How the (UG) University Fee Increase anticipated Lecturers’ Pension Cuts

1962 Maintenance grants are introduced for students to cover tuition fees and living expenses. 

1980 Students grants are increased from £380 to £1,430

1989 The Tories freeze grants and introduce student loans. Grants of up to £2,265 remains available for poorer students, and loans of up to £420 are available to all applicants. 

1997 David Blunkett, the Labour Education Secretary, announces the implementation of £1,000 tuition fees per annum to be paid by every student, beginning in September 1998. The student grant of £1,710 is abolished to be replaced by means-tested student loans.

1998 The Teaching and Higher Education Act is passed into law – setting an annual tuition fee for England of £1,000. Means testing  results in 1/3 of students not paying anything.

1999 A committee led by Lord Cubie launches a review of higher education funding in Scotland. Cubie recommends that tuition fees in Scotland should be scrapped and the Scottish executive should fund higher education in full. Students would be required to pay £3,000 of it back when their earnings reached £25,000 a year.

2000 The Scottish executive accepts Lord Cubie’s proposals, with one adjustment. Students in Scotland must now pay back £2,000, not £3,000, but repayments start once earnings reach just £10,000 .

2001 Labour is re-elected with a manifesto pledge that it “will not introduce top-up fees and has legislated against them”.

2002 More than 80 Labour backbenchers support calls to scrap tuition fees.

2003 Less than two years after pledging not to introduce top-up fees, Labour publishes a white paper setting out proposals to allow universities to set their own tuition fees up to a cap of £3,000 a year. The fees will be repaid once graduates earn above £15,000 and will be accompanied by a means-tested package of support.

Tony Blair faces his biggest backbench rebellion as prime minister in a vote on top-up fees, with 72 Labour MPs voting against the motion, but he wins by five votes. 

Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative leader, pledges that all university tuition fees would be abolished under a future Tory government and condemning the fees as “a tax on learning”.

2004 Amendments are made to Blair’s bill, including an increase in the maintenance grant for the poorest 30 per cent of students from £1,000 to £1,500. There will be an independent review of the £3,000 fee cap after three years. Student loans will be increased to meet the real cost of living, and all student debt will be written off after 25 years.

2005 Almost all universities set fees at the maximum level of £3,000 per year, and approx. eight out of 10 offer bursaries to students from low-income families.

2006 First set of students to be charged £3,000 fees. Universities cry that they still need £1.3bn in extra funding. Conservative leader, David Cameron, in his defence states that tuition fees are unavoidable. “The money’s got to come from somewhere.”

2008 The National Union of Students drops its opposition to tuition fees.

2010 Lord Browne suggests that students should pay at least £21,000 for a three-year– the highest increase to higher education fees in over 50 years.

Votes passed in the house of commons on the 9th December 2010

2015 Conservative win the General Election and budget is announced with plans to increase university fees from 2017

2016 Increased fees and maintenance grant cuts passed as a law. 

Students in England can no longer apply for grants. Those starting Master’s courses can now apply for Postgraduate Loans, borrowing up to £10,000

2017 Fees are increased to £9,250 for current students, while those starting that academic year are charged £10,000

Prime Minister, Theresa May announces that student loan repayment threshold will be increased from £21,000 to £25,000 from April 2018.

2018 Future higher education funding options being considered include cutting tuition fees for students in England from current level of £9,250 to £6,000 a year by removing universities’ requirements to spend funds on widening participation measures and bursaries aimed at disadvantaged students. 

NOW University staff at 64 universities are striking over pensions. Since 2009, lecturers’ wages have fallen by 16% and with proposed changes to the USS by these universities, lecturers are expected to lose an estimated £10,000 per year upon receiving their pensions. 

How did it get to this point?

It’s no big surprise that the government has eternally been chipping away at our social funds and yet the wrong question that everyone seems to be asking is how did it get so bad? and not when did we let it get so bad?

Yes, I’m sure you’ll say that there were protests and displays of resistance when student fees were being raised, when staff wages were cut, when the NHS slowly started to shift into the private sector, and yes, perhaps you were even there, but that’s not the point. How did we let it get to the point that the only thing we can do is protest? How have our voices been neglected in favour of decisions made in politicians’ drawing rooms? And most importantly, where was our invite?

Rewind back to 2015 when the Tories came into power. How many of you even read their proposal for budget cuts including student tuition fees? Well, I certainly didn’t. I was too distracted by the fact that David Cameron had just pushed the button to drop £2.5bn worth of bombs on Syria. The cauldron was already brewing and the majority of us only found out about it when it was ‘too late’. It seems to be a special talent of the UK government to draw its citizens’ attention away from the real problem– take Brexit for example, an astronomical distraction to the housing crisis, our sluggish economy, calamitous budget cuts, and just the overall wrong and fatal leadership. In the midst of these distractions, we have allowed ourselves to become sidetracked from the internal deep-seated issues and permitted our voices to dwindle in the background of “us” vs “them”s and “for” and “against”s.

Today the word democracy has become so diluted, we have been fed half sense of the meaning and have been coaxed to live unruffled with the ‘freedom’ to vote for our autocrat. In my mum’s culture we believe that a King’s number one role is to serve his people. So much so in fact that traditionally, when it came to important decision-making the elders of the community would each express their opinion, the leader would be the last to speak and his words would not be those of his own sentiments but rather a collective understanding of what was the best course of action to take based on everyone else’s concerns. Perhaps this West African system is too ‘primitive’, or perhaps its just the times, but nowadays it seems that the process has been reversed: the puppet placed on the pulpit is the first to speak and seeks only to find the resonance of their voice in the multitudes. 

I’m honestly not surprised that we find ourselves, yet again, protesting. The slow but steady chops to grants and the inflation of student fees over the years was our warning sign. If they could get away with doing it to us, what makes you think they wouldn’t try it with you? I also want to say that I in no way intend to undermine the power of protesting and the change that it can bring, but it worries me to see that every time a new legislation is enforced upon us we leave it just a little too late. The higher beings in my university have most eloquently stated that they won’t be renegotiating pension cuts, so yes, I agree, protest to show your disagreement and outrage, but also ask yourself, how can we stop it from even progressing outside of the boardroom in the first place. 

Remember, WE are the underbelly of the UK government, without our debts they couldn’t profit from interest, without our employment they couldn’t profit from our taxes, without our existence, the government wouldn’t even be a thing. So why do we continue to think that just because someone is elected for the next 5 yrs we can’t demand from them the changes we want to see, we can’t force them to hear our voice?

In times like this, it does very much seem like to progress, we must actually regress to even those ‘primitive’ cultures, where at the very least, what it means to be a leader and what their responsibilities are to their people are well remembered. 

 

Useful articles/ articles used for this post:

Grants, loans and tuition fees: a timeline of how university funding has evolved

University strike: What’s it all about?

Why we students should back our lecturers on strike 

Brexit is just a distraction to the real problem: the UK’s clapped-out economy

 


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