A dish best served cold? Labour's revenge on funding

Politicians have avoided democratic accountability for student funding for years. They must stop pas

Whether intentional or otherwise, when Peter Mandelson commissioned the Browne review of higher education funding in November 2009, he dealt the new government a major, early bombshell whilst maintaining the Labour youth vote by keeping tuition fee rises out of the election.

However, he is in good company when it comes to leaving toxic education reforms to future governments. Just as Labour ordered the Browne review, according to the BBC:

"When Labour entered office [in 1997], they inherited a report on higher education funding which had been commissioned by the previous Conservative government.

"The explosive recommendation of the report was that the principle of university education being free at the point of delivery should be scrapped.

"Students would have to make a contribution, said Sir Ron Dearing's landmark report."

Ring any bells? This brought about the current system of tuition fees, just as the Browne report looks set to make further radical alterations to higher education.

If we are to have a fair and fully functioning university system, we need politicians -- from all parties -- who will take responsibility for it rather than passing the buck to avoid electoral debate on the issue.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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