Student Fees and the NUS Pledge
There is rightly a debate about the signing of the NUS pledge by Lib Dem MPs, including myself, and what happens now about the Browne Report and any subsequent proposals.
The pledge said:“I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”
It is clear from that pledge that the objective is to have "a fairer alternative". The question, therefore, is whether the government's proposals are, indeed, a fairer alternative.
The test is whether they have moved from being effectively a tuition loan to what is a capped progressive graduate tax (or graduate contribution).
I am still not sure that they are progressive enough and have raised this with the government, but in defence of the proposals:
a) Up front fees are scrapped for part time students - this is important.
b) 30% of graduates pay less under the Browne proposals than under Labour's proposals.
The proposals are far more progressive than Labour's. If the option of a penalty free up front payment or advance is taken away then they become a taxation system rather than a fees system particularly given that different people pay different amounts depending upon their income.
However, more work needs to be done.