Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote

Just a third of 16-25 year olds voted at the 2005 general election; as we approach polling day the main parties are attempting to engage young people.

Little more than a third of 18-25 year olds voted at the 2005 general election and as we approach polling day attempts from each of the major parties to engage young people and students still leaves a lot to be desired. Candidates are finally waking up to the fact that they must make a clear offer to students and young people if they want to win their votes and we are putting their student offer under the microscope.

As president-elect of NUS, I will take office at what many consider to be the most significant period for higher education in a generation. This is obviously an honour, but very sobering. Recent cuts to the higher education budget, coupled with the ongoing independent review of fees, chaired by Lord Browne, means that the landscape of higher education will come under scrutiny over the coming months.

Few people need reminding that when the Labour Government attempted to lift fees back in 2004, it was met with a huge backbench rebellion and a landslide Blair majority was brought to within five votes of defeat. This time we have mobilised students in record numbers to prevent their interests being trampled on and to prevent politicians selling off their future.

The new Browne review was launched with little fanfare back in November 2009, but with broad terms of reference, looking at the full parameter of higher education funding and is likely to make recommendations about the future of tuition fees, currently capped at £3,225.

Time has not quelled public scepticism and opposition to fees. Indeed, the most recent public opinion polls show nine out of ten voters oppose higher fees. And yet, students may well raise an eyebrow at the convenient timing of the Browne Review. Not likely to report back to the new Government until the autumn, the review has provided cover for politicians seeking to avoid questions about the future of fees.

Neither of the main parties have offered much by way of detail in the manifestos; Labour outbid the Tories on a commitment with student numbers offering 20,000 fully funded places to the opposition’s 10,000, but beyond that there isn’t too much to say. The Liberal Democrats – who had previously held a steadfast commitment to abolishing fees – have now waivered, and would not be able to complete their ambition during the next Parliament.

Given the absence of discussion, students may well feel that politicians have done them a disservice, and I would agree. I simply do not see how it is acceptable for political parties to expect votes from students, when so many politicians are trying to duck questions about the review and critical questions about the future of the fee cap. But students are getting riled, and the indications this time are that they will be arriving at the ballot box in greater numbers, with more than two thirds planning to cast their vote. They will be putting candidates under scrutiny like never before.

To aid this, NUS has launched a simple pledge under the slogan ‘Vote for Students‘; we have asked candidates from all parties to make a simple commitment – that if elected they would vote against any proposed increase in fees during the next Parliament. The pledge has been incredibly successful with over 700 candidates pledging their support. Almost 200 Labour candidates, 300 Liberal Democrats, and just 10 from the Conservative Party have signed. Other minority parties have also tapped into students’ anger with the political class.

With everything to play for come polling day, the student vote could be decisive in dozens of seats across the UK. NUS is preparing the biggest get out the vote campaign in our history, and will be informing students whether their candidates have signed our pledge or not. If politicians feel they can ignore students, and not pledge to vote against any proposals for higher fees, they should expect to be unceremoniously punished at the ballot box on polling day.

29 Responses to “Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote”

  1. Matthew Draycott

    RT @leftfootfwd: Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU

  2. Ali Unwin

    YES–> Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU /via @leftfootfwd

  3. Jean McLean

    RT @viclanger: RT @leftfootfwd Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU #voteforstudents

  4. Nicholas Darlington

    RT @susan_nash: RT @leftfootfwd Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU #voteforstudents

  5. John Peart

    RT @susan_nash: RT @leftfootfwd Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU #voteforstudents

  6. John Peart

    RT @susan_nash: RT @leftfootfwd Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU #voteforstudents

  7. Lauren Crowley

    RT @joe_oliver: RT @viclanger: RT @leftfootfwd Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU #voteforstudents

  8. Tobin Webb

    RT @leftfootfwd: Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU

  9. Aaron Porter

    My first blog for leftfootfwd RT @leftfootfwd Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU

  10. Jonny Medland

    RT @leftfootfwd: Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU

  11. Vic Langer

    RT @leftfootfwd Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU #voteforstudents

