Sat, 07 Mar 2009
The Liberal Democrat Spring Conference today backed plans to reaffirm the party's opposition to university tuition fees, and voted to extend the policy of free tuition to part time students.
The proposals, which aim to make high quality education and training available to all, include:
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Innovation, Universities and Skills Secretary, Stephen Williams said:
"Bright young people are potentially being put off going to university by the thought of being saddled with £10k in tuition fee debt."
"The Liberal Democrats believe that everyone deserves the chance to develop the skills and knowledge that will give them the best opportunities in life."
"That's why we are committed to scrapping tuition fees for full and part-time students, and improving access to apprenticeships so that everyone can get the best from their education."
THE FULL TEXT OF THE MOTION INCORPORATING THE TWO PASSED AMENDMENTS IS BELOW
F8 Investing in Talent, Building the Economy (Adult Further and Higher Education Policy Paper)
Federal Policy Committee
Mover: Stephen Williams MP (Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills)
Summation: David Howarth MP (Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Justice)
Conference believes that high quality education and training, accessible to all, is crucial to the achievement of a fair, free and open society, in that:
A. It helps people gain the skills, knowledge and aspiration to move out of poverty.
B. It develops their intellectual capabilities so that they can overcome ignorance.
C. It boosts their individual self-esteem so that they have the confidence to challenge conformity.
D. It improves the productivity of the nation and employers.
E. Above all, it widens people's horizons and opens up new choices and experiences to them.
Conference affirms that the key principles on which we base our adult further education and higher education policy should be:
i) The creation of a climbing frame for learning which provides for each student a choice of ‘pathways' from basic skills to higher level qualifications and the opportunity at every stage to move sideways and upwards rather than just up a straight ladder, mixing academic and practical learning to achieve success by following a variety of routes.
ii) The creation of a level playing field in which both tuition and maintenance support is offered equitably to those studying part time and full time, in adult further and higher education, and in universities, colleges and work-based settings.
Conference recalls that Liberal Democrats opposed the introduction of tuition fees and top-up fees, and reaffirms the policy of free tuition for first Higher Education degree qualifications, while also extending it to part-time students; this effectively extends the two-year entitlement given to young people in Policy Paper 89, Equality and Excellence, to an entitlement of up to five years free tuition for a qualification up to and including first degree level, to be taken full-time or part-time, as suits the individual.
Conference therefore endorses Policy Paper 90, Investing in Talent, Building the Economy, as a statement of the party's policies for Adult Further and Higher Education, and in particular welcomes proposals to:
1. Promote a coherent approach across the Adult FE and HE sectors by:
a) Replacing the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCA) and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) with a single Council for Adult Skills and Higher Education, while transferring 16-19 LSC funding for education and training, including apprenticeships, to local authorities.
b) Developing a credit-based framework for learning across the FE and HE sectors, using a modular system with funding following the student.
2. Improve opportunities for Adult Further Education by:
a) Covering the full fee costs for first level 3 qualifications (eg. A-levels, Advanced Apprenticeships and NVQ Level 3) for all adults (including those aged over 25).
b) Making maintenance grants available to adult first level 3 FE students at the same level and on the same means-tested basis as for full-time HE students.
c) Enhancing provision for Adult Community Education.
d) Redirecting resources from the employer-led Train to Gain programme into Adult Education, Adult FE, and Adult Apprenticeships.
3. Strengthen Adult Apprenticeships by:
a) Fully funding the off-the-job training costs of apprenticeships.
b) Developing a national application system for apprenticeships similar to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).
4. Enhance University education and research by:
a) Developing a common recognised teaching qualification for university lecturers which should first be introduced as an element of doctoral programmes to train all new entrants to university teaching, before ultimately being extended to all those teaching in HE.
b) Developing doctoral programmes which better prepare graduates for the research world.
c) Resisting moves to concentrate research in a handful of universities and creating mechanisms to ensure that strategically important new research areas are supported.
d) Developing with the banks a Career Development Loan scheme to assist students to undertake postgraduate study.
5. Maximise opportunities for study at HE level, and reduce the long-term debt burden on students by:
a) Abolishing fees for first Higher Education degree qualifications, whether studied full or part time.
b) Improving access to Higher Education for under-represented groups through transparent and fair admissions criteria which take into account educational background when considering attainment.
c) Reversing cuts to provision for study of Equivalent and Lower Qualifications.
d) Reforming the existing bursary scheme to make it available more fairly across universities on the basis of encouraging study of shortage subjects, and rewarding good performance at University.
6. Defend and strengthen academic freedom and free expression on campus by guaranteeing research and publication freedom and removing unjustified and arbitrary restrictions - such as ‘No Platform' policies - on lawful association and lawful free expression.
Conference also notes that British participation rates in international education exchanges are amongst the lowest in Europe and declining; and affirms that time spend studying and working abroad facilitates intercultural dialogue, boosts independence and stimulates competitiveness.
Conference therefore calls for measures to encourage students and educators to take full advantage of opportunities to study and work abroad, such as the ERASMUS programme.
Applicability: England only
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