Published at 15:55, Wednesday, 26 January 2011
IN the House of Commons at the tail end of 2010, the Government won both votes on increasing university tuition fees to as much as £9,000.
The coalition’s majority was slashed from around 80 to just 21 as 323 MPs voted for the rise 302 voted against.
The numbers were the same for both votes – the first allows universities to charge £9,000 in “exceptional circumstances”. The second vote increased the current cap from £3,290 to £6,000 per year.
The debate caused ructions as MPs from both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives resigned in the wake of the vote. Mike Crockart became the first Liberal Democrat MP to quit his post as a ministerial aide in order to vote against the Government.
Conservative MP Lee Scott also resigned from being Philip Hammond, Transport Secretary’s, parliamentary private secretary.
Lib Dem MP Jenny Willott also resigned.
Labour party leader Ed Miliband said the measures would discourage poorer students and leave many universities in a “financial hole”. He insisted his party would continue to fit for fairer access to education.
Aaron Porter, the president of the National Union of Students, said he was “incredibly disappointed”.
He accused the Liberal Democrats of choosing to stay loyal to David Cameron and the Conservatives instead of the people who elected them.
“We want them to face the people they have lied to, the people in their constituencies who they have misled,” he said.
The votes followed five hours of furious exchanges in the Commons.
After the result was announced, shadow business secretary John Denham said Lib Dem MPs should “hang their heads in shame”.
“This is a moment of no turning back for Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems,” he said.
“They have lost all credibility with the country and cannot now claim to be a party of fairness.”
However, the Government says the policy is progressive as there will be no upfront costs and some poorer students will receive scholarships.
So what does this mean for West Cumbrian students?
Only one day before the vote a higher education report revealed the University of Cumbria would be “at risk” if the Government pushed ahead with plans to slash university teaching budgets.
The University and College Union study suggests the university stands to lose 80 per cent of teaching cash it gets from the Higher Education Funding Council for England – £11.8m.
Research in the report, which says 49 higher education institutions would be at risk, also suggests that cuts could lead to the region’s economy losing more than £13.7m and that any changes to finances will make it a “survival of the fittest”.
“Universities at risk”, published by the academics’ union, says controversial reforms on higher education funding will see many arts and teaching-focused institutions facing an uncertain future.
They are two of the key strengths of the county’s university.
Institutions with higher proportion of undergraduates from poorer backgrounds would also face a higher level of risk, according to the study.
The impact could also be greater in rural areas, where there are fewer universities on which the local economy places a greater dependency.
Iain Owens, the union’s regional officer, said: “Government proposals to slash funding for the vast majority of university courses will leave many of our universities vulnerable from the massive changes to their funding arrangements.
“It is incredibly naive to expect our universities to be able to carry on as normal after such sweeping changes. Inevitably there will be winners and losers and we are really concerned about what the cuts will mean for the local economy.”
Sally Hunt, general secretary, said: “Universities are vitally important to their regional economies. They are often among the biggest employers, they attract thousands of international students and visitors, and often their academies are working with every sector of society.
“Any net loss of income to a university not only adversely affects them but also has a negative knock-on impact on many local businesses and industries.”
The report was published on the day the county’s students demonstrated in Carlisle about tuition fees .
Traffic was brought to a standstill in Carlisle as protesters marched through the city centre.
The group of around 50 placard-waving protesters held a rally at the Market Cross at 12.30pm.
They included university and college students and pupils from the county’s schools.
The event was supported by the University of Cumbria’s Students’ Union. Flanked by police, the group marched down Scotch Street chanting before congregating on the steps of the Civic Centre, home of Carlisle City Council.
The route, passing the Citadel – home of Cumbria County Council, was planned as a move to lobby locally-elected councillors and highlight the opposition to the central government reforms.
Local sixth form students said they had signed petitions that were being sent to central Government, with some gathering over 200 names in just two hours.
The head of Whitehaven’s St Benedict’s Sixth Form Centre has set up a petition on Facebook opposing the rise in university tuition fees.
Almost 100 people have joined the social networking group set up by Kevin Green.
He explains on the site that he is against the Government’s proposals to increase tuition fees and has asked members of the group to write personal statements regarding the increase in tuition fees and send them to local MPs.
A number of current and former students have signed up to the group. They have expressed their concerns about how increased university fees will affect young people who are looking to study in higher education.
To join the Facebook group, search: Stop the unfair increase in English Universities tuition fees in 2012.
The Education Maintenance Allowance, a means-tested scheme which gives up to £30 a week to 16-19 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds to allow them to continue studying, is also set to be scrapped.
Published by http://www.cumberlandnews.co.uk