9 Dec 2010

Decision day for tuition fees as students descend on London

Protesters are once again descending on London in their thousands today, as MPs vote on whether to treble tuition fees for students.

Decision day for tuition fees (Reuters)

Up to half of Liberal Democrat MPs and several Tory rebels could vote against the Government and many others abstain in today’s vote.

Lib Dem deputy leader, Simon Hughes, said last night that he would at least abstain and may vote against the plans, which will see students charged up to £9,000 a year.

Today, the NUS refuted suggestions that its leaders had proposed cuts totalling £4.2 billion over the next four years in support for poorer undergraduates, university teaching funds and scientific research grants as they tried to stave off higher tuition fees.

Emails sent to Business Secretary Vince Cable in October set out proposals including a £800 million reduction in maintenance grants – worth up to £2,906 a year for students from disadvantaged backgrounds – which NUS president Aaron Porter said could avoid the need for a hike in fees.

However, Mr Porter branded the suggestions “a cynical misrepresentation of the truth…all of the options pressented were unpalatable.”Students will hold a vigil at Victoria Embankment with 9,000 glowsticks representing the potential new fee level.

Officials, activists and members of some of the country’s biggest trade unions will join the protest, with some due to give speeches at a huge rally yards from Parliament.

Lib Dem rebel Greg Mulholland urged his colleagues to show they had a “distinct voice” on tuition fees, suggesting it would limit electoral damage to the party.

“They (the coalition) are well aware that they haven’t won the argument and that people inside Parliament and more importantly outside Parliament simply do not buy the argument,” he said.

“I think that is a very worrying way to make policy now that they are forcing through this vote today.”

The Leeds North West MP accused Mr Clegg of failing to listen.

“If Nick wants to call me he will. But I think he knows that I feel he has not listened, and I have been saying clearly that because public opinion is very firmly against this proposal – and I accept that there are very progressive things in terms of the repayment package and people have worked hard to do that – people just do not accept that fees should go up to as much as #9,000 to pay for that and nor do they need to.”