Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, says that the Government review of post-18 education fees and funding is “important in recognising that post 18 education is about much more than Universities, but on tuition fees is an exercise in tinkering round the edges, rather than genuine change“.
Mr Zeichner comments: “This is in no way the fault of Phillip Augar and his team – the terms of reference for the review were too narrow, he was told not to make recommendations “to taxation, and its recommendations must be consistent with the Government’s fiscal policies to reduce the deficit and have debt falling as a percentage of GDP“. This means that the review was not allowed to consider putting more public money into post-18 education, so its outcomes were almost predetermined in their lack of ambition as the panel writing the review were constrained as to whether they could recommend real change.“
Mr Zeichner welcomes the detailed proposals for those not in the University sector, a call he has repeatedly made on behalf of Cambridge Regional College, and welcomes the return of maintenance grants, but says the real problem is one the Government wouldn’t allow Augar to address:
“Cutting fees a bit, without guaranteeing the shortfall to universities risks damaging universities, while doing little to lift the burden of debt from so many young people. Tinkering with the current funding envelope may produce some improvements, but the fundamental problem is that young people are leaving university with £50k of debt overhanging them. That is causing generational damage – which is why much more radical change is needed.”
“The review recommends cutting undergraduate tuition fees to a maximum of £7500 a year, which is a drop in the ocean considering they were only £3000 a year seven years ago. This cut would also cause a £1.8 billion funding gap per year in university funding, which the Government would not fully cover. This could have serious implications for UK higher education and research; we must not shoot ourselves in the foot when it comes to our highly successful universities. The Government should commit to a more progressive funding model, and put more money into the system.“