In their 2015 manifesto, Britain can be better, Labour have said that they will cut fees from £9,000 to £6,000 funded by restricting tax relief on pension contributions for the highest earners, as already announced, as well as by ‘clamping down on tax avoidance’.
Following George Osborne’s changes to tax relief on high-earning pensions in the 2015 budget, Labour needed to find additional funding for their policy and it looks like this will come from tightening up tax avoidance. Labour has pledged to ‘fully fund’ their £6,000 fee plan, so that universities do not face a serious shortfall in funding. However no further details of the funding scheme have been published, and detailed plans are unlikely to be set out until after the election.
On immigration, the party says that they will welcome overseas university students; “Short-term student visitor visas have dramatically increased, so we will tighten the system to prevent abuse, whilst welcoming overseas university students who bring billions into Britain.” Though the manifesto does not actually mention how Labour will ‘welcome’ these students, the party has previously promised to remove students from migration statistics.
The manifesto says little overall on Labour’s plans for higher education. The document says that Labour will give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote by May 2016, possibly increasing the number of voters who might be swayed by policies on higher education in the future. The party also mentions steps to “ensure that the move to individual electoral registration does not leave millions unregistered” which will include block registration by universities.
There is a focus on apprenticeships and learning for the “50 per cent of young people who do not go down the traditional academic route.” Labour will raise the standard and status of vocational and technical education says the manifesto, “with a high quality vocational route from school through to employment”. The Technical Baccalaureate, a vocational award for 16 to 18-year-olds, will combine a gold-standard qualification accredited by employers, with a quality work placement.” Under Labour, students will continue to study English and Maths to age 18.
Labour also plans to transform “high performing further education colleges with strong links to industry, into new specialist Institutes of Technical Education, with a remit to deliver the Technical Baccalaureate and higher-level skills.” As well as introduce a new, independent system of careers advice, “offering personalised face-to-face guidance on routes into university and apprenticeships.”
A word cloud of the full manifesto doesn’t reveal anything exciting for HE but ‘NHS’, ‘Britain’ and ‘Working’ stand out as would be expected.
You can read Labour’s 2015 manifesto in full here.