Today’s vote on Higher Education funding was one of the hardest things we have had to do in politics. I know that there are strong and passionately held views on all sides of the debate, which I very much respect.
And of course I understand why many in our party wish we could have pursued a different policy. I wish that too; but we simply were not in that position, we did not win the General Election but went into a coalition and had to tackle the greatest economic crisis in decades.
Within those constraints, Vince Cable and his team have put together a highly progressive package. We are ending the upfront fees for part-time students, increasing the repayment threshold from £15,000 to £21,000 – lowering every graduate’s monthly repayments, guaranteeing that poorer graduates pay less than they currently do and richer graduates more. Added to those progressive changes, a national scholarship fund has been setup to give further support to students from the poorest backgrounds as part of our fairness premium.
Taking all things into consideration, this is a package which is fairer than the existing situation, fairer than Lord Browne’s original review, fairer than the NUS proposals and fairer than the policies that both Labour and the Conservatives would have implemented had they been in government alone. And at the same time we are delivering on our front page manifesto commitment for a fully funded pupil premium – which will act as a huge driver of social mobility. That is something we can all take pride in.
Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister