We are writing this open letter to request that you remove your signature from the recent Times article ‘The High Price of Cutting University Fees’. The article defends a system that will go down as one of the chief blunders of our current government, and we do not want our university’s name to be tarnished by being associated with such a policy.
Whilst we agree that the expansion of higher education is a good thing, we believe that it must be done on a sustainable and responsible basis; tuition fees constitute neither a responsible nor sustainable source of higher education funding. Figures show that, as of last year, 45% of the loans offered out to cover tuition fees will not be repaid by students, due in part to falling and stagnant wages amongst young people. This is rapidly approaching the 48.6% threshold, where the new system will actually cost the state exchequer more than the old one.
A recent Higher Education Commission report has stated that the ‘current system fails to meet our test of financial sustainability and further work needs to be undertaken to arrive at a better higher education funding model’. Free Education Brighton believes that such a model should be reached, not through the reduction of the threshold of repayment or an increase in fees, but through the transformation of higher education into a system that is publicly funded and free at the point of use. This could be paid for through a combination of the cancellation of Trident (which is estimated to cost £130bn over the next 30 years), and a crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion (which is estimated, by HMRC, to cost our country £30bn every year).
The claim that none of the political parties are committed to a programme of public investment and taxation is untrue. The Greens, SNP, and Plaid Cymru are all committed to an anti-austerity politics and to a publicly funded higher education system. Whilst it would be unlikely that these parties would be able to form their own government in 2015, it is highly probable that, in the event of a hung Parliament, and the Labour Party having the largest number of seats, at least one of these minority parties will play a role in a coalition government. If the Labour Party can be convinced to reduce tuition fees, then is plausible that, given pressure both inside and outside of government, they may be pushed to abolish them altogether. We believe that as our Vice Chancellor, you should add your voice to these progressive forces fighting for free education, instead of defending a system that should never have been instituted in the first place.
Free Education Brighton