Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jeremy Purvis puts fair access to higher education at heart of Liberal Democrat thinking

Today Cabinet Secretary for Education Mike Russell outlined the proposals in his long awaited Green Paper for Higher Education. He outlined a number of various options with the aim of maintaining Scotland's reputation for world class academic excellence.

The six options under consideration are:

  • the state retaining primary responsibility for funding
  • the state retaining primary responsibility for funding but with a graduate contribution
  • charging more for students who come to study from other parts of the UK
  • increased donations and philanthropic giving
  • more money from business
  • efficiency savings
Basically what will happen now is that everybody will study the paper, get some magic numbers about future funding from John Swinney in January and will then draw up their own proposals to go in their manifestos for the election next year and whatever government is elected in May will act accordingly.

Liberal Democrat finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis only had a minute to respond but he used it well.  After barbed encounters with Des McNulty, Liz Smith and George Foulkes, there was a bit more reason to the exchange with Jeremy. While the others concentrated on trying (and failing) to pin Mike Russell down on whether he would rule out or rule in a graduate contribution, Jeremy's question was typically practical. I'd always expect a Liberal Democrat to look at issues of fairness and he made the point that only 20% of students in higher education came from a poorer background, even with free tuition and it was important to address that. Mike Russell actually gave quite an intelligent response, saying how you needed to tackle that issue at the school and nursery gates with early intervention. That might be an encouraging sign that the SNP might be prepared to support a pupil premium like the Liberal Democrats are bringing in south of the border.

Liberal Youth Scotland are unimpressed by Mike Russell's statement, with their President Kristian Chapman saying:
The only concrete announcement we’ve had from this SNP Government is that they are cutting 12% from University funding, but with no answers on how this will be replaced.
“NUS research has shown that a huge number of students have thought of dropping out because of a lack of student support, and again, we still have no answers from the SNP on how they will address this.”
There's a long way to go on this. Mike Russell himself has given signs that he might be prepared to introduce a graduate contribution to pay for education. This would differ from the graduate endowment introduced by the Liberal Democrats in the first Holyrood coalition as it would actually mean graduates paid some of the cost of their education. The endowment did not pay for teaching staff or materials or lecture halls - it helped poor students go to university. So, Nicola Sturgeon, you can't take away the Liberal Democrat achievements in that first coalition. Without the Scottish Liberal Democrats,  you'd have come into office with students paying fees and top up fees and you'd have had to have found the money to get rid of them, or not...


Dubbieside said...

"Liberal Youth Scotland are unimpressed by Mike Russell's statement"

That will be because they are so impressed by Gleggs abandonment of the Lib Dems pledge on student fees. Maybe they should be glad they have the SNP trying their best for Scottish students, while Lib Dems are enjoying their ministerial cars.

Anythings Lib Dems say ever again on student funding will never be believed by anyone in the UK never mind Scotland.

The SNP will never support anything that the Lib Dems are trying to bring into England. Yet more Lib Dem spin. You sold out, not just students, but parents and grandparents who may hope to some day have offspring who can go to university.

You may think the worst has passed now the vote is over, but the Lib Dems cynical election pledge betrayal will not be forgotten. No one will ever believe anything they pledge in future manifestos.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carron,

I only came to your blog to see what excuses you might be making for your party's total betrayal of your election pledges before the last British General Election, now that you have the aura of ministerial office about you.

Before this article we have a piece on the "Apprentice", which I find not unsurprisingly Jeff has commented on (you can always count of Jeff to comment on the irrelevant), and a nice public information announcement on "not walking on thin ice" oh and a bit pointing out that we are supposed to be thankful for the Lib Dems for single handedly having saved Scottish Education, from the last time your party prostituted itself for ministerial Mondeos.

Sorry, it won't do. The Scottish people have you rumbled.

Vote Liberal get Tory!, or possibly Labour.

Get some principals. Oh and for God's sake get a grip on the Calman proposals, for your country's sake, as its a disaster in the making.


Unknown said...

Hello Rab

Welcome! Thank you for calling in. As you've noticed, this is a very personal blog where I write about all sorts of things. You'll maybe be grateful that I keep all my opinions on Strictly Come Dancing on an entirely separate blog to spare you having to read them.

You can't deny that the reason we don't have upfront tuition fees in Scotland is because of the Liberal Democrats. Labour happily introduced them and top up fees in England. The graduate endowment was more about providing access to uni for people from poorer backgrounds, not for paying for lectures or teaching staff.

Would you say that nobody should believe anything the SNP says in future manifestos because they haven't fulfilled their pledges to reduce class sizes to 18, to introduce a local income tax and to hold a referendum on independence - not to mention the one to dump student debt?


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