Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/301/13796
Fees - Tories try to woo students!
THE CONSERVATIVE Party are, hypocritically, promising to scrap tuition fees - which are set to rise from £1,100 to a maximum £3,000 a year by 2006. Iain Duncan Smith denounced fees as a "tax on learning" that penalised families who wanted their children "to get ahead in life".
That's an unbelievable promise from the original party of Thatcher, big business and privatisation! The Tories said the £700 million cost of scrapping fees would be covered by dropping Labour plans to put 50% of young people through university and abolishing the planned 'fair access' regulator, Offa.
Blair claimed such a change would mean a £500 million loss of income to universities and 150,000 fewer students each year able to go to university.
In fact British universities' financial crisis is the result of 20 years of under-funding in higher education (HE). Blair follows the Thatcherite ideology that students should pay for their education. However, university funding has actually decreased since fees were introduced.
Reports in 2001 showed that the government 'saved' £400 million by introducing fees and scrapping the student grant - money that's never been accounted for! Neither big business party will provide the necessary funding for HE, but both support spending £3 billion on bombing Iraq or cutting corporation tax!
Labour first introduced fees and scrapped the student grant in 1997, a massive attack on the principle of free education and on the working class as a whole. Immediately, Socialist Students initiated 'Save Free Education' and advocated a campaign of mass non-payment to defeat the fees, while predicting more attacks including the planned top-up fees.
New Labour were following the Tories' lead. In the 80s and early 90s Tory governments removed housing benefits and dole entitlement from students and steadily cut their grants. The Tories didn't introduce tuition fees only because they were afraid of student resistance!
This 'promise' is part of a laughable attempt to present the Tories as the "party of the poor", citing how the wealth gap has never been so big as under Labour.
New Labour are now a capitalist party and the Tories are desperately trying to distinguish themselves from Labour now that Blair and Co. have now stolen the Tories' anti-working class, big business policies.
In The Socialist 24 May 2003: