A couple of weeks ago I commented on the changes regarding further education - see here - well here is Caroline Lucas' response to the news that a cap on university tuition fees in England will be set at a maximum of £9,000 a year:
Photo: Randwick Woods
“Today is a dark day for the students of the future – and for Lib Dem voters who have seen, yet again, their Party’s leader make a shameful u-turn on a key election pledge. The Greens are now the only main political party that support free education for all. A cap of £9,000 is simply unacceptable for a country that values social mobility and inclusiveness. This announcement will mean our public degrees will be among the most costly in the world. Many people will be priced out of going to university – and those who do go will be saddled with huge debt. All this at a time when our young people are facing increasing unemployment and anxiety about the future.
“A more progressive policy to address the challenge of funding our higher education would be a business education tax levied on the top 4% of UK companies, which would generate enough annually to abolish tuition fees and take our public investment in higher education up to the average in other comparable countries. As MP for Brighton Pavilion, I am determined to work hard to protect students and staff at Sussex University from creeping privatisation and devastating cuts.”
University education it seems must now be viewed solely as a personal asset, and those lucky enough to get it should foot the bill. This is a radical departure from how we once conceived the public realm. When I was lucky enough to go to University higher education was seen as a social good, enriching our whole society rather than merely an individual's future salary. Universities passed onto the next generation knowledge and added to it. As one commentator said: "They were about learning rather than earning."
Higher education should be a shared public good not just a prize for individuals. Already we have seen under Labour more wealthy children going to the more prestigous universities - the Coalition will now be entrenching still further the inequalities.