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Labour is planning to lower university tuition fees: a populist move or a needed reform?


University tuition fees have been a touchy topic in the past years, often linked to issues of class and privilege. Universities currently charge up to £9000 per year, after the Conservative/Liberal Democrats coalition government raised the tuition fee cap in 2012.

University tuition fees have been a touchy topic in the past years, often linked to issues of class and privilege. Universities currently charge up to £9000 per year, after the Conservative/Liberal Democrats coalition government raised the tuition fee cap in 2012. Thanks to devolution Scotland has been able to abolish undergraduate tuition fees for Scottish and European students (excluding students from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, who do have to pay tuition fees). Already in 2011 the Labour Party had promised to cut university fees from £9000 to £6000 but until this past week the party had not presented a strategy to pursue this goal if elected in the next general elections.

Because of Labour’s vagueness, many have accused the party to try to win votes with a populist move that lacks consistency, while universities opposed the cuts fearing a loss in funding. Now the party’s leader Ed Miliband has finally revealed that the cuts would be funded by reducing tax reliefs pensions for higher earners. Miliband has made it clear that he is committed to fully fund universities while also making education accessible and preventing students to finish university surmounted by debt. The reform would enter in force in September 2016 and it has been welcomed by Universities UK, the body representing Britain’s universities.

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