After Nick Clegg’s now infamous apology over the Liberal Democrats’ broken promise to scrap tuition fees, it was inevitable that the subject would become a key economic debate in the lead up to the 2015 General Election.
Tuition fees were raised by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government to £9000 per year in 2012, causing a backlash among students. The Lib Dems had enjoyed a wave of popularity among young voters during the 2010 election campaign thanks to their stance on tuition fees.
This year Ed Miliband has pledged that Labour will reduce tuition fees to £6000 should he become Prime Minister in May. While this policy is sure to be popular with student voters, how viable would it be? One UEA School of Economics lecturer doesn’t think the proposed changes would work.
Dr Fabio Arico said: “Labour suggests a cut in university fees, which in line of principle I would welcome. However, cutting fees might not be the best solution right here and right now. If the project worked in practice, I would have no objection. But I do not trust this promise at all.
“We are dealing with a higher education funding system that is already at strain. Increasing evidence demonstrates that the system as it stands is not sustainable in the long-run as everybody is borrowing but very few are paying back!
“The best solution would be to review the whole higher education funding scheme, but surely no party will want to commit to do that.”
One party which has promised a more radical approach is the Green Party who have promised that they would scrap tuition fees altogether. Dr Arico agrees that scrapping fees with income tax payers picking up the costs would be the best solution.
He said: “I believe that education generates massive benefits to everybody and that, economically, it is fair that everybody contributes to generate these benefits.
“Presently parents are funding their children, and there are parents who have no money to support their kids to go to university. Perhaps these children could be the most academically apt, but they will never have chance to access education.
“I find this extremely unfair. It should not be about willingness to pay, but it should be about ability to excel academically and put education received to a good use.”