Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps defends tuition fees increase

GRANT Shapps has defended his decision to vote in favour of increasing tuition fees, following criticism from the President of the University of Hertfordshire’s Students’ Union.

Ahead of a vote in the House of Commons on Thursday, the Welwyn Hatfield MP has responded to claims by union president Nica de Koenigswarter that the Government is “ignoring” the needs of prospective students by increasing the cap on tuition fees to a maximum �9,000 a year.

Ms de Koenigswarter this week urged Mr Shapps to consider the needs of the 24,000 students currently at the Hatfield-based uni, and also the families of children approaching higher education who may be put off by the fees hike.

“The Students’ Union feels a case has not been made to increase the tuition fee cap to �9,000, and it has not been made clear what students and their families would receive in return for huge increases in fees,” Ms de Koenigswarter said.

“The Government is ignoring the probability that with much higher fee levels, prospective students - especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds - will change their behaviour and make judgements primarily on prices, costs, and debt.”

Mr Shapps responded, saying: “I think it’s important to appreciate the facts rather than the rhetoric.

“The actual rise is from �3,300 up to �6,000, with exceptions made for top universities who will be able to charge �9,000, but only where they demonstrate they will make additional access to provisions for less well-off students.

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“Currently, someone has to start repaying their loan when they earn just �15,000 per annum. However, under these changes no one will have to repay a penny until they earn �21,000 - which is pretty close to the average salary.

“The repayments start at a very low figure. For example, someone earning �26,000 will repay only �30 per month direct from their salary.”

But Mr Shapps, a father of three young children, added: “Nica is right to say that it is a big issue for children like mine who will possibly go to university in the future.

However, we have to face reality in this country. The nation has been taken to the brink of bankruptcy.

“The fact is that someone who goes to University typically earns a lot more over their life time than someone who doesn’t. It’s therefore right that they contribute more.”