May Offers Tentative Olive Branch For Students
The government has promised to freeze fees at the current rate of £9,250. In an interview on Sunday with Andrew Marr, Theresa May went back on her campaign pledge to increase tuition fees to £9,500, claiming to have ‘listened to voters’ following the June election.
The U-turn represents just one part of an effort by the Conservatives to tempt young people from the lure of Jeremy Corbyn.
May has also chosen to re-evaluate fee repayment thresholds. The new plan will be officially introduced in the November budget, when graduates will thereafter begin loan repayments once they earn £25,000, not £21,000.
Moreover, in the third prong of this wholesale review of student finance, the prime minister has refused to rule out the introduction of a ‘graduate tax’ – a method of financing higher education.
Clearly, the Conservative Party is attempting to broaden its student support base. Labour, who are intent on abolishing student fees altogether, have labelled May’s so-called ‘Uni-turn’ as “desperate”.
This change of tune embodies only half of May’s double-barrelled attempt to gain support amongst the disillusioned young. The Prime Minister has also promised a £10 billion extension of the Help to Buy scheme, which aids people in the pursuit of owning newly built homes.
Entering the housing market is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges facing young people today; only 20% of twenty-five year olds own a property, down from 46% two decades ago.
The Help to Buy scheme enables buyers to get a mortgage with a deposit of as little as 5%. The government’s proposed extension of the scheme has been predicted to place 135,000 people on the first rungs of the property ladder. The Adam Smith Institute (a right-wing think-tank), however, has likened the proposal to ‘throwing petrol on a bonfire,’ implying that the scheme counter-intuitively serves to push up house prices.
The economic implications of these new proposals are currently unclear and will be judged in due time; but their intention is certain: to right the wrongs of the election and chip away at the youth-sustained surge of Jeremy Corbyn.