Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Tax and Mend? Lib Dems Start Road to Funding Fix

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Tax and Mend? Lib Dems Start Road to Funding Fix

Article excerpt

Former Cambridge bursar leads long journey to recovery. John Morgan reports from Brighton.

The Liberal Democrats have set in motion the development of a new policy on higher education fees and funding under the leadership of a peer who advocates a graduate tax.

Baroness Brinton of Kenardington, former bursar of Lucy Cavendish College and Selwyn College, both University of Cambridge, is chairing a policy working group on post-16 education that could prove crucial for the sector if the party again finds itself in coalition after the next general election.

The Lib Dems will hope that fresh policies on university fees and funding will help them to recover from the damage inflicted by their decision to backtrack on a pre-election pledge to oppose higher fees.

Speaking to Times Higher Education during the Lib Dem conference in Brighton, held on 22-26 September, Lady Brinton discussed the policy working group's "enormous" remit.

"Fees will be part of that," she said, adding that student finance is "key but it mustn't dominate, because there is so much more in HE that we need to have a clear view on as a party".

Official Lib Dem policy still opposes any increase in fees - despite the party's MPs having helped vote through the coalition's policy to raise the fee cap to Pounds 9,000.

Last week, Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister, attempted to draw a line under the episode by pre-releasing a party political broadcast in which he apologises for the fees pledge.

"The problem is it's a pre-2010 thing," Lady Brinton said of the official party policy.

"It says: 'We will not accept an increase in tuition fees, end of topic. …

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