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Saturday, 9 May 2009

Reply to Peter black AM on tuition fees.

Thank you for the policy reference here, it certainly is an interesting document full of the usual Liberal Democrat euphemisms. Much of what is proposed is already policy in many institutions. I need not remind you that its Plaid Cymru policy to oppose tuition fees in Wales, unfortunately it cannot be implemented in coalition with a larger party with an alternative policy. It remains Plaid Cymru policy and Plaid Cymru will continue to try and implement its policies at the earliest possible opportunity. Would implementation have been possible in an alternative coalition considering the lack of backbone showed by Liberal Democrats in 2007. I suspect not.

It still doesn’t answer my central charge that Liberal Democrats say ‘we will scrap tuition fees’ without stating what comes in their place and more importantly how it will be funded. This is realpolitik time, the economy is in tatters, Wales has been given a bad Budget Settlement, you cannot consider policies in total isolation of the amount of money available. The closest we get is 'the income they currently receive as a result of fees will continue to be paid by the government.’ Where does the money come from? This will not, for example, close the funding gap between Welsh and English Universities and is a clear financial black hole in your policy.
Its gets even more nebulous – this is the Lib Dem policy - ‘We therefore propose that the government should develop with the banks an accredited Career Development Loan system which would address some of the problems with the current arrangements. The loans would not be state-subsidised in terms of interest repayments like the undergraduate loan scheme.’
Will Career Development Loans have more favourable terms than those offered by the Student Loan Company? If so then how will you legislate to such effect? (Note:- ‘Interest repayments’ are a contradiction in terms. The term ‘interest’ is a payment for borrowing money whilst the term ‘repayments’ gives back money that has been borrowed from others and applies to ‘capital’ not ‘trading’ items. Lets assume what you mean are ‘interest payments’). There is absolutely no proof whatsoever that students will be better off with Career Development Loans and, since this is meant to be a commercial arrangement, might indeed be worse off. If there are no interest subsidies then it will cost the individual more.
Transferable and flexible credits are an interesting idea but incur additional administration costs not budgeted for in the document, another financial black hole.
Finally, the document requires corrections. Foundation degrees are not old HND, they are 2 different forms of learning which do and can run together. We do it successfully here at IBERS Aberystwyth.
The General Election campaign over the next year will provide the opportunity for closer scrutiny of Liberal Democrat policies. "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

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