Published on 11 Oct 2010 Sections ,

Tuition fees and the Lib Dems

Nick Clegg branded tuition fees “unfair”and “wrong” during the election campaign. The Deputy Prime Minister is now under immense pressure from student groups as the Browne review is published.

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg finds himself in a difficult position.

We want to abolish tuition fees. We think they’re wrong. Nick Clegg April 2010

His party, until recently, vociferously opposed tuition fees.

With the publication today of the Browne Review into higher education funding, the Deputy Prime Minister is under immense pressure from student groups not to go back on his word.

When Nick Clegg launched his party’s election manifesto he told activists tuition fees could be abolished: “We’ve identified more than £15bn of savings year on year..that’s why we can commit to phasing out tuition fees”.

On 23 April Nick Clegg had a similar message for students at Newcastle Aviation Academy: “We think it’s just wrong at a time when you’re starting out in adult life, when you’re supposed to be most optimistic about what you can do, you’ve got this heavy weight of debt around your neck.

“We want to abolish tuition fees. We think they’re wrong. At a time the economy is submerged in debt, more debt is not the answer to debt”

Earlier that month Channel 4 News Political Editor Gary Gibbon challenged the Liberal Democrat leader on whether he had any idea where the money would come from to abolish tuition fees.

Nick Clegg remained adamant tuition fees could be abolished within 6 years: “I think you misunderstand something. I genuinely think tuition fees are wrong.

“What I wanted to do was make it a policy which was believable and what I don’t think is believable is to say we’re going to get rid of tuition fees overnight in a way we had done previously.”

If the Liberal Democrats renege on their promise to vote against higher tuition fees..an entire generation of students would justly feel betrayed. Aaron Porter

As the election campaign progressed so did Nick Clegg’s campaign against tuition fees.

On 28 April Nick Clegg claimed tuition fees would double under a Conservative or Labour government: “We think it’s unfair when you graduate and you haven’t even taken your first step in the world of adult work to be saddled with £25,000 worth of debt.

“By the way, debt which would shoot up to £44,000 if the Conservative and Labour parties have their way and raise the cap from £3,000 to what’s widely reported to be their plan of raising it to £7,000.”

After months of campaigning against tuition fees Nick Clegg winow has the tougher task of convincing students, who voted Liberal Democrat, that increased tuition fees are in fact a fair deal.

Aaron Porter is President of the NUS.

He has a warning for Nick Clegg’s party: “If the Liberal Democrats renege on their promise to vote against higher tuition fees, if they back out, if they turn a blind eye to the situation, then an entire generation of students would justly feel betrayed.

“Now is their time to implement their flagship policy or face the consequences at the ballot box.”