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NUS seeks urgent clarification from Lib Dems over top-up fees promises

Wednesday 12 May 2010 NUS News

NUS today published an open letter to new Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg asking for immediate clarification on the Government's stance on the future of student top-up fees following Liberal Democrat candidates' election compact with voters.

The letter comes as Vince Cable is put in charge of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) where he looks set to take responsibility for universities policy. Dr Cable, along with every other elected Liberal Democrat MP had also signed the NUS Vote for Students pledge to "vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative."

During the campaign, Nick Clegg had warned of the burdens of debt on young people and made a plea to student voters to "[u]se your vote to block those unfair tuition fees and get them scrapped once and for all."

In today's letter, Aaron Porter, NUS President-elect writes:

"The faith students and their families have placed in the Liberal Democrats must now be repaid."

"You campaigned with a clear and welcome manifesto pledge to support students and reduce their burden of debt. Your MPs signed a pledge, a pact between candidates and their constituents, to vote against a rise in tuition fees and to press the government for a fairer alternative. For that, the National Union of Students and voters are grateful."

"The new Foreign Secretary William Hague suggested this morning that Liberal Democrat MPs could abstain on a vote on the future of student fees. Given the individual compact they made with their electorate through the Vote for Students pledge, it is incumbent on them to oppose any attempt to raise the cap on fees and to press the government for a fairer alternative. We hope that you will keep your promise and help to ensure that the next parliament votes for students."

"Now that Liberal Democrats are in government and that Vince Cable has been placed in charge of Department for Business, we hope that you will now be able to make good on your commitments to work to introduce a fairer alternative to higher fees."

Nick Clegg signed the NUS pledge during a visit to the University of Cambridge on the election trail. During the campaign he said:

"Labour and the Conservatives have been trying to keep tuition fees out of this election campaign.  It's because they don't want to come clean with you about what they're planning. Despite the huge financial strain fees already place on Britain's young people, it is clear both Labour and the Conservatives want to lift the cap on fees. If fees rise to £7,000 a year, as many rumours suggest they would, within five years some students will be leaving university up to £44,000 in debt. That would be a disaster. If we have learnt one thing from the economic crisis, it is that you can't build a future on debt.

"The Liberal Democrats are different. Not only will we oppose any raising of the cap, we will scrap tuition fees for good, including for part-time students. We can't do it overnight, but we can start straight away with students in their first year - that way means anyone at university this autumn will have their debt cut by at least £3,000. Students can make the difference in countless seats in this election.  Use your vote to block those unfair tuition fees and get them scrapped once and for all."

Read the letter in full here