Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Labour Plan to Cut Fees for Students Defended

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Labour Plan to Cut Fees for Students Defended

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Walker Political Editor

LABOUR has defended plans to cut student fees after university leaders warned the policy would damage the quality of the education they offered and hurt the economy.

The vice-chancellors of Newcastle University and Teesside University were among senior academics who signed a letter attacking Labour leader Ed Miliband's proposal to cut fees.

But Ed Balls, the Labour Shadow Chancellor, accused them of defending the "status quo" and said the current system stopped students from poorer backgrounds going to university.

The issue of university tuition fees was already a difficult one for Labour, as the party has yet to decide what its policy is with just months to go before the election, despite criticising the coalition government for putting up fees from PS3,000 a year to a maximum of PS9,000 a year.

It was reported back in 2011 that Mr Miliband planned to announce Labour would cut fees to PS6,000 a year, but this has still not been confirmed.

Professor Chris Brink, vice-chancellor of Newcastle University, and Professor Graham Henderson, vice-chancellor and chief executive of Teesside University, signed the letter warning that cutting fees would mean cutting funding for universities by PS10bn over the next five years.

They warned: "The result would be cuts to universities that would damage the economy, affect the quality of students' education, and set back work on widening access to higher education.

"Any move to limit the number of students attending universities as a way of reducing costs would remove opportunities for young people and those seeking to return to education, and act as a barrier to economic growth."

Fees are actually paid by graduates, not by students, and only once they are earning more than PS21,000, the academics said. Cutting the maximum fee would mean that wealthier graduates paid less but would not help poor students, they argued. …

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