• Guest Post: “What tuition fees means to me”– Sophie Bertrand

    sophiebertrand

    Since I was in primary school I’ve always known that I wanted to go to university. And more recently I’ve been well aware that without going to university, the chances of me getting the jobs I want are very slim.

    Now, more than ever, competition in the job market is fierce and, unfortunately, you need that piece of paper telling a prospective employer what sort of education you’ve had – if at all! 

    So this year I have been building up my CV and getting the work experience and qualifications I need to apply for University. The thought of paying £3,250 a year in fees wasn’t encouraging, but I could just about manage that. Even a small increase in fees would have been bearable, but yesterday my local MP, Penny Mordaunt voted to increase tuition fees by 177%. This means that what I would have paid for 3 years of tuition could now be what I have to pay each and every year of my studies.

    She hides behind the excuse that it is not paid ‘up front’ and I don’t have to repay it unless I have a job. Does she think I am studying just to do nothing? By the time I leave university and get a job I will be lumbered with a £30,000 – £40,000 debt. One that I will probably be repaying for most of my life. That is not fair. Apparently every type of debt in the country should be reduced except student debt!

    The Government keep telling me that I will be "paying less in a month that you would under the current system" as if that is an excuse. If the bill for my phone contract went up enormously but I only had to pay £5 a month, I’d still be livid. I’d just be paying it off for longer!

    To punish young people for wanting to further themselves by burdening them with mountains of debt is not fair.

    It has been my dream for so long to go on to University.
    I have the ability, I have the will but I simply don’t have the money.

    By voting to increase university tuition fees yesterday Penny Mordaunt told me that I don’t deserve to go to University. She sent me the message that university is only open to the rich, who can afford to take on debts.

    Sophie Bertrand

  • Why I’m still a Lib Dem!

    That may seem a slightly odd title considering where this post is, but I feel that after today I have to explain.

    I have campaigned against university tuition fees since I was 15 years old and I still will. I wholeheartedly believe that education is a right not a privilege and no one should be scared away from going to University just because of their financial and social background.

    tuitionfees2

    I am aware of the arguments put forward by the Government, that repayments are based upon ability to pay and I agree that their proposals are fairer than the current system. That is not, however, a good enough reason to vote for them.

     

    We should be driving for a fairer more progressive system which doesn’t burden students with tens of thousands of pounds of debt (notional or otherwise)!

    So, back to the question. Why am I still a Liberal Democrat?

    Because I oppose tuition fees – It is still party policy to abolish them and 21 of our MPs remembered that today. Labour introduced tuition fees and top-up fees while the Conservatives want no cap on fees at all!

    Because I believe in civil liberties – Only the Lib Dems consistently opposed (then scrapped) ID cards, opposed detention without trial and fought for human rights. Labour eroded our civil liberties for 10 years, locking people up without trial, condoning torture and removing the right to protest. Meanwhile the Conservatives would tear up the Human Rights Act.

    Because I believe in social justice – Lib Dems in government mean that millions of the poorest people will get a ‘tax cut’ next year as personal allowances are increased and millions will pay no tax at all. Schools will get millions of pounds of extra funding to help the poorest pupils. All because we have the courage to drive down tax avoidance and invest the money where it will make a real difference.

    And most importantly, because we do what we promise.

    That is why I am proud that today Mike Hancock voted against the increase in tuition fees. Meanwhile the Conservative MP for Portsmouth North, Penny Mordaunt, voted to burden future generations of students with ever increasing mountains of debt!

  • Tuition Fees

    Contrary to what you may read in the papers, the Liberal Democrats do not support increasing university tuition fees. It remains party policy to abolish up-front tuition fees.

    tuitionfeesWe do now, however, find ourselves in a situation where some Liberal Democrat MPs may vote to increase fees because this is to be the policy of the coalition government. This is wrong. I could go into all of the technical details of what is wrong with the current proposals, it is after all a subject that I have campaigned on for over 10 years now, but I won’t.

    Simply, it is wrong for Lib Dem MPs to support these proposals because they made a promise to the people that voted for them to vote against any increase in tuition fees. This is not an issue of ideologies or of party politics, this is extremely straight forward, it is a question of integrity.

    I, and many other Lib Dems across the country, have been proud to go out campaigning, on doorsteps, and tell people that the Liberal Democrats are different. We are different because we stick to our pledges, because we deliver on our promises, because we won’t just ‘say anything to get elected’. Nick Clegg himself made great capital before May’s election from promising a fresh start and a new politics of honesty and integrity. How then can any MP expect anyone to vote for them ever again if they betray that trust and break a personal signed pledge less than 7 months later?

    I am proud that our local Lib Dem MP here in Portsmouth, Mike Hancock, is going to vote against any increase in tuition fees. He, like I, believes that this is a question of integrity. His exact words to me were “a pledge is a pledge”.

    Now I urge every other Lib Dem MP to honour their pledge and vote against any increase in tuition fees.