Local parents and students are contacting me about future plans for funding Higher Education.
Universities are one of my responsibilities as a Minister. We have one university in the constituency- St Mary’s - and several others nearby (Kingston; Roehampton; Thames Valley).
Whichever party was in government they would face painful departmental cuts because of the massive budget deficit. 70% of my department’s budget is spent on universities so difficult choices on student funding were inevitable. I was not prepared to consider taking a brutal axe to adult and further education, or scientific research.
Nor was I prepared to take the easy option of diluting the quality of our world-class universities by depriving them of income. In practice the only real option was to reduce government spending, but allow universities to recover more of the cost from graduates when they achieve a decent income. We have therefore lifted the cap from £3,000 to £6,000 with £9,000 permitted in exceptional circumstances.
Students will not have to pay up front. Low income and very able students will have access to more scholarship funding. There will be more help for part-time students.
And importantly no graduate will have to pay until their income reaches £21,000 opposed to the current level of £15,000. Exiting students are not affected, nor are next years. The changes don’t take effect for another two years.
Despite the protests, no-one has set out a better, fairer way to fund the rising costs of universities now that 40% of young people go there. The tax payer will continue to pay much of the cost.
It is surely right that graduates who benefit financially from attending university pay a bigger contribution later in life.