Tuition Fees

Bills Presented – in the House of Commons on 19th July 2017

"I was lucky enough to go to Liverpool Polytechnic to study law in 1987 and have my tuition fees paid in full. I am sure many of the people here in this Chamber who went into higher education also had their fees paid. I do not know whether the prospect of having substantial debt at the end of my studies would have put me off, but it would have made me stop and think. That is the crux of the problem with tuition fees: many students from low-income families that might not even earn £20,000 a year would seriously baulk at the idea of having to pay back £50,000. With maintenance grants being replaced by loans, total student debt for those from poorer families will be much higher than for those from wealthier ones. It is therefore no accident that, on average, one in 20 freshers drops out from university every year, whereas the figure for those from poorer families is one in 12. Even when they graduate, those from poorer families earn 10% less than their wealthier peers, who find it easier to get placements and internships, and impress with CVs with better extracurricular activities. On the subject of jobs, it is also worth noting that many professions, including teaching and nursing, are struggling to recruit graduates, partly because of the low pay and the inability of graduates to pay off their loans.

Another invidious factor that arises from tuition fees and debt is that many young people are putting their lives on hold, as they have to live with their parents sometimes well into their 30s to save up enough money to buy a home of their own. That has a knock-on effect on their relationships and life choices, such as whether or not they want to start a family. It is not just young people who are affected by this; many potential mature students and part-time students have already been put off studying since 2012, when tuition fees were hiked up to £9,000. We have seen an overall decline of 61% in part-time students and 39% in mature students.

With the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimating that average student debt is £50,000 on graduation, and with 77% of students expected never to pay off their loans entirely, it is scandalous that the Government are trying to increase tuition fees at this time. They should take immediate steps to reduce tuition fees, not increase them.

We have heard that Conservative Members question Labour policy on tuition fees, but if they wanted to debate Labour party policy properly, they should have voted for our amendment on Monday to give us more Opposition days.