Time for action on tuition fees

We have been asked why the PT is publishing Fiona Onasanya’s columns following her conviction at the Old Bailey.

Sunday, 27th January 2019, 5:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 7:10 pm
Fiona Onasanya

Editor - Mark Edwards

Due to be completed in October 2022, the fully-fledged, independent University of Peterborough is an exciting project that will help our great city fulfil its potential. With targets in place to accommodate over 12,000 students by 2035, it is inspiring to see Peterborough embark on an ambitious adventure such as this.

While we already have the University Centre Peterborough incorporated under the Anglia Ruskin banner, a huge and consequential step forward for Higher Education in our city, this venture all but guarantees another aspiring leap.

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Of course, with any project as big as this, there are questions about finances and organisation, but I am sure that Peterborough City Council is aware of the importance this project, particularly when it comes to our local economy. Both established and aspiring businesses will look at Peterborough as an up and coming city with a new student hub – a new and exciting opportunity for investment.

Thinking about the proposals for a University of Peterborough led me to ponder the wider state of Higher Education in our country. It seems utterly absurd to me that the average student will graduate with over £40,000 worth of debt before they even start their career. Moreover, the lack of graduate jobs has meant that many students haven’t even begun paying this back yet.

I’m sure many will agree that education should not be a commodity to be bought and sold. If one wishes to advance their career, pursue a passion or a specific field, they should be encouraged and supported – not lumped with tens of thousands of pounds of debt.

I would be interested to know how many young people have opted against going to university due to either a lack of money or fear of these sky-high fees. It would be a national travesty if young people are being priced out of education and opportunity, and I fear that unless there is huge reform in Higher Education, this will be the inevitable outcome.

Under the Coalition government, tuition fees were trebled to an eye-watering £9,000 a year. Not only that, but maintenance grants for the poorest students were scrapped and replaced with loans – which results in even more needless debt for working-class kids.

It’s time we took action and lifted this dead weight of debt from our young people. Many countries in Northern Europe don’t even have tuition fees – and extend this privilege to British students who wish to study abroad as part of their degree.

My hope is that by the time the University of Peterborough is up and running, the consensus on Higher Education funding in Britain will have changed – and that we start supporting and nurturing the future instead of financially shackling it.

Let’s make university as accessible as possible by scrapping tuition fees and bringing back the lifeline of maintenance grants for the poorest students. That way, we can provide true equality of opportunity for our young people.