Students strike again over plans to raise tuition fees

25/11/10

Student protest

Thousands of students have been holding more demonstrations against plans to allow universities in England to raise tuition fees.

Many are accusing the Lib Dems of breaking an election promise not to put them up.

Student protestors are now staging sit-ins at university buildings in London, Oxford and Cardiff after yesterday's violence in London (24 November).

Universities in England are more popular than ever with more courses and more students on them.

But that means it costs more and someone has to pay.

What the Coalition wants

    • No upfront payment
    • Payback when earn £21k
    • Grants and loans for poor
    • More uni places for poorest

The government, both the old Labour one and the new coalition one, cut back on university spending as part of the plan to deal with the deficit.

That is central to this issue.

Universities need more money to deal with more students but the government is spending less.

So who should foot the bill; Taxpayers, students, parents or graduates?

Who should pay?

The man who advised the government on reforming the system is ex-oil boss of BP Lord Browne. He said graduates should pay.

He also said universities in England will be allowed to charge up to £9,000 a year in fees, three times the current limit.

Students
Image caption The last student demonstration against fees ended in violence

But Browne also advised that no one would have to pay up front and students will only start to pay back once they've graduated and are earning well.

£21,000 a year is the new benchmark.

One of the big issues here is how do you let universities charge more, to meet the rising cost of increasingly popular course, but at the same time ensure that prospective students aren't put off by the debt?

The government's answer is: nothing to pay upfront, increase the amount you earn before you have to start paying back, increase grant and loan amounts to lower income students.

The top universities like Oxford and Cambridge, who will presumably be charging the top whack £9,000 a year, will have to prove they are doing more to take poorer students.

That could mean more scholarships and more effort to recruit from people and areas they haven't traditionally gone to.

Current fees across UK

    • Eng, Wales, NI fees are currently £3,290 pa
    • Scotland- free to Scottish and EU students, £1,820 pa to other UK nationals
    • Outside EU pay whatever university charges

Labour doesn't support the proposal. It wants a graduate tax instead.

Graduates would pay for their university education once they start working. Higher earners would pay more.

This is most controversial for the Liberal Democrats.

Before the election they promised no rise in tuition fees. It was a major policy.

Now they are in government that have completely gone back on that.

The National Union of Students has promised to "chase down" Lib Dems if this is approved.