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Further criticism for tuition fee rise

Labour has attacked the government’s policy on tuition fees amid claims that there is a £1 billion deficit at the core of the scheme.

Shabana Mahmood

Labour’s higher education spokesperson, Shabana Mahmood, said the report exposed “the chaos, confusion and incompetence at the heart of the Tory-led government’s policy to treble tuition fees to £9,000.”

The increase in tuition fees, brought in by this government, has proved unpopular amongst students and led to a dramatic fall in deputy prime minister Nick Clegg’s popularity.

In a recent report, the respected think-tank the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) has criticised the government’s current higher education policy. It claims that the cost of the changes has been “seriously understated” and that the new system is at risk of costing the taxpayer more than the old one.

Universities minister David Willets reacted to the claims, arguing that evidence points to the reforms actually saving money. In an article for The Independent, Willets cited that the contributions from taxpayers will fall. Furthermore he listed a “treble” of benefits of the new system: tackling the deficit, securing the relevant resources to ensure world-class tuition in universities, and delivering more support for students from under-represented backgrounds as a way of improving social mobility.

Mr Willets went on to state that both the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) agree that the government’s higher education reforms will save money. He also discussed a Hepi claim that the average figure for tuition fees is now to a tune of £8,200, more than the government’s original prediction of £7,600.

He responded that “students are not obliged to take out a loan for the entirety of their course.” In the closing lines of his article he accepted that there is always a margin of error, but that he thought that HEPI had assumed the worst.

The president of the National Union of Students (NUS), Liam Burns, said: “The coalition got their sums badly wrong and have left a mess that will take years to fix.”

06/11/2012

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