Liverpool’s students are facing potentially crippling

debts after the Government's Business Secretary

Vince Cable endorsed a report which calls for an

unlimited rise in tuition fees.


The controversial proposal, initially put forward in a report by Lord Browne, could see students paying fees of £7,000 per year – more than double the current limit of  £3,290 – though there is potential for universities to put into place higher fees still, if there is no upper limit. The Government is yet to decide whether to adopt the Browne Report in full, and it is thought that fees may yet be capped, albeit at a much higher limit.


The news will add to the air of mass uncertainty surrounding Liverpool’s three universities, all of which are preparing to face huge cuts in the wake of the coalition government’s far-reaching financial reform of the public sector, in which massive cuts to higher education funding are seen as inevitable.


There are now fears that less popular courses, or those seen as unsustainably expensive, will be struck off the curriculum, leading to protests from both students and lecturers alike, in a repeat of scenes seen last year when government cuts led to course closures at John Moores and other universities across the UK.


Mr Cable has said that he will consider other suggestions, though

it is widely expected that the rise in fees could be put into place as

early as 2012, potentially affecting the city’s first year students and

those on longer courses.


The Liberal Democrats now face calls of hypocrisy, after outlining

plans to scrap tuition fees ahead of May’s General Election, though

they have endorsed the position set out by Lord Browne now they

are in the coalition Government with the Conservatives.


Wavertree's Labour MP Luciana Berger has been vocal in her

opposition to a rise in tuition fees. She told JMU Journalism: "I am

outraged that the Browne review has recommended the complete removal of the cap on student tuition fees, with no clear assurance that the increase in fees would improve student choice or performance.


"I am deeply concerned that if these recommendations were implemented by the Government then they would lead to a market-based two-tier system of education, based on ability to pay not academic ability and in which students leave university with tens of thousands of pounds of debt.


Fellow Labour MP, the Liverpool Riverside member, Louise Ellman, has also spoken out, highlighting the importance of higher education in Liverpool, where there are more than 50,000 students. She said: "Vince Cable’s statement is deeply disturbing. It advocates a reduction in Government funding for higher education, increased fees and increased debt through higher interest payments.


"We must examine these proposals closely to assess their impact on Liverpool where higher education is such a critical part of the economy and widening participation is prized."


Further backlash from beyond Westminster is also expected, with a planned demonstration by the National Union of Students scheduled for November 10th.


Liverpool Student Union President Lily Rumsey told JMU Journalism: "This report is terrifying. It proposes that there is no minimum guaranteed financial support for students through bursaries. LJMU students benefit from a generous bursary arrangement that has just been significantly cut, abolishing this altogether is regressive.


"LJMU students expect the Government to keep their promises and make sure that students don’t lose out. We will continue to build upon our current campaign to ensure that politicians remember the people that voted for them.”








Fees to rise as Government backs review

By Jonathan Birchall, Website Editor

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Higher education already faces a difficult future over funding and the tuition fees rise adds to uncertainty

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Report by Adam Hicks & Jill Foster