Jeremy Corbyn: Scrap tuition fees and give students grants again, says Labour leadership contender

The leadership contender has apologised for Labour's introduction of fees

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Indy Politics

University education should be free and students should be supported by grants, a contender for the Labour leadership has said.

Jeremy Corbyn said the abolition of tuition fees should be funded through a higher rate of national insurance on the highest earners and by bringing Britain’s anaemic rate of corporation tax up from 20 per cent to to 20.5 per cent.

Mr Corbyn’s proposal is a rejection of Labour’s legacy of supporting tuition fees, which the party introduced at £1,000 in 1999. It then trebled the fees to £3,000. The 2010 Coalition government then trebled them again £9,000.

The current Conservative majority government also abolished the remaining assistance grants for low income students in its first Budget, delivered this month.

“Education is not about personal advancement but is a collective good that benefits our society and our economy,” Mr Corbyn said.

"I want to apologise on behalf of the Labour Party to the last generation of students for the imposition of fees, top-up fees and the replacement of grants with loans by previous Labour governments. I opposed those changes at the time - as did many others - and now we have an opportunity to change course.

LabourLeaders.jpg“There are no student fees in Scotland, Germany and twelve other European countries, I want to bring all UK students into line with that sensible approach.”


Mr Corbyn’s policy was welcomed by the lecturers’ union UCU. Sally Hunt, its general secretary, said business benefited from higher education and should make a contribution towards it.

“Since [the Dearing Report] we have seen students hit with increasing fees and the state continue to provide support. Business has paid virtually nothing,” she argued.

“We have the lowest corporation tax rate in the G20 and we believe a rise in corporation tax, with the money ring-fenced for our universities, is the fairest way for business to pay its share.

“We are pleased that one of the Labour leadership candidates is prepared to finally start the debate within the party about a fairer policy for higher education funding. We won’t be the only ones keen to hear what the others would do.”

The UK’s corporation tax rate is currently the joint lowest in the G20 group of industrialised countries – the Government has said it will cut it further to 12 per cent by 2020.

The corporation tax rate in the United States is 40 per cent, Germany’s is 30 per cent and Japan’s is 33 per cent.

The National Union of Students said it did not comment on party political matters.

The union has an official policy in favour of free education, however. NUS vice president for welfare Shelly Asquith is also leading Mr Corbyn’s student campaign in a personal capacity.

Mr Corbyn is one of four candidates for the Labour leadership elections, the others being Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall, and Yvette Cooper.

Ms Kendall said at the start of her campaign that she would abandon a pledged adopted by Labour under Ed Miliband to cut the fees from £9,000 to £6,000.