Carmarthen Journal Article – Tuition Fees

Last week saw the first big Parliamentary rebellion since the General Election during the debate on the UK Governments proposals to increase tuition fees in England to an astronomical £9,000 per annum. For the Liberal Democrats the principle of free higher education has been a totemic issue over the years, yet less than six months after entering government at UK level for the first time since the Second World War, they have joined forces with the Tories to introduce the most expensive fee structure for English domiciled students apart from the United States.

Plaid Cymru politicians don’t vote on England only issues in Westminster. However, due to the effect on Higher Education funding in Wales these proposals have, we have been amongst the most vociferous critics of the UK Government’s plans. I was delighted therefore to take part in the debate and vote against.

In my view academic advancement should be based on academic ability and not ability to pay. This sort of elitist policy was to be expected from the Tories however the Lib Dems have really got themselves into a mess on this one. Prior to the election every elected Lib Dem candidate signed a declaration opposed to any further fee increases – it was a clear signature policy in the literal sense! The conversion to ‘consumer pays’ funding and the enhancement of market forces in Higher Education really is a Damascus like conversion un-heralded in my short political career. I was glad to see a few principled Lib Dem MPs voting against their Government, but this issue will haunt their party for a generation.

I was more than surprised during the debate to see the ferocity of Labour MPs against these proposals. After all it was Tony Blair’s Government that introduced the principle of fees in the first place and then introduced variable top up fees which effectively introduced market forces into the sector.

With these damaging proposals introduced for England, it will lead to less money for the Welsh Higher Education sector due to the way the Barnett formula works. I was therefore delighted that the Welsh Government announced that Welsh students will not see any increase in their fees – with public funds used to make up the shortfall in funding created by the increase in England. It’s right and proper that I use this column to pay tribute to the excellent work of Plaid’s Education spokesperson Nerys Evans on this issue.

The way in which the Welsh Government has been able to protect our students shows the value of devolution, and why it’s important that everybody gets behind the campaign for a Yes vote in the referendum in March on legislative powers for our Parliament.

2 Responses to “Carmarthen Journal Article – Tuition Fees” [latest first]

  1. Dear Johnathan,
    I watched the debate live on BBC parliament! I was really moved by your passionate speech! So glad you’re i’n Westminster! Good luck with the Dydd Gwŷl Dewi bank holiday too

  2. As an adult academic Open University student, NUS card holder and former member of the armed forces for over 20 years, I too was pleased you voted against this bill to raise education fees. I am passionate that every person should have the right to a university education and not limited by their ability to pay. Well done Jonathan.

    Now hoping that each Welsh school will be encouraged to access a British Built AMSAT-UK FUNcube satellite due to launch in 2011 so each of our school students can take part in the excitement of downloading their own school or university satellite science data using just a laptop, dongle and hand held antenna. Last time Bigyn School Llanelli did, it also encouraged three 11 year old children to train and pass their radio amateur license and one went on to study and pass his PhD at Oxford and Cambridge just from opening their minds to space, science, mathematics and conservation by talking through satellites to those in space or in remote places on earth like South Pole, Ghana and Africa. Those teachers or students licensed radio amateurs can transmit and receive, but also AMSAT-UK have built a special academic dongle so school children and university students can just download and receive scientific data direct from the satellite at minimum cost without a license.


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