The ability of universities to attract funding to maintain top quality research activity and deliver the best teaching depends on being open and outward looking. The ability to attract and retain the best staff and students in our world class universities is vital. Brexit undermines these at every turn.
In government, Liberal Democrats established a fairer system such that that no undergraduate student in England had to pay a penny of their tuition fees up front or pay anything afterwards until they earn over £21,000 per year. This meant that only high-earning graduates would pay their tuition fees in full, and eliminated systematic discrimination against part-time students. We now have the highest university application rates ever, including from disadvantaged students. But the Conservatives are threatening to undermine opportunity by ending student bursaries, freezing the repayment threshold and raising the level of fees. We will:
- Reinstate maintenance grants for the poorest students, ensuring that living costs are not a barrier to disadvantaged young people studying at university.
- Establish a review of higher education finance in the next Parliament to consider any necessary reforms, in the light of the latest evidence of the impact of the existing financing system on access, participation and quality, and make sure there are no more retrospective raising of rates, or selling-off of loans to private companies.
- Ensure that all universities work to widen participation across the sector, prioritising their work with students in schools and colleges, and require every university to be transparent about selection criteria.
- Reverse the damage to universities and academics by changing the country’s course away from a Hard Brexit.
- Recognise the value of international staff to universities and promote international collaboration.
- Fight to retain access to Horizon 2020 and Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions funding.
- Reinstate quality assurance for universities applying for degree-awarding powers.