Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/213/8616
Wales: Tuition Fees Damned - Now Abolish Them!
THE RECENTLY published Rees Report into student hardship and funding in Wales is damning in its criticism of tuition fees and the abolition of the student grant.
It concludes that the present system is chaotic and is stopping people from working-class backgrounds going to university, and estimates average student debt on leaving is £12,500.
Nearly half the students at Welsh higher education institutions whose parents are assessed to make a contribution to their maintenance failed to receive the assessed amount.
It also shows that the system isn't working; there's an estimated £31 million outstanding in overdue tuition fees. This report is a vindication of what Save Free Education (SFE) has argued all along.
The report calls for the Welsh Assembly to lobby the British government to scrap up front tuition fees.
They also call for £52 million to be allocated for learning maintenance bursaries or LMBs and for massively increased funding for those with childcare costs and for mature students over 25.
The report calls for students to make a contribution to their education through what is effectively graduate tax or "income contingent graduate endowment contributions."
Although these recommendations should be welcomed as a step towards alleviating student poverty they do not go far enough - tuition fees should be scrapped altogether with the reintroduction of a living grant for all.
The Rees Report still reinforces the idea that education should be paid for by students. It fails to call for the scrapping of the current loans system instead calling for more stringent means-testing for loans, supposedly to prevent wealthy students abusing the loans.
SFE argues that more stringent means-testing is not the answer; means-testing is inherently stigmatising and will do nothing to address the fact that many students do not receive the financial support their parents were assessed to make.
Despite these limitations the report's acknowledgement of the present funding system's many failures is a victory for all those who have been campaigning to save free education.
SFE's concern is that if left alone the Welsh Assembly will fail to act on the Rees Report's recommendations as education minister Jane Davidson admitted that the report could be shelved because of "Assembly budget concerns".
SFE calls on all students in Wales and all those who support the principle of free education to lobby the Assembly at 3pm on 11 July, outside committee room 3, where the education committee will be discussing this issue.
This should be followed by a massive lobby of the Welsh Assembly in October when all the students are back at college.
In The Socialist 6 July 2001: