Gareth Wilson

Liberal Democrat Campaigner for Haddenham & Aldreth Learn more


by Gareth Wilson on 8 December, 2010

Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg claimed today that the Government’s higher education reforms would turn universities into “engines of social mobility” as he tried to stave off a damaging Liberal Democrat rebellion.In an article for the Financial Times today, Mr Clegg suggested the Government faced a choice between increasing fees or having to “slash university places”He acknowledged that the plans were “controversial” but insisted they were “the fairest way” to support higher education while cutting the deficit.In an ideal world it would not be necessary to ask graduates to pay more towards the cost of their degree. But we do not live in an ideal world. We have an economic mess to clear up,” he wrote.Former Education Secretary and founder of the SDP, Shirley Williams, talked about the Governments plans on the World at One on BBC Radio 4.Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and other Liberal Democrat ministers in the coalition government have battled tirelessly to make the system fairer. Part-time students are now included, and students earning less than £21,000 when they graduate will not pay at all. There will also be a scholarship scheme to help students from low-income families.Increases in fees are never popular, but at a tough time, the least able to pay them will get the help they need. Given the scale of the UK’s financial crisis, no government could afford to meet the universities’ huge requirements for additional funding without an increase in tuition fees.Former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown said he would vote in favour of the tuition fee reforms, and defended Mr Clegg’s handling of the situation.When you are in coalition with another party there will always be “some things you like and some things you don’t like“, he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.The peer insisted his party was “going to go through its process” to hammer out a position, and each MP would have to decide whether they could support the measures.I personally think that Nick has handled this with great wisdom and a great deal of courage,” he added, “at the moment they (the public) are just not listening, Nick could deliver the Sermon on the Mount, they are just not listening.”
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