MP’s views on fees

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I’m happy to respond to the open letter from Joanna Hemingway seeking my views on tuition fees.

For over a decade I’ve campaigned to stop variable tuition fees being introduced and always opposed a market being created in higher education.

I’ve long been a supporter of a graduate tax which is a fairer and more progressive funding system. This didn’t always win me friends, but I campaigned for what I believe is right.

Under Ed Miliband, Labour is opposed to the marketisation of higher education and in favour of a graduate tax. It’s why we voted against the £9,000 maximum fees that the Tory/Lib Dem coalition introduced. The Government has intentionally created a market in higher education where students are encouraged to consider fee levels, and therefore total debts, in considering their choice of course.

At the same time the Government, and Vince Cable in particular, is encouraging ‘for-profit’ companies to run universities. And I’ve no doubt that they would scrap the £9,000 fees cap as the next step, letting pure market forces rip through higher education, as in the US.

I support Labour’s proposal, that fees should be capped at £6,000, because it will reduce the total debt facing students and stop the development of a market.

This is a proposal to avert the immediate problems facing prospective students and our universities, but our aim remains to introduce a graduate tax in which people will contribute towards the cost of their higher education on the basis of what they earn and not what they have to borrow.

While I welcomed the support of many students at the General Election, I know many more voted Lib Dem because of Nick Clegg’s solemn pledge to abolish tuition fees. As future students are saddled with £30,000 debt, the Lib Dems’ betrayal is not going to be forgotten any time soon.

Labour will do all we can to undo this wrong and make university affordable for all.

Paul Blomfield, MP