Tory MP: Tuition fee rise is a good thing for teenagers

Tory MP for Carlisle John Stevenson told his local paper it would be a good thing it "certain sections of youngsters" no longer wished to go to university.

Tory MP for Carlisle John Stevenson reignited the row over the coalition’s trebling of tuition fees today, telling his local paper it “might make people think”, that “certain sections of youngsters” may no longer wish to go to university – a good thing in Mr Stevenson’s eyes. His comments echo previous remarks made by Michael Gove and make a mockery of David Cameron’s statement in December that:

“We want more people to have the chance to go to university.”

In the same speech to the CentreForum think tank, the prime minister also insisted:

“…some people will say: these figures don’t matter, people, especially the poorest, will still be put off by the fees. I think, frankly, that does a massive disservice to our students.

“They can tell the difference between upfront fees they pay now or contributions that they make when they’re earning money later.”

While Stevenson today said:

“There has been a terrible emphasis on people going to university; this obsession to have 50 per cent going to university. I think it is utterly ridiculous and the increase in tuition fees might make people think and encourage certain sections of youngsters to do something different…

“A lot of people went to university to do courses that, to be perfectly honest, they shouldn’t have done.”

As David Miliband said in June, far from shrinking the proportion of young people going to university, some of Britain’s competitiors are going in completely the opposite direction – with the US pledged to producing the highest proportion of graduates in the world by the turn of the decade:

“Vince Cable has criticised the 50 per cent participation goal for under 30 year-olds, when in fact this level of participation is already achieved by some of the most of the dynamic economies in the world, including Finland, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, many of which are aiming to go higher still.

“In the United States President Obama has pledged that by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of University graduates in the world. That would mean surpassing the top country, South Korea, which currently has 53% in Higher Education. We have 45%.”

And looking at the effect of the government’s tuition fee proposals on the poorest in society, Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust – which aims to improve educational opportunities for young people from non-privileged backgrounds and increase social mobility – wrote before Christmas that:

“Potential students may not actually desert higher education in such droves, but there is no doubt that such a significant increase in tuition costs would be a serious deterrent for those from non-privileged backgrounds…

“The double whammy of major cuts to state funding for universities and higher fees is inequitable and is sure to freeze social mobility. That is a bitter legacy for any politician.”

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