It’s not a joke. Im a student who supports the Lib Dems and taking it further I think they have done me a favour too. I kid you not. I’m fed up of hearing about how the Lib Dems have let students down by reversing/ u-turning/ conning/ ruining students lives regarding their manifesto promise on tuition fees. Being in Government gives you access to change things. It is what all political groups aspire to. Nobody is naïve enough to think the Lib Dems will be in control of the country anytime soon but being part of the coalition has given us the chance to play a part in delivering some key parts of the manifesto (not least in education with pupil premium etc…). The alternative to no coalition was to have little real influence, to be on the sidelines of politics. I still believe we made the right choice to go into the coalition with the Conservatives. Like with any pact you have to make concessions for each other. If the Lib Dems and Conservatives had completely the same views then there wouldn’t be the need for both parties. So what do you do when you need to work together? You make compromises and that is what has happened. It really is simple obvious stuff. We have all worked in a group before with people we might not get on with or with differing views and had to make concessions. The tuition fees was one such concession (not a u-turn or sell out) but it is obvious that the country would be a different place to Mr and Mrs Average if the Conservatives alone had power! The Lib Dems are about as popular as Russia at the moment in opinion polls which is a shame because they are the only party who stand for the average guy/girl. The only party who champion at the individual level the rights of everyone to get on in life regardless of sex/age/where you were born/upbringing/peerages held by parents. The Conservatives polarise society and who knows what red Ed and his Labour half-wits stand for these days?
In terms of tuition fees and University education in general they are so many myths out there it is no wonder the Daily Mail readers love spouting their ill-informed rubbish! I don’t think university education should be free. Why should it be? Is it not right you pay for a world class education that chances are will open up exclusive career paths in later life? Is 9K a year excessive? Probably. Especially for some of the glorified colleges offering degrees that are only worth slightly more then the paper they are printed on. For a degree at a top university with proven results and that old chestnut “employability” it is probably a pretty sound investment. The big myth however is that people can’t go to University because of the costs and only the rich can go and you leave with debt up to your eyeballs. This is all bulls**t! (Apologies for the course wording but this ignorance really gets my goat!). Firstly you don’t pay a penny up front so cost is no barrier to going to University. Secondly all UK citizens who do not hold a degree already are entitled to a student loan (and depending on income part of it as a non repayable grant) which covers the cost of tuition fees and provides you with cash to pay for accommodation and equipment (I have never bought a text book in my life, that’s what libraries are for!). McDonalds and other outlets of varying healthiness have a plethora of part time jobs to top you up (and provide unlimited Big Mac’s) and that is really all you need to go to uni. Changes in the last couple of years have made it even easier (finance wise) especially for those from deprived communities or mature students like me. In the past your families were expected to stump up some of the costs upfront. This is no longer the case. The final myth is leaving uni “saddled with debt”. At an average of £50K this is probably the second biggest debt you will have in your life after your mortgage (unless like me you live in an ex -mining community and then your student loan will be your highest debt). On paper this looks bad but in reality this is no Wonga loan. This is the best loan you will ever have. You have to be earning significant cash to even start paying it back once all your studies are complete so if that student job in McDonalds becomes a career you will never pay back a penny. Most students die before paying it all off. It really is the best loan you will ever have and a small price to pay for a decent education! Money is definitely not a barrier to going to uni and the whole Lib Dem tuition fees debarkle really is a bit of a storm in a plastic tea cup!
My University is very middle class which is a shame (and slightly paradoxical as it espouses a left wing view swaying in teaching towards a Marxist classless society whilst at the same time having few ethnic minorities or students from deprived communities on its books) and highlights that there are great inequalities to address. I’m a great believer in you get out what you put in and nobody should be handed opportunities on a plate but equally it should be a level playing field where everyone has the same chance. You shouldn’t get a university place just because you are from a deprived community but equally you shouldn’t have barriers preventing you from getting 3 x A’s at A-level because you are from a deprived community. You get out what you put in. Once again it is only the Lib-Dems who champion the individual to “get out” of life on a level playing field regardless of where you are born etc etc with policies to promote inclusion and equality. The great myths surrounding tuition fees and university funding won’t rid this inequality but will go a long way to reassure people that from a financial point of view there are no barriers to higher education. With lots of incorrect media attention surrounding the financial element of higher education and surveys indicating it as an important issue to students and their families just to have a high profile targeted campaign to right some of the wrongs out there is a major step in the right direction.