Keir Starmer Drops Pledge For Free University Tuition - Freshered
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Keir Starmer Drops Pledge For Free University Tuition

Zoe Kramer May 3, 2023

Keir Starmer has announced plans to “move on” from Labour’s commitment to free university tuition, instead pursuing a “fairer solution.” Free university tuition had been part of the party’s platform since Starmer’s leadership campaign in 2020. However, in light of changes in the economy, Starmer says changes will need to be made.

Starmer spoke with BBC Radio 4, saying: “We are likely to move on from that commitment because we do find ourselves in a different financial situation.

“You and others would be quizzing me hard if I just simply said I’m going to ignore the current economic situation and just press on with something, notwithstanding the cost.

“We are looking at options for how we fund these fees. The current system is unfair, it doesn’t really work for students, doesn’t work for universities.”

Other pledges that have been dropped include increased taxation on those in the upper 5% of income earnings, the abolition of universal credit, and nationalizing public utilities.

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This is not the first time Starmer has spoken on his reservations on the issue. In January, he spoke on the difficulties of supplying the £10 billion cost of scrapping tuition fees, saying “University tuition fees are not working well, they burden young people going forward.

“But I have to be honest about it, the damage that has been done to our economy means that we are going to have to, and we know we will, cost everything as we go into that election and we will do that with discipline as we have done it so far.

“I am not going to spell out our manifesto in advance… but I can say that every commitment we make will be absolutely fully funded. That is a cast-iron guarantee as we go into that election.”

A poll of students from the Higher Education Policy institute showed that 28% wanted tuition fees abolished. The response from student groups has been mixed.

University and Colleges Union (UCU) general secretary Jo Grady said: “Keir Starmer repeatedly pledged to abolish the toxic system of tuition fees and in doing so was elected leader of the Labour party. It is deeply disappointing for him to now be reneging on that promise, a move which would condemn millions of future students to a life of debt. What we really need is a positive vision for higher education that puts staff and students first.

‘The current, tuition fee reliant, model is broken. It has saddled students with decades of debt, turned universities from sites of learning into labyrinthine businesses obsessed with generating revenue and surpluses over all else, and led to staff pay and working conditions being degraded causing unprecedented industrial unrest.”

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Zoe Kramer has been writing for GRV Media’s student-centric website Freshered since October 2022 and is now also contributing to HITC. She graduated from Cardiff University in 2022 with a BA in Journalism, Media and English Literature. During her time in university, she worked for her student newspaper as well as completing an internship with a book publisher. She has also written and continues to write book and theatre reviews. She is excited to now be pursuing a career as a journalist and learning something new every day. In particular, she loves writing about student life, books, the Internet, and travel. Originally from the United States, she is enjoying living abroad in the UK.