SOUTHAMPTON MP John Denham says he is winning his battle to rip up the “scandalous” system of £9,000-a-year tuition fees.
Key voices across the political spectrum now believe the policy is “broken”
and must be reformed, the Southampton Itchen MP said.
Mr Denham has proposed a shakeup that would redirect the cash being spent on writing off soaring amounts of unpayable debt from fees and maintenance loans.
A three-year degree would cost below £10,000 – the same as when Labour left office – while a more intensive two-year degree would cost around £5,000, under the plan.
And there would also be degrees cosponsored by one’s existing employer, allowing 50,000 would-be graduates to leave university free of debt.
Ed Miliband is taking a keen interest in the blueprint put forward by Mr Denham, a former secretary of state for universities under Gordon Brown.
Now Labour has confirmed it will fight next year’s general election on a pledge to scrap £9,000-a-year fees, possibly with a new maximum of £6,000.
And there is growing alarm about official projections that debt writeoffs mean the current system will soon be costing the taxpayer more than the one it replaced.
Mr Denham said: “I’m very encouraged that everyone now recognises what I was saying in January – that the tuition fee system is unsustainable.
We need to deal with what is a scandalous waste of public money at the moment – leading to students taking on much higher debts.”
For every £1 invested on teaching in universities, £7.50 is being spent on cancelling students’ debts, Mr Denham’s research has found.
Of the £14.6bn a year spent on paying loans to students, only £8bn will be recouped – leaving the taxpayer to find the other £6.6bn.
Mr Denham has been invited to present his proposals to the all-party parliamentary group on universities next week.
However, Labour is also still examining whether to dump fees in favour of a graduation tax – the policy advocated by Mr Miliband, during the Labour leadership race.
Party insiders say it could be the end of the year before a firm policy emerges, although many Labour MPs are agitating for clarity by the autumn. Meanwhile, the Conservatives could allow elite universities to hike fees further – if they meet strict conditions on o f f e r i n g places to s t u d e n t s from poorer families.