The Prime Minister is playing a risky game with young people by shafting them weeks before a general election. Theresa May’s government pushed through legislation allowing nearly all universities in England to raise tuition fees every year.
The green light for increasing education costs was supposed to be coupled with a ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’. The framework is designed to monitor universities so they increase fees in line with improved teaching. But the framework will not be introduced until 2020. So until then, universities can now make any inflation-linked price hikes they want. Meanwhile, real wages have fallen by 10.4% since 2008. They are set collapse further still with rising post-Brexit inflation.
May’s education price hike will contribute further to the lifelong debt a generation is now saddled with. According to the Sutton Trust, UK students now face more debt than any other English-speaking country.
Playing Russian Roulette with young people
Given that Labour has a strong lead over the Conservatives with the under 40s, May is playing with fire.
The youth vote tends to be suppressed by low turn out. But well over 100,000 18-24-year-olds have registered to vote since May announced the election. If young people follow through on polling day, she could be in for a nasty surprise.
Bin the fees
Universities did not have tuition fees until Tony Blair introduced them in 1998, proving they are by no means a necessity. Then, propped up by the Lib Dems, the Conservatives tripled them to £9,000 per year. But, in a hallmark of Labour’s change of direction, a key pledge of both Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership campaigns was to scrap tuition fees altogether. The release of Labour’s manifesto will tell us whether the position becomes party policy. But Labour has pledged to reintroduce maintenance grants to ensure ordinary people on lower incomes aren’t totally priced out of higher education.
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Free education benefits everyone
Conservatives often argue ‘why would I pay for someone else’s education?’ But all of us benefit from having doctors, teachers, academics and other well-educated people in society. Just as all of us benefit from our own children having free higher education.
Jack Andraka, for example, was 15 years old when he identified a revolutionary tool in recognising pancreatic cancer. But he would not have made his discovery without access to online journals. Andraka’s life-saving discovery is a shining example of how freedom of education benefits everyone. The more people who have access to education, the higher the chance of humans finding solutions to our problems. And when it comes to cancer, these solutions are life or death.
So scrapping tuition fees should certainly be Labour Party policy. Investing in people brings long-term returns to society as a whole. On the other hand, the Conservatives are committed to going in the opposite direction. With fees increasing year upon year. What else would you expect from the party of privilege?
From the numbers registering to vote, it looks like young people aren’t going to take it lying down. The Prime Minister may regret this yet.
– Register to vote in the 8 June general election. If you don’t have a national insurance number, a 5 minute phone call on 0300 200 3500 will get it sent to you in ten days.
– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.
– Read more from The Canary on the 2017 general election.
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