Labour pledge to cap university tuition fees at £6,000... sort of

Ed MillibandAFP/Getty Images

University tuition fees have become a thorn in the side of the current government. At a stroke they have alienated any students who come through the system for the foreseeable future (and their parents). It's an impressive way to cheese off the half of the country that isn't livid about its pensions.

Now Labour has pledged to cut the fees back down to something less terrifying.... or has it?

The cut
Let's make no bones about it, it's still going to be painful, as the fee cap would only drag costs back to £6,000 a year. It still means having to find almost £20,000 on top of massive living expenses if you want a university education. It's still going to price millions of people out of the education system. However, it's a third less than the £9,000 cap the current government is introducing, which Ed Miliband told reporters at the Labour Party Conference was destroying the ambition of young people.

Apparently it could all be paid for by forcing graduates making more than £65,000 a year to pay a higher rate of interest on their loans, and excluding banks from a proposed corporation tax cut.
However, there are a couple of issues that would benefit from closer examination.

The catches
It's a bitter blow for students, because the last time they looked, Ed Miliband was pledging that University fees shouldn't go over the old cap of £3,000 a year. In fact, the entire party voted against any kind of increase. At the time the Labour Party alternative was the graduate tax. However, that has been downgraded from active policy to a 'long term ambition'.

There are questions over whether the approaches to paying for it would be effective. Very high earners are notorious for being able to avoid high taxes, so there's a good chance charging them a higher interest rate would just increase their desire to avoid it.

And finally, Miliband refused to state that this would be an election promise. Put this way, it starts to sound like a grab for goodwill rather than opposition policy.

But what do you think? Is this a major change that will help save the education system, or is a university education set to become an extremely rare privilege?

Let us know in the comments
Read Full Story Click here to comment