During the run up to the General Election earlier this year, there is absolutely no denying that the Liberal Democrats, as led by Nick Clegg said that they would NOT make cuts in Education and would not put up tuition fees. Party Policy was signed up to by members of the party and scrapping tuition fees would be a goal.
The election happened and the result was a "Coalition" government. Now it seems that this is a fact that is conveniently forgotten by the media in an attempt to drum up some sort of drama. Vince Cable is the Secretary of State and as such, delivery of the policy is his responsibility. His words on newsnight last night as usual made very interesting hearing and an awful lot of common sense.
"We had a coalition agreement, we're implementing that coalition agreement. We knew that it wasn't going to be possible to deliver the pre-election commitment on tuition fees. We had a challenge that we responded to, which was to enact policies which contribute to reducing this massive government deficit while finding other ways of providing funding for universities to keep up world class standards and to change the system we inherited from Labour of graduate contributions to make it more progressive and more related to peoples ability to pay. We've done those things and in very difficult circumstances I think I've delivered a better policy"
"In an ideal world we'd be spending lots of money and I'd be father Christmas and everything would be free. We're not in an ideal world, we're in a very very tough financial environment in which in universities as in other bits of the economy, very difficult painful cuts are having to be made."
"I supported my parties policies, but when we entered the coalition we had to make compromises and we did make compromises. The Tories had to drop some of their favourite policies, we had to compromise on others. We knew that the tuition fee issue was going to be a very difficult one but we agreed that we would try to make the system better and fairer, which is what we've done."
"We're in government. We're having to make tough choices."
"We didn't carry all of the party with us, we did have a substantial number of my colleagues voted against it. We knew when we went into government that this was probably going to be one of the most difficult challenges we'd have to face. My job, as the Secretary odd State, I inherited a system based on tuition fees that were almost certainly going to rise substantially....The last labour government was fully committed to making very deep cuts in my department concerned with universities. Tuition fees were going to rise under the Brown report. My job was to try to make the system fairer, better and that's what I've been working on with my colleagues for the last six months."
"We haven't failed at all. The first test we had was joining the coalition and it was a difficult test because we entered into government, if you may remember the context. The country needed stable government, there was a financial emergency, the country wanted parties to work together in the national interest and the first big test we made was entering into that coalition, accepting compromises on things that we believed in and were very committed to, and the tuition fee policy is one of those."
"I think actually well be significantly stronger having been through this very difficult process. We've met together several times in the last few days to debate with eachother how we should deal with this. People have strong views but we are still colleagues, we're going to work together sa a team. There is no permanent division. We're going to put this behind us. All of my colleagues are now fully committed to the coalition government including those who voted against it."
Kirsty Young interjected with this: "What about the assertion that this will actually be good for poor students because poor students in poor families are debt averse and what you are essentially doing is condemning them to decades of debt and that will put a lot of them off going to university"
And Vince continued....
"I think that is absolutely wrong and i think it will be proved to be wrong. We built into this policy a whole series of commitments which mean that that will not happen. First of all, Low income graduates will not pay any contributions. We've lifted the threshold to 21,000. If people graduate, they're in a low income, they take time off to have a family, they're unemployed, they don't pay. it is a more progressive system. large numbers of people will not have to pay the full contribution. Roughly half will not have to pay because it's linked to peoples ability to pay. This is not debt in a commercial sense. The student loan scheme is not a commercial scheme. People who want to borrow mortgages for example are not effected by it in anyway. And we're also helping people from Low income families in other ways. The scholarship scheme will help with that. We've increased the availability of grants for people when they study at university. The system is made considerably more progressive than it was and that was acknowledged by the institute of fiscal studies this morning."
Just out of interest, how many countries in the world provide higher education for free?? If we had a single party government, say a lib dem government that had promised not to alter education fees, then I'd be rioting to, but the power is not sat with those who made the promises. It is instead shared across an unholy alliance.....
When I see kids saying they are from the 'Slums of London' and suggesting if they don't get EMA they'll have to do drugs deals, my heart sinks.
Have you ever tried shouting at a horse? I have. It's a pointless exercise, they don't listen.
Other fun and games that the students thought would help their cause included:
- Setting fire to the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square
- Smashing shop windows on Oxford Street
- Vandalising statues, include Winston Churchill's in Parliament Square
- A sit-in at the National Gallery (I've sat in the National Gallery. It's very nice)
What a bunch of idiots. In the LSE the students are sitting in, and are going nowhere. Sorry???? Have these kids not been paying attention?.
Students believe seminars are overcrowded and they're not getting the quality of education that they're expecting. Could that be because the universities themselves are overcrowded? Is a university education now considered to be a right? Surely it's something that should be earned.
There's been much noise over the last ten or fifteen years that GCSE's are easier than O-Levels. So kids are no coming out of school with straight A's and expecting to go to higher education. Kids aren't allowed to fail anymore. They just move the goalposts, not least because the schools get better government funding based on their high levels of good quality results. Somethings not right here.
20 years ago, I would guesstimate that only the top 10% went on to higher education. Now it seems it's only the bottom 20% that don't. Please note, these aren't actual figures, they're just how it feels from my point of view.
As for rioting students attacking the heir to the throne and complaining that the police have horses!? Well that just beggars belief. What are they complaining about? They have daytime television... Dickinson's Real Deal, Jeremy Kyle, Midsummer Murders, Quincy & Countdown to name but five. Yes, I had to look them up, because I, like the rest of us, live in the real world and have to work for a living instead of drinking my student loan and laying in bed. Any sense of sympathy with individuals being violent towards the police force, is instantly defenistrated. Totally unacceptable and looses what little support I have for them.
OK, OK, I know I'm generalising, and that some students actually are trying to learn something and to better themselves and the country as a whole. It is very unfair to lump them all together, and that is not my intention and in fact I apologise unreservedly to those students that are taking their education seriously. But just how many really are serious about it?
The top 10% maybe? Sounds about right doesn't it?....
This post originally appeared here: Posterous