  12. OUSU

    RT @leftfootfwd: Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU

  13. Tom

    ‘Little more than a third of 16-25 year olds voted at the 2005 general election’

    Well none of those were 16 or 17

  14. NUS Higher Education

    RT @leftfootfwd: @NUSUK President-elect @AaronPorter 'Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote': http://bit.ly/9OiRWU

  15. Susan Nash

    RT @leftfootfwd Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU #voteforstudents

  16. aliceh

    RT @leftfootforward Vote for students: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU <- 300LD, 200Lab, ONLY TEN TORY ppcs committed to no rise in tuition fees.

  17. aliceh

    RT @leftfootforward Vote for students: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU <- 300LD, 200Lab, ONLY TEN TORY ppcs committed to no rise in tuition fees.

  18. Joe Oliver

    RT @viclanger: RT @leftfootfwd Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU #voteforstudents

  19. Andrew Wells

    It is childish and small-minded for students to try to make the election about top-up fees. The topic is clearly an emotive one for students (I am one) – and for that reason we are perhaps the people least capable of making a balanced judgement.

    Perhaps in twenty years time we will think that our education was worth it; how on earth can we make such a decision before even finishing our degrees? And, if students don’t think degrees are worth paying for, then perhaps they shouldn’t be taking them at the taxpayer’s expense.

    But perhaps more significantly, have those ppcs who’ve signed up to the no top-up fees commitment proposed an alternative way of funding the most costly degrees currently available from British universities? (e.g. almost all Oxbridge degrees, medical/vetinary degrees etc.)

    Groups like the NUS should stop taking such an unrealistic and uncompromising approach to the subject, and instead engage in sensible debate as to the fairest way of transferring the cost of a university education to those who benefit from it.

  20. Samuel Johnson

    RT @susan_nash: RT @leftfootfwd Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote @lgos: http://bit.ly/9OiRWU #voteforstudents

  21. Daryl Wood

    RT @NUS_HE: RT @leftfootfwd: @NUSUK President-elect @AaronPorter 'Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote': http://bit.ly/9OiRWU

  22. J

    The sad fact of the matter is that no mainstream party will engage with the concerns of students and young people, unless it can do so without alienating the generation which it feels is most important – the baby boomers.

    It’s a simple question of demographics / influence / power / wealth.

    Our generation (hey, I’m only 25) is destined to be shafted for the next 40 years to pay for the incompetence and extravagence of the old guard. Happy days…

  23. Mr. Sensible

    “The pledge has been incredibly successful with over 700 candidates pledging their support. Almost 200 Labour candidates, 300 Liberal Democrats, and just 10 from the Conservative Party have signed.”

    Well what do you know?

    And, Andrew, in response to what you’re saying about the alternative, I think the Lib Dem’s proposal to scrap fees is unrealistic, but in terms of keeping fees down I think we should start with the pay of Vice Chancellors; to me, it is not right for the VC of Oxford to say the fee cap should be scrapped when I believe she is paid over half a million a year.

    So, pay at the top is a good place to start; certainly no one in the public services should be worth more than their ultimate boss; the Prime Minister.

  24. Sgt Skepper

    “The pledge has been incredibly successful with over 700 candidates pledging their support. Almost 200 Labour candidates, 300 Liberal Democrats, and just 10 from the Conservative Party have signed.”

    Is there a list of those who have signed somewhere? I couldn’t find one on your website. I think it’d be useful to be able to know who has signed it and who hasn’t.

  25. David Henry

    RT @leftfootfwd: Parties must come clean on fees to win student vote http://bit.ly/9OiRWU

  26. Vic Langer

    @aaronporter blog on the #voteforstudents campaign http://tiny.cc/ockr6

  27. NUS Student Media

    @aaronporter blog on the #voteforstudents campaign http://tiny.cc/ockr6

  28. NUS Higher Education

    RT @NUSStudentMedia: @aaronporter blog on the #voteforstudents campaign http://tiny.cc/ockr6

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