Prime Minister Theresa May has admitted that England has been left with “one of the most expensive university systems in the world” under the current Tory tuition fee policy. (She conveniently forgets to mention that she herself helped pass this policy.)
May has admitted that a “competitive market” has “simply not emerged”, as almost all universities nationwide charge the maximum annual price of £9,250, with interest rates of up to 6.1% on student debt. This has burdened students, particularly poorer students, with crippling debts of up to £57,000 upon graduation.
This failure of such a “competitive market” will not be a surprise for those who have witnessed the results of privatisation in other public services, such as in the NHS and the railways. In fact, the main role of “competitive market” is to line the pockets of the parasitic capitalist class, sucking cash from workers and (in this case) students by charging vast sums for services that were once free and accessible to everyone.
The problem is, the Tory tuition fees policy is now failing so badly that the “competitive market” is not even lining the capitalists’ pockets efficiently. Student loans are so ludicrously high that an estimated 75% of them will never be paid back. Each year, students fail to pay back £8 billion in student loans.
This is only the reason that May is entertaining the idea of tuition fee reform at all. A review of the higher education funding system allows her to address the current utter failure, whilst feigning consideration for the very young people that her Tory doctrine has constantly exploited.
Labour shadow education secretary Angela Rayner’s statement on the matter was correct. “This long-winded review is an unnecessary waste of time.”
Indeed, this review will consist of Tories ‘searching’ for solutions to problems that they, themselves, have created. At the same time, they will not be able take any real action, as this would mean making their rich backers pay. Instead, they will propose weak and insubstantial reforms that will make little difference.
For example, there have been calls to lower the cap on student fees to £6,000. However, calculations by the London Economics consultancy firm found that this would still mainly benefit higher earning graduates - the top earners who will clear debts anyway but pay substantially less in repayments. The only ‘reforms’ to be expected are of this ilk: limp and useless, with no intention of being anything but.
The reasons as to why England has “one of the most expensive university systems in the world” should not be a mystery to anyone. It is offensive for the Tories to act clueless. The price is due to the trebling of university fees in 2010 (by the Conservative-Liberal coalition) and the abolition of grants. The Tories will never scrap fees, as this would mean asking for their banker friends to contribute more to the public purse.
May’s admission of failure shows once again the incompetence of this Tory government. But we have been familiar with this for years.
What is more notable is that it shows that the Tories are scared. This U-turn - to chase the votes lost to Labour and their hugely popular flagship policy of scrapping fees - is only the latest desperate attempt to delay the inevitable.
The Prime Minister thinks that paying lip service to tuition reform, while actually doing very little, will fool young people into supporting her. She is mistaken: young people will never forget the chaos of higher education under Tory leadership. This generation of students will always find the Tories repulsive.
There is more than enough wealth within society to properly fund higher education and all public services. Free national education is entirely achievable and realistic. However, this wealth sits in the hands of a tiny elite.
That is why it is so important to fight for a socialist, Corbyn-led Labour government. Corbyn’s promise to abolish fees and provide free education are within our reach. Labour must be committed to a national education service with free education for all as a right. Make the leeching capitalist class pay, not workers and students!