Archive for October, 2011

Revealed: Migration cap to cost British universities £766 million per year in lost revenue and push up fees

14/10/2011, 09:39:41 AM

by Atul Hatwal

An analysis of the government’s latest higher education funding figures by Uncut reveals that British universities will lose £766m of revenue each year as a direct result of the government’s target to cut net migration below 100,000.

The cut will inevitably increase upwards pressure on fees for domestic students, according to academics.

David Cameron renewed his commitment to the target in his speech on immigration earlier this week and to achieve the government’s target of net migration in the tens of thousands, the government’s Migration Advisory Committee has identified the need for cuts of 60% in the numbers of foreign students.

Based on the current level of net migration, 239,000 per year, a reduction of 139,000 is needed to reduce net migration below 100,000, which would mean 83,400 fewer foreign students – 60% of 139,000.

Because of European law, the UK can only bar students from outside the EU which means non-EU students will bear the full brunt of the cuts.

New government figures reveal that last year non-EU students contributed £2.6bn in fees, over 30% of the total tuition fees budget. Based on these figures a cut of 83,400 would mean a revenue shortfall of £766 million per year.

If the government wanted to plug the shortfall through the tax system, this would involve tax increases equivalent to a hike in the higher rate of income tax by 1p.

Amongst the hardest hit by the revenue reduction will be some of the country’s leading universities which have the highest proportions of foreign students.

This includes the LSE, which has 65% foreign students, Imperial College with 40% foreign students and the University of Warwick with 28% foreign students.

The result of the cuts will be greater pressure to increase fees to the maximum.

Universities will typically charge foreign students fees that are several times the level that are charged to UK students, cross-subsidising costs for domestic students.

For example, a student wanting to study a physics degree at Imperial will be charged well over £20,000 per year. This is substantially more than the £9,000 tuition fees that British university students will pay at the top annual fee rate.

The cross-subsidy will have been factored into Universities’ calculations in setting fees. A senior academic at a top five university was blunt about the costs of their degrees,

“At £9,000, we don’t even cover our costs. The actual cost for a physics degree is £14,000. Without a cross-subsidy it isn’t going to work”

In contrast to the British stance, Australia recently changed its immigration policy to make it easier for its Universities to attract high-spending foreign students, particularly from India.

Similarly, the USA and Canada don’t include foreign students in their main immigration statistics that the political debate does not prevent their universities attracting valuable overseas students.

At a time when tuition fee budgets are already under pressure and several leading universities have already started pushing to lift the £9k cap, the cuts to foreign students will further destabilise higher education funding plans in Britain.

Atul Hatwal is associate editor of Labour Uncut.

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2,570,000: it’s not just a number

13/10/2011, 09:27:34 AM

by Peter Watt

The trouble with statistics about people is that they dehumanise. The story of one human tragedy can move people by bringing to life the impact. But repeat that tragedy over and over and eventually it ceases to shock. Just think about how often in war it is the image or story of one tragic fatality that moves people, while statistics of the thousands who die passes us by.

I was thinking about this when I heard this week’s truly terrible unemployment figures. There are currently 2,570,000 people unemployed in the UK. This includes 991,000 16 – 24 year olds. This represents over 20% of young people who currently do not have a job.

The problem is that this figure has been creeping up slowly. However big it is, however shocking right now, it will inevitably numb the senses to the underlying tragedies that are unfolding across the country. It may have already done so. I remember when unemployment was creeping up to record highs in the 1980’s and the nightly news carried stories of the latest series of job losses around the country. Maps of the UK were used to illustrate the numbers of those set to join the lengthening dole queue. At first it was shocking, but it soon became background music. We just became immune to the scale of the numbers. (more…)

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Like a big lunch: the leader’s speech is too much to digest

12/10/2011, 01:44:21 PM

by Kevin Meagher

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hear Ed Miliband make a speech like that ever again. Not a criticism of the contents of his recent conference address in Liverpool – perish the thought – rather a call to scrap the whole palaver of the annual leader’s speech.

