Monday, 2 March 2015

Why Labour's policy on university fees makes sense

The uni fees and loan system works to an extent - people have massive loans forced on them but they only have to pay them a bit at a time when they're earning a good wage - it's already a graduate tax in all but name! It also means one less thing to fund from elsewhere; you can only raise a certain amount from tax evaders and banks as suggested elsewhere. It's popular to say "scrap the fees" but it would be costly to do so and Labour, with this policy, should help fix the major problems with the current system (still not perfect, but it'll be better).

There's two major issues with the current system that Labour are effectively fixing. Firstly, the levels at which the fees are at means that billions will almost certainly be written off after 30 years losing the taxpayer money so, in fact, reducing the fees by £3,000 could actually be good for the taxpayer (unlike what the Tories say!) Secondly the maintenance grant/loan isn't really high enough for those on poorer incomes to go to university with - Labour will raise it by £400 which sounds like little but it will make an important difference.

Additionally, Labour have correctly identified and admitted that university just isn't for everyone - some people do badly academically and don't want to continue school as it were! University should cost the students something because it isn't compulsory and it shouldn't be necessary to get a good job. Indeed, most of the time the degrees offered at uni don't teach you anything that will be useful for the job; they just differentiate some people from other people, effectively showing one person has spent more time learning an unrelated subject!

To fix the issue above, Labour will introduced vocational (read: actually useful) qualifications and, critically, guarantee apprenticeships by forcing companies holding a government contract to offer apprenticeships. Unlike other forms of education - you don't have to pay for an apprenticeship and it's directly relevant for whatever job you want to go into.

In fact, I am about to go to uni myself, and I am happy to pay a price in my future life for it. If I wanted, under Labour's policies I'm sure I could get an apprenticeship as an accountant and work into a profession that way - as I want to be a politician or lawyer and have more academic backing I will get a degree, but I don't mind there being a cost since I didn't HAVE to get the degree.

Also, Ed remembers what happened to the Lib Dems when they pledged to remove fees - they ended up trebling them and now tell off Labour for pledging to reduce the fees by the same amount the Libs pledged last time (by £3000). He's not going to make the mistake of making an expensive promise he can't keep - however reducing them a bit and increasing the maintenance loan and increasing the relevance of degrees and increasing apprenticeship provision are all things that WILL make a difference for my generation.

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