Thursday 13 December 2007

Up you could not make it

Yesterday the Education Committee of the Scottish Parliament rejected the Graduate Endowment Abolition Bill on the casting vote of the Labour convener Karen "don't look at me" Whitefield.

For the sake of clarity, let me explain that the purpose of this Bill is to remove the tuition fee known as the Graduate Endowment levied on Scottish students by the Lib/Lab coalition in 2000. It has been brought forward by the SNP Scottish Government to fulfill a manifesto pledge.

Labour wants Scottish students to keep on paying this tax on learning, the SNP believes that access to education should be based on the ability to learn, not on the ability to pay. So what reasons did Laborious members give for wanting to leave the current and the future generations of Scots students lumber with this learning tax?
Richard Baker is the Labour education spokesperson - you may remember his letter to the Herald where he said:
No-one disagrees that the abolition of tuition fees is not the only matter of concern in Scottish higher education - many of us would like to see a wide range of developments in the ways which both universities and students are funded. ... We are asking the politicians to re-establish an important principle; thereafter we can start the examination of additional means of addressing student debt and poverty.
You can see why we expected him to back the abolition of the Graduate Endowment, can't you? After being on the Committee as a substitute and voting against the Bill, though, Master Baker said:

Universities have told us they don't have the funds to increase student numbers, which begs the question, how can this bill widen access when there won't be more places for students to take up?
If this bill goes ahead, competition for places is likely to be even fiercer for students from poorer backgrounds, most of whom don't pay the endowment.

What happened to his desire to see free education re-established and then start looking at what else needs done? Nothing to do with seeking to score empty victories over the SNP Government surely?
Think he's bad? What about Karen Whitefield:
The committee remains unconvinced that the removal of graduate endowment goes far enough in removing barriers to access higher education.
So because she can't get from here to there in one giant leap she refuses to take the first step. Truly the mark of incredible genius. Here she is with a huge cake -

Jeremy Purvis of the Lib Dems voted for the Bill but wants to make it a wider student and higher education funding bill. The whole point is to get this bit done and then look at what else needs done.

Conservative Liz Smith who voted against the Bill said:

Abolishing the graduate endowment would do nothing to improve either the teaching capacity or the research facilities in higher education.

And that's not what it's intended to do either!

Remember all those students demonstrating and asking for the abolition of the Graduate Endowment?What do you think they think of Labour betraying them again?


Anonymous said...

I wonder what all those people who voted SNP on the basis of their pledge to wipe out student loan debt are thinking now too?

Calum Cashley said...

Well, I imagine that they're thinking "damned shame the financial settlement from London was ridiculously tight this time, who'd have thought that Labour would play so pettily with Scotland's finances? Still, at least my SNP Government is still fighting for my interests and is still seeking to rid me of the Graduate Endowment Tuition Fee introduced in 2000 by a Liberal Democrat Minister with the full support of the Labour party."

At least, that's what students are telling me.