Well not really scrap, more a “refounding” of the whole idea. The current model has had its day. The annual hour-and-a-bit long, Tuesday afternoon speech has become stale and predictable. Not so much a shop window for Labour but a stock check. Visionary bit? Check. Thank-yous to unsung party heroes? Check. Anecdote about meeting a real person? Check. Emotional bit about own life? Check. Attack stuff? Check. Serious and inspirational bit? Check. Clap lines? Check. Gags? Check.

The overall effect is stodgy and lumpy. Like eating a big lunch, it becomes rather hard to digest and does little for your productivity for the rest of the day.

For next year, Ed should try something different. Some iconoclasts around him were said to have been arguing to do away with the annual ritual altogether, making a series of speeches around the country instead. Others say that we should follow the Tories and Lib Dems and store up the leader’s speech until the end of the week. (more…)

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Common sense socialism

12/10/2011, 09:19:56 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“We are signposts of the modern kind, electronic ones flashing on the motorway, changing as the traffic or weather changes. And the people interpreting the conditions, deciding what to write on the signs, should be guided above all by common sense, by the axioms and attitudes of the people in the cars”.

Siôn Simon’s variation on Tony Benn’s dictum that there are signposts and weathervanes in politics is worth keeping in mind as the Tory-led government crawls from crisis to crisis.

While Bennites are signposts of a certain kind, “old, wooden affairs, pointing in the wrong direction, to a way through the woods so overgrown that it can scarcely be seen”, the modern Labour signpost is an altogether more interactive and adaptable affair. This ceaseless revisionism applies to both means, switching from wooden to electronic signage, as technology allows, and the contemporary meaning of our ends. (more…)

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If you’re not rich, you’re not coming in

11/10/2011, 04:11:28 PM

by Matt Cavanagh

For a man whose avowed aim is to reduce the salience of immigration as a political issue, David Cameron spends a lot of time talking about it. Yesterday’s speech was light on new policy, so we must assume the point was to send a message: that despite growing public scepticism – a recent YouGov poll found 78% of people thinking it “unlikely Cameron will deliver his immigration promises” – he remains personally committed to doing so. The strategic judgment must be, that while he is unlikely to hit his chosen target of reducing net migration levels to “tens of thousands” by 2015, his policies will have made enough of a dent that voters will feel that, in contrast to the other two parties, at least the Conservatives tried. For now, the coalition has settled into a pattern, where it suits both parties to pretend that it is the Liberal Democrats that have prevented greater progress, rather than the deeper structural problems with their approach – though this is unlikely to fool voters for long, and there are signs that the commentariat have rumbled it too.

Turning to the detail of the speech, there were some good things; some misleading claims and unanswered questions; and a reminder of two big underlying problems.

The good things included a careful, incremental approach to the complex issue of forced marriage (though it will be interesting to see how the planned consultation differs from previous ones on the same subject); and a greater emphasis on British history and culture in the “Life in the UK” citizenship test which Labour introduced in 2005. Another proposal, to stop people bringing in more than one spouse or partner in quick succession, is an example of a policy which in an ideal world would seem unnecessary and invasive, but in the real world is sadly necessary. Finally, there was the resonant line that “immigration can hurt the low paid and the low skilled, while the better off reap many of the benefits”. This contains enough truth to hurt, and is a line which Labour really only has itself to blame for allowing the Conservatives to own.

But alongside these good things, there were plenty of misleading claims. The first was on overall numbers, where Cameron said that; “There are early signs in the most recent figures that the reforms this government has brought in are beginning to reduce the overall figure.”

Well, it is true – as I noted in my analysis of the most recent immigration statistics for Labour Uncut – that “the latest quarterly figures to June 2011 [show] a slight fall in people coming from outside the EU for work, down 2.7% compared to the year ending April 2011”. Most of this is from the closure of the Tier 1 General route, designed for highly skilled migrants who are not tied to a particular job, but qualify on their individual merits (on which more below). But this is less than 1% of total immigration. Cameron would be better advised to wait until next year, by when the changes to the student visa system, however ill-advised in other respects, might have made a more serious impression on overall numbers.

