Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn has announced plans to scrap further education tuition fees and to bring back maintenance grants for university students, ahead of the general election. The Independent later revealed footage of Mr. Corbyn’s right-hand man, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, explaining his desire to scrap university tuition fees ‘once and for all’ and to ‘introduce a National Education Service free at the point of need throughout life’ at a Save the NHS event on 29th April.
At the Nottinghamshire event, Mr. McDonnell spoke to the receptive Save the NHS crowd about his movement’s belief that ‘education is a gift from one generation to another’ and that ‘it is not a commodity to be bought and sold’. Jeremy Corbyn built upon his Shadow Chancellor’s remarks at an education conference in Leeds with an official announcement of Labour’s National Education Service pledge. This has led to widespread speculation that Labour will add Corbyn’s 2015 party leadership election promise to ‘get rid of tuition fees’ to its general election manifesto, after Corbyn replied that he has ‘some stuff in his pocket’, when asked about university tuition fees, adding that he wasn’t allowed to elaborate and that the public will ‘have to wait for the manifesto’. Adding to the mounting speculation, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner this morning told listeners of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to ‘watch this space’ when probed on university tuition fees.
many consider it time to rethink tuition fees, especially with fees set to rise again to £9,250 for next academic year
The New Statesman’s political editor George Eaton stated that the cost of scrapping university tuition fees is ‘estimated at £7bn a year’, a figure Labour’s critics believe is unfeasible. Eaton also discussed the risk that the policy ‘will deprive the party of resources for other policies’, all the while cementing the idea that Labour is a party of excessive and reckless spending in the minds of the electorate. Corbyn’s supporters have however pointed out that the current system, adopted under the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2012 may not even be saving the Treasury money, compared to the system it replaced. In fact, with the Resource and Accounting Budget —that is the write-off figure for repayments on student loans — rapidly approaching the critical 48.6% figure whereby the government will lose money compared to the £3,000 system, many consider it time to rethink tuition fees, especially with fees set to rise again to £9,250 for next academic year.
Jeremy Corbyn previously pledged during the 2015 Labour leadership election to fund the removal of tuition fees ‘with increases to higher corporation tax and a 7% rise in national insurance for those earning more than £50,000 a year’. Full details with regards to costing, funding and the exact terms of specific policies are to be made available with the party’s general election manifesto.