“We’re going to reduce the debt on university students. We’re going to reduce the debt on taxpayers. From September of next year, the next Labour government will reduce tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000.” Early this afternoon, Ed Miliband finally announced Labour’s plan to cut university tuition fees by a third.
This has been Labour’s rumoured policy since Miliband announced his intentions to lower the fees back in September 2011. But since then, Labour have stayed away from the topic, until now. Here is everything we know about the policy.
Under Labour the fee cap for undergraduate students will reduce from £9,000 to £6,000, to be introduced in September 2016. Miliband also announced that Labour will raise the maintenance grant by £400 per year for those with a family income of up to £42,000. The system will be “fully funded” by taxing wealthier pensions.
Under these plans, those earning more than £150,000 a year will get the same relief as basic-rate taxpayers (20%) instead of 45% they have at the moment. “We will make the system fairer by restricting Pension Tax Relief by £2.9 billion for those on the highest incomes”. This will raise a substantial amount to fund the lower fees.
“Even for people who have begun their courses before September 2016 will benefit from this” said Miliband. Students beginning undergraduate courses in 2015/16 will pay £9,000 in tuition fees for their first year but will benefit from the cut in their subsequent years.
Cutting fees by a third will reduce graduate debt by £9,000. Labour say that as this plan is fully funded, this will mean £40bn less government debt by 2030-31, or £10bn less government debt over the next parliament.
“Because of the decisions we’ve made on fee levels we’ve also been able to raise the grant for families earning up to £42k” said Miliband. If in power after May, Labour would increase student maintenance grants by £400 to £3,800, benefiting “more than half of students”. This will be paid for by asking highest earning graduates to pay more, with an increase in interest on loan repayments from 3% to 4% for those earning over £41,000.
There was little mention of postgraduate funding, despite a question from the audience at the speech in Leeds where the policy was launched, but Miliband promises that this is something that Labour is “looking in to”.
“Let me say this directly to young people. I made you a promise on tuition fees, I will keep my promise. I want to restore your faith in politics” said Miliband. Of course this isn’t the first time a party leader has promised to cut fees in the run up to an election, but Miliband swore not to “do a Nick Clegg” and confirmed that the policy is ‘cast iron’ following a question from the audience. It is clear that if Labour are in power after May, even as part of a coalition, this policy will happen.
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Labour have published their Zero Based review of higher education funding which goes through the thinking behind the policy in detail, find this here.