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Eric Ollerenshaw, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood is expected to vote in support of the government’s proposal on university tuition fees. The House of Commons will decide on December 9 whether to raise tuition fees cap from £3,290 per year to £9,000.
In a statement, Ollerenshaw explained: “Universities need to bring in more income to offer top quality tuition and it is the universities themselves that have been calling for the removal of the current tuition fee cap.
“Nobody, neither parents nor students, are required to pay fees upfront, the threshold at which fees will be repaid will be increased from £15,000 to £21,000; and maintenance grants available will be increased,” he added.
During the debate in Parliament on Tuesday of Week Eight, Ollerenshaw stressed that under the government’s proposal, £150 million national scholarship scheme would be set up and universities which charge higher fees would be expected to provide more scholarships and bursaries to ensure wider participation in higher education.
Lancaster currently charges UK and EU students the maximum amount allowed. Other international students are paying more than triple, between £10,500 and £13,060 per year.
If passed by Parliament, universities will be allowed to charge UK and EU students triple the current amount to make up the loss of funding through grants. There would still be no cap on fees for other international students. The proposal was put forward following the Browne Review on higher education funding and student finance which was concluded in October.
In the wake of the government’s proposal, students across UK have responded in protests and street demonstrations. The national demonstration, which saw 52,000 students and higher education staff marched in central London, has sparked more local protests and demonstrations. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, in response to students’ protest said: “Examine our proposals before taking to the streets. Listen and look before you march and shout.”
Ollerenshaw recognised that there may be a problem communicating government’s plans to students. The former history teacher said: “Maybe the government needs to be doing more to explain why the changes are needed and what they do, and do not, involve. However, the media has focussed its attention on the divisions and opposition to the plans rather than what the changes will actually mean for future generations of students.”
Meanwhile, the National Union of Students (NUS) has called for university students across UK to protest at their respective campuses on the eve of the Commons vote. The NUS officials will lobby MPs to vote against increasing fees inside the Parliament on the voting day itself.
NUS President, Aaron Porter said: “MPs can be left in no doubt as to the widespread public opposition to these plans or of the consequences of steamrollering them through parliament.
“For the third time in less than a month thousands of students have taken to the streets to protest against the government’s attacks on further and higher education,” he added.
If the vote pass, NUS will hold 9,000-candles vigil in solidarity of those who will be affected by the new tuition fees scheme.