The second misleading claim concerned the skill-level of migrants coming under the previous system. In his determination to present that system as a “complete failure”, Cameron said that:

“One study showed that about a third of those sampled only found low skilled roles working as shop assistants, in takeaways, and as security guards. When this government came into office, we ignored the rhetoric, looked hard at the reality and simply closed down the whole of the Tier 1 General route.”

At best, this is a highly selective use of the available evidence. The independent Migration Advisory Committee, a Labour innovation which the new government has sensibly retained and praised, said in its comprehensive report in November 2010, that in the Tier 1 General route – the route which Cameron is talking about here – over 90% were working in highly-skilled work (see para 3.68, p.88).

Turning to the unanswered questions, the first concerns the detail of the proposal that people wishing to sponsor a foreign national to come here as a spouse or partner should be required to put up a financial “bond”. This idea has been around for years: it was in Labour’s 2005 manifesto, but was shelved in 2008. One of the problems was that it is tricky to set the bond at the right level. If you set it too low, it looks like a gimmick. But if you set it at a level that would credibly offset the costs to the public purse of a migrant who does end up being a “significant burden on the taxpayer”, that would mean a bond of tens of thousands of pounds. Requiring that upfront raises very significant issues of fairness (on which more below). (more…)

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Captain Miliband’s redoubt: deft, ruthless, doomed.

11/10/2011, 01:00:23 PM

by Dan Hodges

Strange. There I was sitting by the phone, waiting for ennoblement and a fast track onto the Labour front bench, and nothing. Not a peep. Our leader really does have a ruthless streak.

That glaring omission not withstanding, last week’s reshuffle already had the potential for disaster. Following the catastrophe that was party conference, which included an admission from Ed Miliband that he doesn’t even know the name of the guy who’s likely to be heading his party in Scotland, you half expected to wake up to find Chaka Khan had been asked to join the shadow cabinet.

Reshuffles in opposition, particularly those early in a parliament, always have a bit of a deck chairs on the Titanic feel about them. But coming so soon after Miliband’s conference speech vanished with all hands beneath the dark waters of the Mersey, this was more like rearranging the deck chairs on the Carpathia.

To be fair though, Ed Miliband managed to conduct the first independent appointments to his shadow cabinet with a degree of political finesse. The ambition to strike a balance between youth and experience was realised. Key appointments, Chuka Umunna, Rachel Reeves, Michael Dugher and Liz Kendall, are all media savvy operators who have managed to demonstrate over the past twelve months that some substance lies beneath their greasepaint. And the delicate political balance between former Blairites and Brownites has been maintained.

Some have argued the promotion of Dugher, Jon Trickett, Stewart Wood and Tom Watson is evidence of a Brownite ascendency, but that is to overstate the case. “Dugher’s  a sensible politician”, said one Blairite shadow cabinet insider, “and more importantly, he’s a nice guy. We can have a decent relationship with him”. Although viewed less warmly by the Blairites, Wood and Trickett have been established members of Milband’s inner-circle since the leadership election, whilst Tom Watson now exists on an ethereal plain, far above the hum drum daily politicking of Westminster.


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To boldly go… Ed’s relationship with enterprise

11/10/2011, 10:09:15 AM

by Rob Marchant

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks. So, the ship has now set a course and we’ve done the crew changeover. It may be a course that not everyone’s happy with, but let’s face it: they never are, are they? And at least there is a course.

The Tory conference wasn’t a failure, but it wasn’t exactly a runaway success, either. What with Teresa May’s cats and Cameron’s dogs, it seemed sometimes that it was raining very hard last week. And the mess now being caused by Liam Fox has helped us. So let’s be thankful for small mercies and look to the future.

