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Education - what our local candidates say...

Thursday 01-06-2017 - 10:34

So, the general election is fast approaching, and we know that this is a busy time of year for you with deadlines, revision, essays and exams. So as part of our plan to make this general election easier for you we’ve asked all the candidates for Bristol West and Bristol North West what they think on several key issues for students. We’ll be releasing them over the course of the week so have a read to help inform your choice!

This first installment is about: The Higher Education Act, Teaching Excellence Framework and Increasing Fees.

The background:

The government has recently introduced a new Higher Education and Research Act, which which will bring in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). Under the TEF, universities will be given a rating of ‘gold’, ‘silver’ or ‘bronze’, which will determine what fees Universities can charge students from 2021. The Act also seeks to open up higher education to new providers. The Teaching Excellence Framework remains in its pilot stages, and there will be many opportunities in Parliament within the next few years to scrutinise it and put forward alternatives.

We asked your candidates:

Do you support the Higher Education Bill and the resulting increase in fees?

What will you do to stop the marketisation of Higher Education?

The candidates for Bristol West said:

Molly Scott Cato, The Green Party:

“The Green Party has already pledged to scrap tuition fees and bring back maintenance grants. We are investigating the financial viability of cancelling existing student debt, an issue made more complex by the sale of the student loan book.

I am opposed to the Higher Education Bill. Education is too important to be left to the market. University education should not be seen simply as a means of training people for well-paid jobs, but as a means of enriching society as a whole. Large amounts of student debt have an important cultural effect in pushing recent graduates into living more money-oriented lives than they would otherwise choose, as well as in discouraging many less well-off students from applying for university in the first place. It also exacerbates inequality between generations and adds to the mental health crisis amongst young people.

Competition between universities is, like competition between hospitals, a completely inappropriate way of organising a vitally important public service.

Before becoming a full-time politician, I was an academic staff member in a university and I continue to take a great interest in higher education. If elected I will use my parliamentary role to oppose the implementation of the Higher Education Bill and both the Teaching Excellence Framework and the Research Excellence Framework, and press for a fundamental rethink of university funding. I will be publish a report on this subject during the campaign.”

Thangham Debbonaire, The Labour Party:

Do you support the Higher Education Bill and the resulting increase in fees? no and no

What will you do to stop the marketisation of Higher Education? campaign to win a Labour majority tomorrow in the General Election so we can halt the marketisation of Higher Education, scrap student fees, bring back maintenance grants and support university staff.

We have contacted Annabel Tall (Conservative) and Stephen William (Liberal Democrats) and will update this article once they respond.

The candidates for Bristol North West said:

Sharmila Bousa, The Green Party:

“Our policies on education and Higher Education in particular will see scrapping of the tuition fees that put so many off studying for a degree. We will reinstate the Education Maintenance Grant to ensure that those from the poorest backgrounds are not blocked from attending university.”

Celia Downie, The Liberal Democrats Party:

The Liberal Democrats do not support the Higher Education Bill.The vote to leave the European Union has completely changed the landscape of Higher Education.The Bill was written before Article 50 was triggered in March this year.Universities will be particularly hit by Brexit.The Bill should be delayed so it can be looked at again in the light of whatever Brexit deal has been done for universities.

Liberal Democrats area concerned that the Bill does not address the extremely damaging decision of the Conservative Government to freeze the repayment threshold for tuition fees at £21,000.This breaks the deal done with students during the Coalition and changes the terms for many students, meaning paying back from a lower starting point.So people on lower incomes will be paying back for a longer period of time.

In addition to this decision, the Conservatives’ changes to the rules regarding inflation increases mean some universities are already charging more than £9,000 are completely unacceptable and is now linked to the quality of teaching.This means universities deemed to have higher teaching standards will be able to charge more.This may mean that those from poorer backgrounds will be deterred from attending such institutions through increased debt burden.

Liberal Democrats believe that the significant further step towards full marketisation of the HE sector threatened the accessibility and reputation of the UK HE sector. In Coalition the LDs fought the Tory proposal to scrap student bursaries, and stopped them.Now the Tories want to increase fees retrospectively.

Lib Dems will continue to right against the Conservatives’ harmful, ideological marketisation agenda.We will reinstate maintenance grants for the poorest students, ensuring that living costs are not a barrier to disadvantaged young people studying at university.We will also establish a review of HE finance in the next Parliament to consider any necessary reforms, in the light of the latest evidence of the impact of the existing financial system on access, participation and quality, and make sure there is no more retrospective raising of rates or selling off loans to private companies.

Charlotte Leslie, The Conservative Party:

“I consider that everyone with the academic potential should have the ability to access higher education, irrespective of their background and family income. By ending the cap on student numbers, the Government is helping to ensure that a university place is now within the reach of more students than ever before. Encouragingly, we are also seeing record application rates among students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This shows that, so far, that the Government's reforms have been at least partly successful and that students do seem to understand they do not have to meet the cost of tuition fees up front.

However, if we are to continue to succeed as a knowledge-based economy, we cannot stand still, nor take for granted our universities' enviable global reputation and position at the top of league tables. We must ensure that a university system which is now open to more people is also fulfilling its full potential for students, for employers and for the taxpayers who underwrite it.

The Government committed in its 2015 manifesto to ensure that universities deliver the best possible value for money to students. That is why a new Teaching Excellence Framework will be introduced to recognise universities offering the highest teaching quality and to provide students with more data to help them choose the course that is right for them. The Government is also committed to ensuring we are investing strategically in our research base, following Sir Paul Nurse's review. The Higher Education and Research Bill will deliver on these commitments.

The Higher Education and Research Bill does not raise tuition fees and there are no plans to change the existing mechanisms for setting fees through secondary regulations. In real terms, the £9,000 annual fee cap for full-time students set in 2012 is now worth £8,546. The Government wants to ensure our world-class higher education sector remains financially sustainable and able to invest in the excellent teaching students expect. The provision to maintain the maximum tuition fee in line with inflation was established in law in 2004.

These plans aim to help ensure that everyone with the potential to succeed at university, irrespective of their background, can choose from a wide range of high-quality universities, access relevant information to make the right choices and benefit from excellent teaching that helps prepare them for the future.”

We have emailed Darren Jones (Labour) and will update this article when he responds.


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