Robbie Lee, a 15-year-old member of Manchester Young Greens, on why Labour’s promise to lower tuition fees to £6000 is not enough.

Students protest in support of free education, 19 November 2015. Photo: William Pinkney-Baird,
Students protest in support of free education, 19 November 2015. Photo: William Pinkney-Baird.

Today, the Labour Party pledged to cut tuition fees by a third to £6000.

This follows years of increases in fees, duplicitous pledges and a total failure to recognize that education should be a right, not a privilege – ever since Labour themselves introduced tuition fees.

Currently, a university postgraduate can expect to face a colossal burden of debt averaging £44,035 (Institute of Fiscal Studies). This has an injurious effect upon the many students aiming to receive a decent education, and thus the opportunity to thrive and succeed in life. Accommodation prices are soaring; and not matched by the loans and grants provided to students. Youth unemployment and general anxieties about the future are growing, as we face an increasingly unequal society.

If we want a society that encourages social mobility and inclusivity, it is imperative that we eradicate the extortionate rates of £9,000 per year. Furthermore, the tuition fees are implementing segregation within society; families with higher incomes may be able to financially support their children’s endeavours, while the aspirations of the financially disadvantaged are less likely to be fulfilled. The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts that 73% of the 2015 graduates will not be able to fully repay their fees.

Labour’s promise to cut tuition fees to £6000 is not enough. Instead of education being paid for by debt, we need an education tax on businesses to cover tuition fees. This is not a penalizing measure, as businesses depend on a well educated society.

The UK has one of the highest levels of tuition fees in the world, despite the fact that Higher Education is currently experiencing severe shortages of funding. This system is not sustainable. We need to ensure that universities are sufficiently funded to maintain their facilities, pay staff higher wages and lessen the ever-rising student to staff ratio.

The Liberal Democrats’ betrayal over tuition fees has ignited masses of young people to feel less optimistic about the prospect of Higher Education without the pressure of massive debt. We cannot ignore this. The coalition’s unacceptable decision to treble tuition fees has led to mass resent and dismay from the young people across the country: it is no wonder that the Green Party has been polling level with Labour for 18-25 year old voters. The Greens offer an honest and distinct alternative to politics as usual, and the recognition that education is a right, not a privilege.