At the Labour party conference, politicians have suggested that Corbyn’s promise of scrapping tuition fees is not set in stone
Labour’s 2015 conference, heralded as ‘make or break’ by many, drew to a close on Wednesday the 30th of September. With this conference being Jeremy Corbyn’s first as party leader, many of the policies set out were reiterations of ones that he had given during the leadership election, such as the abolition of the Trident nuclear deterrent.
However, on the topic of student loans, it appears that the party has had a change of heart.
Before becoming leader, Corbyn went as far as apologising to students for the current system of tuition fees and maintenance loans. He pledged that he would abolish tuition fees and reinstate maintenance grants at a cost of £10 billion, winning considerable support both from students and the wider community.
However, at the conference, Shadow Minister for Further Education, Skills and Regional Growth, Gordon Marsden, suggested that this policy is not set in stone.
When asked if he could clarify the current party position on tuition fees, Mr Marsden said that “nothing is ruled in, nothing is ruled out.”
Speaking to the Times Higher Education during a fringe meeting on Monday 28th September, Mr Marsden said that the country was at “a stage of critical decisions about funding.” He suggested that Labour would be in “deep thought” on their fees and funding policy, and that a conclusion could only be reached upon following consultation both within the party and with outside organisations.
Mr. Marsden also touched upon “the really big issues around the black hole that’s developing over non-repayment of loans,” and said that increasing tuition fees further beyond the current £9000 cap would “potentially [create] even more problems” in this area.
At the same meeting, Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, warned that Labour must have a “much wider” funding debate. He stressed the importance of considering postgraduate and part-time students alongside undergraduates, while also concentrating on what taxpayers can handle financially.