Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/230/9241
No To The Graduate Tax - Fight For Free Education
MANY YOUNG people were relieved to read that the government is discussing abolishing tuition fees and introducing a grant. However, New Labour's reported proposals for replacing the current system would leave many students worse off.
Since tuition fees were introduced and the grant abolished three years ago, they have been massively unpopular. After the general election Tony Blair admitted that the tuition fees issue had generated the most anger on the doorstep.
This massive U-turn was an admission that tuition fees and the scrapping of the grant had been a tremendous failure. Over the last few years, fees have deterred thousands of young people from going to university. Thousands more could not pay the fees as they can't afford them. Millions of pounds of fees are unpaid.
However, the alternative proposed by New Labour ministers won't improve the situation for thousands of students. Many will be worse off as tuition fees are replaced with a graduate tax.
At the same time the current system of 'soft' loans with low interest rates would be abolished, forcing students to borrow at commercial rates. If implemented these plans would result in a massive explosion of student debt, even compared with the high levels of debt already incurred by students.
Thousands of young people would still be deterred from going to university for financial reasons, particularly those from working-class families.
The proposed grant would benefit few students. The grant, which will be worth at most £2,700 will only be available to students whose parents earn less than £10,000. So a student, both of whose parents earn only the minimum wage or are on top-up benefits, could be excluded from receiving a grant.
The ditching of the current funding arrangements shows the pressure that New Labour have come under to scrap fees. But they want students to carry the burden of paying for Britain's higher education system.
Students must keep building a mass movement for free education. Only an education system that is free for everyone will enable equal access to university for all, regardless of background.
National Union of Students (NUS) regional days of action are taking place over the next couple of weeks. Students must use the protests to send a message to New Labour, that we will accept nothing short of a free education system.
In The Socialist 16 November 2001: