Voting for tuition fees to teach protesters a lesson is appalling, and will be remembered

by Dora Meredith

John Hemming MP’s comments yesterday, on BBC Radio Four, that he will be “very likely to vote for the increase in tuition fees simply because we cannot reward the bad behaviour from today” are appalling.

To break his pledge made to the electorate to vote against a rise in fees is one thing, but to do so, so willingly, as a result of a knee-jerk reaction to a small group of protesters is quite another.

Students have delivered a petition of over 3,000 names to Mr. Hemming, representatives have met with him to discuss the issue, and individuals have written many personal letters. As such, it is incredibly disappointing to see so many voices, including those of members of his constituency, so readily ignored.

Let’s be clear – if the current government proposals are adopted it will fundamentally alter the way higher education is perceived and valued in this country. The proposed cuts and subsequent fee rises are not only acutely unfair, but surely misjudged.

The latest evidence from the OECD suggests that the return from investing in higher education is crucial to economic revival. Yet while other countries are rightly investing in higher education, the current government seems determined to slash investment, pile debt onto students, and undermine all the previous work done to raise aspirations.

The implications of the rise in tuition fees completely undermine any rhetoric from a government claiming to value social mobility. For the significant number of students who are not eligible for a scholarship or bursary, but who are equally not from affluent backgrounds, the potential rise in fees will be catastrophic. Whilst those from richer families may be able to pay fees off immediately, the majority of students will face increased interest rates, and a devastating debt for a significant portion of their lives.

Some argue that rises in tuition fees will lead to increased competition between universities and greater choice for students – with courses being marketed to prospective students on the likelihood of graduate employment prospects and future earning potential. However, choice depends on the freedom to choose. Students thinking about going to university from more deprived backgrounds may not have access to information about university could be discouraged, or even worse could make decisions based on cheaper courses at even cheaper institutions. Higher education should not be abandoned to the will of market forces. The government needs to demonstrate that it values education, as an entity that enhances society, not just the individual.

I was extremely disappointed by Hemming’s comments yesterday, and would urge him to consider his position carefully before so readily casting his vote. Haste in slashing the opportunities of future generations of students, would surely be unwise.

Dora Meredith is the President of the University of Birmingham Guild of Students.

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6 Responses to “Voting for tuition fees to teach protesters a lesson is appalling, and will be remembered”

  1. GBN says:

    Why is it appalling? Nothing to do with it being your cause?

    What you are saying is the best way to get things down is by violence and intimidation. “Hey we can’t get our own way, lets smash the place up”.

    You say it was a small number. It still happened.

    “Yet while other countries are rightly investing in higher education, the current government seems determined to slash investment, pile debt onto students, and undermine all the previous work done to raise aspirations.”

    Which countries? Plus Labour were ALREADY cutting investment in schools and laying of lecturers. Nothing heard from you back then?

    Shame I can’t lay my hands on the report that said unemployment for under 21’s was WORSE under Labour. But that doesn’t sit well on your political ideology I guess.

    And who introduced the fees? Why did the NUS and other left leaning student bodies not smash up labour HQ? Ah yes, biting the hand that feeds.

    You accuse others of knee jerk; I would suggest you look inwardly first.

  2. Syzygy says:

    It seems that the George Osborne’s independent OBR is forecasting a 6 BN structural surplus in 2015. In other words, 6BN which need not be stripped out of the economy and Universities now!

    Clearly, education is investment in the future, and the LD’s were right to want to abolish tuition fees and restore maintenance grants. Anything other policy will ultimately be a false economy. John Hemmings is in danger of sounding a bit like a ‘jeremy hunt’.

  3. radical says:

    Agreed on the issue of introducing the market system into higher education – not only will it not work as planned, as you described, but let’s not forget that at the center of any market is profit. Any courses or research projects that don’t make a profit will have to be axed. Education is about so much more than money.

    Hemming’s claims that before his office was occupied, he hadn’t yet made up his mind on how he’d vote are outrageous too – he made up his mind the day he put his name on the NUS pledge. He clearly doesn’t realise that in a democracy, we elect representatives to actually represent our views, not just to give them free reign in parliament.

    Well said Dora!

  4. paul barker says:

    I imagine the crucial incedent was the cancelation of The LibDems London Regional Conference because the venue didnt fancy being trashed. For a lot of us that crosses a line, breaking up or preventing another Partys meetings is a direct attack on Democracy itself. How would you feel if it was a Labour conference being blocked ?
    On responsibility, if you cheer & clap when someone else kicks a window in your in the same moral position as them.

  5. Amy Squire says:

    Arguements against a so called free-market education system extend further than access to information.

    1) Free markets only work with the competing agents are autonomous, for better or worse there are far too many government loop holes that universities and individual departments have to jump through to make a free market possible. Universites are simply unable to respond to demand in when they have so many strings attached.
    2) Market competition won’t necessarily drive up educational standards, it may just lead to universities spending a lot more on advertising.
    3) Finally, there is something to be said for academics being able to determine the ethos of their departments. Once everything is geared towards employability and money making there will be little room for originality and creative thinking. Universities should be centres for learning and understanding the world, not making money.

  6. Emma Burnell says:

    I would say Paul that the cancellation of the conference was a massive over reaction by the party.

    Perhaps you should have beefed up your security, but if Labour managed to continue to have meetings and conferences throughout the protests against the Iraq war, you should be able to do the same.

    As such, the cancellation seemed more life fear of being held to account that unsurmountable security fears.

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