In their 2015 election manifesto, the Liberal Democrats have said that they will establish a review of higher education finance within the next parliament “to consider any necessary reforms, in the light of the latest evidence of the impact of the existing financing system on access, participation (including of low-income groups) and quality.”
This review would cover undergraduate and postgraduate courses looking closely at support for living costs for students “especially from disadvantaged backgrounds”.
The Manifesto 2015: Stronger Economy, Fairer Society; Opportunity for everyone is 158 pages long, almost twice the length of what the Conservatives and Labour put out yesterday and the day before. The party also dedicated more words to higher education beginning by thanking themselves for ensuring no undergraduate student has to pay upfront fees. ‘No undergraduate student’ is a bit of stretch here as part time students and anybody who already holds an undergraduate degree are not entitled to a loan from the student loans company. They also mention that higher education must be accessible “to all those who can benefit, including at postgraduate level”.
The party will ensure universities work to widen participation ‘across the sector’, prioritising early intervention in schools and colleges. “This will include running summer schools and setting up mentoring programmes between students or alumni and school pupils.”
The party will require universities to be transparent about their selection criteria. They also will work with university mission groups to “develop a comprehensive credit accumulation and transfer framework to help students transfer between and within institutions, enable more part-time learning, and help more people to complete qualifications.” ‘Mission Groups’ themselves get an improbable name-check and it is unclear if the party also mean to include representative bodies and other key HE stakeholders in this policy.
Finally in the HE section, the party plans to improve the Key Information Set and “explore the option of a standardised student contract” promising to legislate to reform regulation of the higher education sector “improving student protection”.
Elsewhere in the manifesto, the Lib Dems promise to reinstate “post-study work visas for STEM graduates who can find graduate-level employment within six months of completing their degree.”
In the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto launch, Nick Clegg said that he knows that either David Cameron or Ed Miliband will be Prime Minister next month, but also that neither party will win a majority. Clegg asked voters to consider who they want as part of the inevitable coalition; “Do you want Nigel Farage walking through the door of No 10? Do you want Alex Salmond sat at the cabinet table? Or do you want the Liberal Democrats?”. Presumably then, the promises in this manifesto are planned to be implemented as part of a coalition whether that is with Labour, the Conservatives or in a ‘tartan alliance‘, we will have to wait and see.
Find the full Liberal Democrat manifesto here.