Posted on Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 2:16pm
I’ve just read Adam Price’s blog on student finance in Wales. The consultation comes to an end on Monday, and I have to say that I am disapointed that we, in Plaid, are not responding to the consultation as I was led to believe from our National Council meeting before Christmas. I was not on the group, and therefore did not have an input in to the discussion. I will now draft a letter and send it in as part of my own individual response as an AM.
Personally, I thought that it would have been an obvious opportunity for us to reaffirm our stance on top-up fees by responding, and our plegdge in 7 4 07 against the introduction of top-up fees in Wales. Adam indicates that there may be a discussion in our National Council on the topic, but there was a discussion in the last National Council which consisted of us agreeing to set up a consultation group to respond. What can we discuss in the National Council that will be guaranteed to be taken on board by the Minister and her officials if we do not provide formal evidence?
I am intrigued by Adam’s ideas surrounding introducing a ‘progressive and hypothecated graduate tax payable over twenty or twenty five years’. I would welcome a discussion on this in National Council, but I think that we should look at what Scotland are doing, and look at how it would be different to their system, as the SNP are currently looking in to scrapping the graudate endowment tax. Fiona Hyslop MSP has previously stated ‘the tax was a “very complicated and inefficient way” of raising money for poorer students, and operated as a“back-end” tuition fee, which stopped poor students entering university.
Adam notes on his blog that ‘since the remit was written by the Minister you can’t help thinking that the ink on this particular policy was pretty dry some time ago – whatever the results of the consultation’. I’d like to think that this wasn’t the case, and that the Minister will look at all the consutlation responses in a neutral capacity, yet as I have said before, the consultation was announced at a time of year when it was very inconvenient for student bodies to respond, and the timeline was not extended to reflect the desire to encourage more input from the wider population, or promoted as such.
Yes, people will read this as an internal problem within the Government. That is all fair and well, but if I remain quiet and do not raise my concerns over an issue that is so important to me, then my silence will make me complicit in a policy initiative which I am uneasy with. I’m willing to see what the Minister has to offer, to see if Plaid’s debt right off agenda has been thought out and developed, but I am am fundamentally opposed to the concept of facilitating the development of a market in the HE sector, and I agree with Adam when he says ‘the bigger underlying problems with the policy are that it represents a craven acceptance of the whole idea of tuition fees and the logic of a marketplace in education and it cements in people’s minds the connection between education and debt’.
In a time of economic insecurity, when young peope are suffering more than other generations in finding jobs after graduating, when they are saddled with huge amounts of debt, is pursuing such a policy a wise move for the One Wales government? If the UK does not lift the cap on fees, will the government still go ahead with this policy?
I’m sure that this matter will raise its head again, and I hope there are ways in which we can negotiate a policy that will be progressive and forward thinking- one that will not pander to the Westminster market led agenda.