Yesterday, Parliament voted to increase the current cap on tuition fees from £3290 to £9000, with a £6000 lower cap. Both votes passed with a majority of 21, 323 votes to 302.
The result will come as a great disappointment for students and parents alike, who have lambasted what are seen to be extortionate increases in education, with the aim of plugging the 80% cuts to Higher Education teaching funds. Thousands took to the streets one final time yesterday to try and protest against the vote, but ultimately the vote passed without much question.
There will be greater disappointment for Liberal Democrat supporters, many of whom voted on the premise of their NUS pledge to combat any increase in tuition fees – instead, 28 Democrats voted for the plans, with only 21 MPs holding true to their pledge. Eight took up the Coalition’s offer of abstaining.
Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister, would have been worried about more rebellious MPs, but ultimately enough sided with the Government, in spite of two Ministerial Aides resigning in order to vote No. There was a greater sense of rebellion within the Conservative Party, with six MPs going against the plans and two abstaining.
The debate, which Wessex Scene blogged in its entirety, was taken in controversial circumstances, not only for the five hour time-limit put in place for the debate, but also the fact that policy was being passed just two months after the production of the Browne Review. What is more, the Government had failed to produce a White, or even a Green, paper that outlined the Government’s proposals in a concrete form. Plenty of questions were asked about this, to which Vince Cable said will be answered in the coming weeks.
In a statement given after the results, Labour MP for Southampton Itchen and Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, John Denham, said, “this is a moment of no turning back for Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems. They have lost all credibility with the country and cannot now claim to be a party of fairness. The government is tripling fees and cutting public funding for university teaching by 80%, leaving English students facing the highest public university fees in the industrialised world.
“This was only made possible by the support of Liberal Democrats – they should hang their heads in shame. This decision was not about deficit reduction, but a political choice, driven by the Conservative and Lib Dem government, to cut most university teaching funding and put the burden for most degrees solely onto students. They will face huge debts and many will pay back for 30 years. The plans are not fair, not necessary and not good for higher education.”
Whilst the result will disappoint and anger many, the day’s events were marred by violent protests, with many arrests made throughout the day. SUSU were inside Parliament, away from the frontline violence, but up to 9 students were said to have been caught up in the kettle that formed outside. SUSU President Billy Fitzjohn will be giving a written response to the Wessex Scene, talking about the days events, which will be available shortly.