.” The article continued, “David Willetts said he would consider demands to raise the annual fee to £7,000.”

But following complaints from Mr Willetts’ office, the online version now reads, “Students to face higher tuition fees after election” and goes on to report, “Students face paying higher tuition fees after the next election as the Tories hint they are prepared to consider raising the current £3,225 a-year charge.” Unusually, the story no longer appears on the front page of the website. The about turn occurred after complaints from Mr Willett’s office. A spokesman for Mr Willetts said, “The quotes and headline didn’t reflect the story.”

Reacting to the threat of a rise in tuition costs, National Union of Students President Wes Streeting said:

“It is of serious concern that the Conservatives seem so relaxed about entertaining the notion of more than doubling fees when they have not committed to a clear policy for students and their families ahead of the general election.

“The issue is not merely whether students would get value for money if fees were to rise. We need to consider the effect the additional financial burden would have on students and their families. Students are already graduating with £20,000 of debt, and we owe it to them and their families to consider alternatives to the disastrous current system.

A report by the NUS shows that the combined cost of tuition fees, living expenses, and interest would leave students facing debts of £37,451 after a three year course if the cap was raised from £3,225 to £7,000 per year.

The Guardian reported on Friday that, “the Tories were prepared to look at increasing fees, but with strings attached.”

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11 Responses to “Evening Standard retreats over tuition fees”

  1. Iain Dale

    Remind me who it was who introduced Tuition fees and wouldn’t promise not to raise them beyond one Parliament. Ah, it’s coming back to me now…

  2. Wes Streeting

    You’re right Iain, but the response of every Conservative commentator can’t be ‘well Labour introduced them…’. Engage with the substance of the policy debate, not a party political knockabout. Not political party comes out smelling of roses on tuition fees at the moment, but the reluctance to have a democratic debate followed by a choice at the ballot box is anti-democratic and an affront to students and their families.

  3. willstraw

    Good to have you on here, Iain. As a student activist at the time, I recall the sense of outrage very clearly. “The hardest issue on the doorstep” is, I think, how Blair described it. No progressive government should even consider saddling students with up front debts when the benefits of higher education, at the individual level, are so uncertain.

  4. MikeSC

    @Iain Dale: New Labour, the gits. Doesn’t make the Tories any better.

  5. Paul Lettan

    Excuse me, Iain Dale, but who began this process of abolishing grants?

    statuTory instruments 1991

    The Education (student loans) amendment Regulation SI 1991/830

    The Education (Fees and Awards) Regulation SI 1991/831

    The State Awards (Amendment) Regulation SI 1991/832

    Time for the cheapskate, free loading, baby boomer generation to pay a graduate tax, Iain? Perhaps time for all those going to fee paying schools to pay the same level of fees at University?

  6. Robert Clayton

    RT @leftfootfwd Evening Standard retreats as Conservative flirtation with rising tuition fees is slammed by NUS http://bit.ly/KPuOr

  7. Paul Lettan

    I note silence and no response from Iain Dale.

  8. tom seymour

    I have high hopes for this blog, mostly because I hope it will engage in discussion of progressive policy rather than just “Tories, BOO! Labour, YAY!”.

    For example, a proper discussion of university/student funding and its implications, instead of just repeating the tired student-union groupthink that student fees = uniquivocally bad.

    University education costs money, and it has to come from somewhere: general taxation; a graduate tax; upfront fees; fees delayed at market rates; fees delayed at subsidised rates, etc. There are lots of +ves and -ves to all, but we won’t work out what the most ‘progressive’ policy is if this is just a political he-said-she-said.

  9. willstraw

    Tom – the NUS position is much more nuanced and grown up than when I was involved six years ago. They now support a graduate tax. You should read their report, “Broke and Broken”.

  10. Paul Lettan

    Tom Seymour

    As a baby boomer, I think a graduate tax on all those who graduated before student loans were introduced is emminently fair.

    I also think it fair that those who pay fees at secondary school should pay exactly the same fees at university level.

    The Tories would move to American level of fees for Oxbridge if not Russell universities anyway.

  11. Wes Streeting

    Hi Tom,

    NUS actually agrees with you on the complexity of the debate – and the need for a rigorous debate about progressive approaches to funding our universities that include a graduate contribution.

    This news article covers the launch of our own fully costed, economically tested model. http://www.nus.org.uk/Campaigns/Funding-Our-Future-/Funding-Blueprint-launch-/

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