The vice-chancellor of the University of Northampton has reiterated his “significant concerns” about Labour’s plans to reduction student tuition fees to £6,000.
On Monday, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills, Liam Byrne MP enjoyed a tour of the university and Northampton College and meet Professor Nick Petford, Northampton’s vice-chancellor, as well as college principal Pat Brennan-Barratt.
Mr Byrne talked to the education leaders about Labour’s policy to reduce the student tuition fee cap from £9,000 to £6,000 from autumn 2016.
If the party wins power, it also plans to increase the education maintenance support grant from £3,400 to £3,800. The policy would mainly be paid for through cutting pension tax relief.
Following his discussion with Mr Byrne, Professor Petford, who was one of the signatories to a recent letter to The Times last month expressing concerns about the reduction in tuition fees, said he was not completely assured that the gap in funding to university’s would be made up.
He said: “I was one of the signatories to the UUK letter to The Times last month expressing concern that any cut in fees must be accompanied by a cast iron guarantee that the shortfall to universities of £10 billion over five years will be met in full.
“Since the announcement I am expressing support for the assurance that the gap in funding to institutions would be made up, and that maintenance grants to students would be increased, but also reiterating my significant concerns about the implications of the policy, not least in terms of the substantial pressure that it would place on the remaining Business, Innovation and Skills budget and in particular funding for research and innovation. “
At Northampton College, Mr Byrne, who was accompanied by prospective candidate for Northampton North Sally Keeble, was given a tour of the art facilities at the Booth Lane campus and spoke to students in the library, and in IT, media and communication classes.
The minister also talked to students about the significance of apprenticeships and how important they were as a route into a job with training that is highly valued by employers.
Mr Byrne said: “The facilities here are just stunning and what’s brilliant is the passion you’ve got for learning and helping young people to be the best that they can be.
“What you’ve done is to match that ambition with some incredibly well-judged investment in creating both great teaching staff and just some brilliant 21st century facilities and you leave with a feeling that young people are very lucky to have such an incredible springboard into the future.”
Principal Pat Brennan-Barratt said, “We’re extremely proud of our college and I’m delighted that this has been recognised by Liam Byrne on his visit today. It’s been a pleasure to show off our fantastic facilities, students and dedicated staff and to share our college with members of the wider community.”