Don't believe Clegg's mantra of 'progressive' education reform

Nick Clegg and other Liberal Democrats have tried hard to sell their mantra that the package of proposals surrounding the rise in university tuition fees are progressive. Yet they are proposing shoveling a huge debt burden on the younger generation, while withdrawing a vital source of funding that supports children from poor backgrounds in education.
Stuart Weir
9 December 2010

I am utterly sick of hearing Nick Clegg and other Lib Dems reiterating their mantra that the package of proposals surrounding the rise in university tuition fees is progressive because it will hit higher earning graduates more than lower earners, because it is less punitive than the current system, because a few students from poor households may receive scholarships and because, outlandishly, the package will foster social mobility.

They don’t get it.  Their pledge was to oppose increases in tuition fees and gradually to phase them out. The essence of this pledge was that the balance between state and personal funding of higher education was wrong, and that the state should shoulder a higher proportion of the costs. Furthermore, as Chris Goodall has noted, if we look at the costs of teaching an undergraduate, there appears to be no justification for universities to charge up to £9,000 a year in tuition fees. The students who are protesting, and those of us who support them, do not believe that it is right to shovel a huge debt burden on their generation, and succeeding generations, in order to shoulder what are set to be the most prohibitive Higher Education costs in Western Europe.

Moreover, the abolition of educational maintenance allowances will prove a huge blow to any hopes of greater social mobility, as will in my view the general rise in the costs of higher education. I fear that these costs  are likely to prove a  major deterrent for children from poor and less well-off households who might otherwise have gone to university.

By the way, I also think that Labour are behaving like weasels. I doubt that the graduate tax is a genuine alternative to the coalition government's proposals. I trust that they will seek out a way of giving young people an equal and genuine opportunity of going to university that does not cripple them with debt afterwards.


Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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