Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, today (15/7/10) advocated for a progressive graduate contribution to abolish the current regressive top-up fees system in England.
All Scottish Liberal Democrat MPs signed up to NUS Scotland's Vote for Students campaign pledge not to increase fees in England and introduce a fairer funding system during the next parliamentary term.
However, the resulting coalition document had thrown doubt on whether Liberal Democrats would honour their promise or instead abstain on any such vote.
Cable is clear: tutition fees increase is not acceptable
With the outcome of Lord Browne’s review of higher education funding in England expected in early October, Cable's announcement sends a clear message to Lord Browne that a crude increase in tuition fees is not an acceptable outcome nor one that the Liberal Democrats would back.
How a fees rise in England would affect Scotland?
Any increase in fees in England would have a hugely negative effect in Scotland, with many fearful that the resulting gap in funding would devalue the Scottish degree, cause brain drain with academics flocking to better-resourced institutions and increase the financial burden of those Scottish students who chose to study south of the border.
Liam Burns, President of NUS Scotland, said:
"We have long argued that any increase in top-up fees in the rest of the UK would lead to a damaging funding gap for Scottish students and universities.
"Dr Cable’s announcement represents a win for students across Scotland who campaigned hard to secure the promise of no increase in fees South of the border.
“We face a very different crisis here. Yes, the spectre of cuts in Scotland is a real and present threat but the status quo gives just as much reason for action. Scottish students receive far less in loans and grants than their English counterparts.
"Scotland also has a poor record in attracting and keeping students from poorer backgrounds.
"We need a Scottish solution to protecting places, improving quality, and ensuring students from all backgrounds receive the financial support needed to reach their full potential.
“In the run up to the Scottish Parliamentary elections, NUS Scotland will be looking for the political vacuum of opinion on how to increase student support to be filled.
"Although we should look first to the state and businesses to fulfil their responsibilities to higher education, a progressive graduate contribution, which only kicks in when you see a genuine financial benefit, and explicitly increases the amount students have in their pocket while they study, is certainly something we should consider in Scotland."