Scrap university tuition fees completely, urges Cambridge MP

Rachel Balmer 23 October 2014

Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge, has attacked Labour’s plan to lower tuition fees to £6,000.

Speaking at a fringe event at the Liberal Democrat party conference earlier this month, Mr Huppert said that lowering tuition fees according to Labour’s plan would benefit only high earners as they could pay off their debts quicker, whilst lower earners “would feel no benefit whatsoever.”

The MP also called for better funding for postgraduate students, saying that the current scheme of paying up-front leads to “huge social mobility problems.”

Mr Huppert said that if, according to Labour’s plan, the money was available to reduce tuition fees to £6,000 he would prefer to make use of it “to provide bursaries for students while they are studying.” Mr Huppert maintained however that he would rather “get rid of the whole lot,” and urged his party to abolish tuition fees altogether.

The Cambridge MP voted against the coalition government’s 2010 plan to raise fees, and at the last party conference, members of the Lib Dems voted to review the tuition fees system.

Mr Huppert has also recently been elected as Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Students, a group which aims to give students a strong voice in Parliament.

Queens’ historian Suhaiymah Manzoor-Kahn was sceptical: “Scrapping tuition fees is obviously the dream, but Huppert’s plan sounds incredibly vague. At the end of the day the tuition fee situation at the moment is unsustainable, but from a student point of view I can’t get that passionate about having a lot of debt instead of loads of debt.”

Julian Huppert told TCS:  “As MP for Cambridge I opposed the latest increase in fees, and proposed an amendment to get rid of them. Unlike Cambridge’s former Labour MP, who voted for fees having pledged not to, I stuck to my promise to students. Labour have been floating, although never committing to, an idea of reducing fees to £6,000. While this sounds promising, I do not think it is the right thing to do.”

He added that the extra money could provide bursaries and “give more support to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, giving them fairer opportunities and the chance to enter higher education…In the long term I want to be able to find the money to scrap fees completely; but in the meantime, my priority would be to help students when they are studying, and to help those in most need of assistance.”