In a year’s time, we’ll be looking to the completion of the policy review. We will be practically at the electoral midpoint, and will know for sure whether regaining the London mayoralty was a real possibility or a pipe-dream (the tea-leaves, admittedly, do not look good on this one). We will then be able to start setting out broad policy lines and start long-term planning for the next election. Things aren’t so bad, right? (more…)

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Miliband versus Cameron? It’s all in the team they pick

10/10/2011, 09:10:26 AM

by John Woodcock

By winning the right to pick his own shadow cabinet and using the reshuffle to exert his authority, Ed has rightly dispensed with generations of Labour tradition. The result is a refreshed, highly capable team that is hungry to take on the Tories and make the case to the British people that there is a credible alternative to this failing economic masochism.

By contrast, the weakness inherent in David Cameron’s reluctance to reshuffle his pack is shown to be more pronounced with every misdemeanour that goes unpunished. If the cabinet secretary’s report suggests Liam Fox has breached the ministerial code, today may finally be the day the dam bursts. But it is worth reflecting on how much the prime minister has let slide in the meantime:

  • The leaking of embarrassing private letters from Fox to Cameron is the kind of unfortunate incident that would have led to previous secretaries of state having their empire reduced. Yet his smiling denials provoke nothing more than dark muttering from Number Ten
  • Ken Clarke has been given a dressing down on more than one occasion for offences ranging from his soft sentencing policy to picking fights over cats. Yet he carries on regardless


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Sunday Review: 75. The battle of Cable Street, edited by Steve Silver; and Hate, by Matthew Collins.

09/10/2011, 02:30:26 PM

By Anthony Painter

This week marked the 75th anniversary of the battle of Cable Street. When Oswald Mosley attempted to march his British Union of Fascists black shirts through London’s East End on 4 October 1936, they were met by fierce resistance led by the area’s Jewish community. It was the moment pre-war British fascism was broken. Two days later, Mosley married Diana Mitford in the presence of Hitler in Berlin. She should have waited.

In a stunning publication edited by Steve Silver, 75. The battle of Cable Street anniversary, Searchlight commemorates the events of that day. It mixes textured history with rare photos published for the first time and eye-witness accounts. Through the mists of time the facts get lost. When the EDL tried to march on East London a few weeks ago, a Cable Street inspired protest was planned. Voices on the liberal left, including liberal conspiracist Sunny Hundal and academic Nina Power, even called for the EDL march to proceed. Neither seem to have read their Cable Street history. As Silver writes:

“Feelings ran high and the JPC [Jewish people’s council] led opposition to the proposed march by organising a 100,000 strong petition urging the home secretary to ban the march… But the government refused to ban the march and it was left to local people to defend their community from the fascists”. (more…)

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London Young Labour elections: Shelly Asquith sets out her stall

09/10/2011, 10:30:32 AM

by Shelly Asquith

I’m standing for chair of London Young Labour because I want to see us build a strong youth movement that can win for Labour – now, in 2012 and for years to come.
I want to lead a powerful group of young people that can work together to bring about change, and I recognise that this can only be done if first we change London Young Labour.
If I am elected, I will ensure there are structures in place that empower our members. I will ensure we are campaigning in every corner of London: joining students and young workers and giving London Young Labour as strong a voice as possible. We must unite, inspire and win.

I am standing to build a London Young Labour that is a campaigning force.

If we are going to re-connect with the areas Labour lost in 2008, we need action all over London, with members organising canvassing sessions in their own CLPs.

I will provide real training to equip our activists with the skills they need to run campaigns, not just turn up for them. I will organise a scheme that will teach London Young Labour the basics of organising; from leaflet design and voter ID collection, to mail merge and contact creator.

London Young Labour’s visibility in outer-London boroughs this year will be key. My strategy for helping win back lost votes is to reinstate the regional officers for the election period, so that we have a base in every part of London; from the south west to the north east. As part of the training scheme, regional officers will be given the skills to organise their own phone banks, canvassing sessions and socials in their area.


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