Tuition Fees- this Week and the Future.

This week, (as I’m sure you will know) the Government voted on and passed the proposition of increasing the maximum amount of tuition fee able to be charged by Universities to £9000.

The last two months have been turbulent times for higher education, (HE) with unlimited fees muted by the Browne Review, unpredicented cuts of up to 80% in some areas set out by the Comprehensive Spending Review and plenty of speculation as to what will be the future direction of HE.

Since the beginning of the summer, SUSU has been lobbying and campaigning to stop the increase in fees and cuts in order to provide students with the best University experience during their academic careers and beyond. We have been lobbying 8 MPs, based upon those whose constituencies include a University of Southampton campus and those who represent a significant population of students from our University. These MPs are:

Alan Whitehead (Labour; Southampton Test)
John Denham (Labour; Southampton Itchen)
Caroline Nokes (Conservative; Romsey and North Southampton)
Chris Huhne (Eastleigh, Liberal Democrat)
Steve Brine (Winchester, Conservative)
Maria Miller (Basingstoke, Conservative)
Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South, Liberal Democrat)
Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight, Conservative)

What did SUSU do in the run-up to the vote?

I have been in correspondance with all of the above for a number of months in reference to what was to be this week’s vote by letter, email and telephone. SUSU also encouraged students to write to their MPs with countless students doing so, with SUSU also facilitating the despatch of 211 extra letters to MPs up and down the country from students.

SUSU conducted a comprehensive fees and funding survey (receiving 1355 responses) in order to ensure that we were adequately representing student opinion. The survey results can be found at the end of my November Union Council report.

SUSU also took 250 students up to London for the ‘demo:lition’ march on 10/11/10. This was followed up with a demonstration in Romsey outside Caroline Nokes’ office and Winchester School of Art students supporting Winchester and Solent students on a demonstration in Eastleigh to lobby Chris Huhne to keep his pledge.

SUSU also gathered a petition of 1,160 of Caroline Nokes’ student constituents against fees and cuts. I presented this to her in an interview for, questioning her on her stance over HE funding and lobbying her to support our students.

We were also due to meeting David Willetts (Universities Minister) with a group of students to lobby but unfortunately his visit was cancelled due to last week’s snow.

At the beginning of this week the last of the Student letters to be sent were received by local MPS. We followed this up with an effective demonstration in Southampton town centre in cooperation with Solent on Wednesday. On the day of the vote we took 40 students up to London to demonstrate against higher fees with a peaceful message and to lobby their MPs. We took a group of students into the Houses of Parliament and were able to lobby a number of MPs from students’ University and Home constituencies, including Alan Whitehead, Steve Brine and Maria Miller.

Particular credit goes to the students involved in lobbying Steve Brine, who succeeded in extracting the admission from the former Liverpool Guild of Students’ President that he is ideologically against a rise in tuition fees. Brine then struggled to justify his reasons for voting for an increase. The students involved pushed Brine as hard as possible on the issue and although he did go on to vote to increase fees he is now fully aware (if he was not before) how serious SUSU is taking this issue and the extent to which we will lobby, campaign and push to get the very best for our students. There are many more facets to the current reforms in HE to be seen in Parliament in new year. I hope that we can build upon Thursday’s work with Steve Brine (and indeed each of the MPs that we lobbied on the day) to ensure that they are entirely student-centered.

It was exceptionally disappointing that Caroline Nokes declined to meet with us on the day despite persistent unreturned calls (and tweets) requesting to meet her in the Parliamentary lobby.

How did our MPs vote?

Alan Whitehead (Labour; Southampton Test) AGAINST
John Denham (Labour; Southampton Itchen) AGAINST
Caroline Nokes (Conservative; Romsey and North Southampton) FOR
Chris Huhne (Eastleigh, Liberal Democrat) ABSTAINED (had pledged to vote against)
Steve Brine (Winchester, Conservative) FOR
Maria Miller (Basingstoke, Conservative) FOR
Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South, Liberal Democrat) AGAINST (maintained his manifesto pledge)
Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight, Conservative) FOR

What next?

It is exceptionally important to remember that this does not end here. There is so much more to be done and SUSU remains against a rise in tuition fees.

Although the House of Commons have approved the prospect of higher fees, it still needs to be passed in the House of Lords. SUSU will be lobbying Lords locally and nationally to gather support against fees rising to £9000.

There is also to be a white paper expected to be published in the new year of the Government’s ‘progressive measures’ which it claims are attached to an increase in fees. SUSU will be scrutinising this document exceptionally carefully and will lobby against anything within the paper considered not to be in the very best interests of our University’s current and future students.

We will also be immediately working with our University to ensure that students’ get the very best possible value from their degrees and to ensure that our University continues to attract and recruit the brightest and best students, irrespective of their background or financial status.

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3 Comments on "Tuition Fees- this Week and the Future."

  1. Rob
    Paul - Romsey Constituent
    13/12/2010 at 8:58 am Permalink

    “It was exceptionally disappointing that Caroline Nokes declined to meet with us on the day despite persistent unreturned calls (and tweets) requesting to meet her in the Parliamentary lobby.”

    What a surprise.

  2. Rob
    Tony Blair
    13/12/2010 at 11:22 am Permalink

    “Since the beginning of the summer, SUSU has been lobbying and campaigning to stop the increase in fees and cuts in order to provide students with the best University experience during their academic careers and beyond”


    So SUSU have been “lobbying” and campaigning against the cuts to HE… recognising that all parties accept that public spending has to decrease to reduce our structural deficit. Had SUSU identified what area of public expenditure should be cut instead of the £2.9bn cut to Higher Education?

    If so it would be good to know if that suggestion had been debated at Union Council.

    If SUSU didn’t offer up an alternative to cuts in HE, then I would suggest that the Union is guilty of naive NIMBYism. Reductions in budgets had to be made, the government has decided to spread the pain across the public sector middle class students will pay their share in tax after they graduate… seems a fair compromise to me. Without a clear message on what should be cut instead we lack credibility


    SUSU are against fees, it would be strange if we weren’t. the most dissapointing aspect of the anti-fees campaign is ironically its focus on Fees… Concessions were sought to make the legislation more palatable to Lib dems are were focussed on Fee remission.

    As a student who came to University having received free school meals and from a family with one unemployed parent… I can tell you I don’t give a shit about discounted fees, fee remission, fee scholarships… who cares I will pay my fees back AFTER I graduate, when I’m earning over £15k and at a rate which i can afford.

    What I do want is more money in the form of student support. I get around £7500 in student support at the moment, which just about covers my rent, some books and smart price eating. I have to work 20 hours a week in order to pay to do things all other students want to do, socialising (drinking), new clothes, mobile etc…

    Now that SUSU have lost the fight on fees (just like their predecessors in 1997 and 2004) could you focus less on fees and more on student support, cos the poorest students (who don’t get money from mummy and daddy) are more concerned about the bills at the end of the month and less worried about the extra tax they’ll pay after graduating and when in, hopefully, a graduate job

  3. Rob
    24/10/2011 at 2:35 pm Permalink

    Thanks for your post here. One thing I would like to say is most professional fields consider the Bachelor Degree like thejust like the entry level standard for an online education. When Associate Diplomas are a great way to start, completing your Bachelors opens many opportunities to various careers, there are numerous on-line Bachelor Diploma Programs available via institutions like The University of Phoenix, Intercontinental University Online and Kaplan. Another issue is that many brick and mortar institutions provide Online variations of their diplomas but normally for a considerably higher charge than the institutions that specialize in online degree programs.

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