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Friday, May 27, 2005

Top up Fees continued

The reaction of Professor Theresa Rees to the resolution of the Assembly to oppose top-up fees for Welsh domiciled students gets curiouser and curiouser. In this article she is quoted rather patronisingly as asking "I wonder how many AMs know the fees are deferred?".

Obviously she is upset that the nine months of work that she and her commission has put into their report seems to have gone down the swanney. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The report contains some valuable recommendations on part time students and a National Bursary Scheme that I am sure we will be anxious to take forward. It also identifies the fact that a separate fees regime can be applied for Welsh domiciled students. That shows that the motion we passed on Tuesday can work if we are prepared to fund it.

Her problem is that firstly, the report actually comes across as indecisive on the funding options, offering two proposals without really plumping for either of them, and secondly, her increasing stridency is giving a number of people the impression that she is speaking more on the side of the Education Minister than for the members of her commission, most of whom seem to be taking a very low profile.

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Hmm. Don't the members of her Commission include Rob Humphreys,President of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, who has signed up to the Rees Commission recommendations?
 
Yes they do, but as I said in my post the only person speaking out is Professor Rees. I do not think that collective responsibility applies to Commissions.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
But Rob's signed up to the Rees recommendations I see.
 
The fundamental fault in your argument, Peter, is that it wouldn’t be “students” who would pay the “top-up fees”; it would graduates, engaged in employment, earning a substantial amount more than their peers without a degree.

It’s also interesting to note that the Scottish Executive, I’m told, are considering introducing top-up fees for students in Scotland!

And while I’m on the subject of education, and as you are the Lib Dem education spokesman, can you confirm or deny here and now, that the only reason why the Lib Dem administration in Swansea have decided to sell of every square inch of council land available to them (including the land on which Dylan Thomas school is situated on) is so that you can sell the land to developers in order to finance the huge cost of refurbishing the leisure centre?
 
It is not at all true that graduates paying back their fees would be earning a substantial amount more than their non-graduate peers. Graduates entering graduate-only public sector jobs such as teaching earn less than the average UK salary and continually earn less than other graduates, meaning they pay back more and for longer. That system is fatally flawed in that it penalises the less well off, as ever.
 
I think you’ll find that over their lifetime, a graduate will earn substantially more than someone who left school at the age of 16 with GCSE’s, or even someone who left sixth form/college with A’ Levels.

Not all graduates go in to the public sector, a large number go into private sector industry & business and earn a very nice salary! (During their career)

How exactly does a ‘deferred payments’ system penalise the less well off? It would really help if you actually read the education act 2004 and the supporting documents, and see for yourself how the new system will help students from less well off backgrounds, as they will be entitled to bursaries and government sponsored grants.

Instead of a university (potentially) taking (at most) ~ £1,120 from you when you’re at university (which, I have no doubt, contributes to the debt that students find themselves in), you it pay back (granted, you’d pay back more under the new English system) what you owe AFTER you graduate, and earning £15,000+ a year, and if you haven’t paid it all back after 25 years, the amount left over is wiped off!! So your assertion that they’d “pay back more and for longer” is simply not true.

A teacher (or for that matter anyone else in the public sector) does not stay on a starting salary for the duration of their career! There are such things as point scales and promotions! And being a school governor who sits on a finance committee, I can tell you those teachers who have been in the profession for a number of years receive a very generous pay package! So your argument really is fundamentally flawed.
 
The fundamental principle here is that Education should be free. It is an investment in the future of this Country and as such it should be funded by the state. That is why the opposition parties will be using their weight to force Labour to back down on top-up fees for Welsh domiciled students, in line with the motion that was passed last Tuesday.

Rob Humphreys was on the Rees Commission as Chair of NIACE Dysgu Cymru. He was not a representative of the Liberal Democrats and I am sure he will be supporting party policy and the party in fighting this iniquitous measure.
 
Ok, so you want free education – but as we live in the real world, someone has got to pay for it.

Couple of questions, how would you fund Universities and Colleges in Wales to make up for the shortfall by not having fees? And where is that money going to come from? Do you think it’s acceptable for postgraduate students to have to pay £3,000+ a year in upfront fees?

The irresponsibility of the Opposition in the Assembly is putting the future of HE in Wales at risk by denying it the proper funding it needs to be competitive in research against other universities, recruiting world class academics, and may force some universities to close departments.
 
Very interesting use of language Peter, “the opposition parties will be using their weight to force Labour to back down on top-up fees for Welsh domiciled students” – does that mean you’d still charge the full amount for non-domiciled students who choose to study at Welsh Universities?
 
I am not conducting a negotiation through the medium of this blog. There will be talks over the next few weeks to see what can be achieved. However, the motion that was passed on Tuesday was quite explicit in saying that Welsh domiciled students should not pay top-up fees.
 
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