General Election 2019: A Student Overview

As we race closer to the election, one of the key issues surrounding the party manifestos for students are tuition fees and student loans.  

Who will come out on top of the polls?
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Each party has a different view on student finance and university, with some manifestos opting to favour students by ‘scrapping’ tuition fees all together and others simply saying they would ‘look at’ higher education.

Student loans have been around since the 1998/99 academic year and was passed by Labour and their leader at the time, Tony Blair.

Ever since their introduction, tuition fees have been increasing in price and putting more younger people off going to university.

What is the Augar Review?

This review looked at post-18 education and its purpose is effectively to find a fair system that works for everyone. The most recent report was published on May 30th 2019. The review suggests recommendations and changes that should happen to the future structure of higher education.

Some of the changes proposed included:the reduction of higher education tuition fees to £7,500 per year

  1. extending the student loan repayment period from 30 years to 40 years
  2. reducing the interest charged on student loans while students are studying
  3. reintroducing maintenance grants of £3,000 for disadvantaged students
  4. introducing maintenance support for level 4 and 5 qualifications (between A Levels/BTECs and Bachelor Degrees/PHDs etc)

What do the manifestos say?

Conservative

The Conservative party have stated that they will “carefully” consider or ‘look at’ The Auger Review but have not committed to anything specific.

They have said that they would like to tackle degree inflation but are not as head strong as the other parties on what they want to do with the crisis surrounding student debt.

Earlier this year ex-PM Theresa May suggested altering the price of certain degrees based on the cost to run and how much people would earn post graduation.

This was met with widespread disapproval, with people suggesting that certain subjects like science would be impacted harshly and would become too expensive.

Labour

Abolishing tuition fees is one of Labour’s main points in their election campaign, with the party stating that they want to bring back maintenance grants.

They have also committed to introducing post qualification applications to university when grades are certain rather than predicted.

Although these statements are bold the cost of scrapping fees is set at £7.2 billion a year, so it is debatable whether these ideas are realistic.

Liberal Democrats

The LibDems are committed to reviewing finances in higher education like the conservatives, however talk much more about mental health and inclusivity – something which the conservative party don’t really mention at all.

They want to make it a requirement for universities to provide mental health services for students and want to have teaching on LGBT+ relationships as well as consent incorporated into student life and university schemes.

I’d say take what the LibDems say with a pinch of salt – remember in 2010 they pledged to scrap fees but then ended up sharing power with the Tories and completely contradicting their own ideas?

Green Party

The Greens are a party that want to scrap undergraduate tuition fees and want the university experience to be accessible.

They have stated in their manifesto that they would like to “fully fund every higher education student.”

They pledge to “write off existing debt for former students who studied under the £9k tuition fee regime.”

Like the conservatives, they have also pledged to reinstate the maintenance grants for student nurses which were removed in 2017.

UKIP

This party have a significantly different approach to higher education, stating that they aim to end tuition fees for those who study subjects “vital to our national life:  science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine subjects (STEMM)”.

However, they will only receive their loan repayment if they are working in a job related to this after the degree has finished.

UKIP also aim to drop the aim of 50% of people choosing higher education after college or sixth form.

Brexit Party

The Brexit Party have opted for a ‘contract with the people’ rather than a traditional manifesto, saying that the list is of promises that can be made.

In terms of education, Farage’s party states that they will abolish student loan interest and also remove the 50% target of people to go into higher education.

We spoke to students from Newcastle about student maintenance laons and affording university, and whether there needs to be a change.

What do students think about student loans and tuition fees?

To find out more information on each of the individual parties or to look at other aspects of the manifestos, visit the parties’ websites.

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