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Clegg needs to back up his talk with action on education January 1, 2011

Posted by AaronPorter in Uncategorized.
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Clegg needs to back up his talk with action on education

Originally written for Liberal Conspiracy on August 20, 2010 at 11:30 am
http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/08/20/clegg-needs-to-back-up-his-talk-with-action-on-education/

contribution by Aaron Porter

Whilst David Cameron is away Nick Clegg has seized his moment in the spotlight and made a speech espousing the Government’s commitment to social mobility and to decry a “poverty of opportunity”.

The Universities Minister, David Willetts, has said himself that 3,500 straight A students missed out on a university place last year, a situation that will only get worse.

The inevitable result of this is that applications will be judged on peripheral achievements only available to the privileged few – extra curricular activities, personal tutors, application coaching, etc.

But, placing an artificial cap on the number of places is likely to exclude those from less-affluent backgrounds first.

University must be open to all those who have the ability and the ambition. It must not be blocked by fear of mortgage-style debts foisted on young people as they start their careers, which the evidence suggests is more likely to deter poorer applicants.

Neither will this be achieved by savage funding cuts to universities or caps on the number of places, which bear no relation to the higher level skills the economy will need, or to an international context in which UK spending on higher education lags well behind the international average, and countries such as France and the United States.

Young people are currently caught in a perfect storm of already high unemployment, education cuts, a lack of education and training opportunities, and a lack of entry level jobs. The coalition government has done little to suggest that they are awake to the threat of a generation lost to a lack of opportunity and risk of being consigned to the dole queue with all the social and economic costs that entails.

The Government’s axing of the Future Jobs Fund and cuts to the education and training guarantees for young people do not bode well for my generation.

All Liberal Democrat MPs, including Clegg and Cable, have signed a pledge to oppose higher top-up fees and work for a more progressive system of university funding and if Nick Clegg is really committed to social mobility he will make sure that his government creates a fairly funded university system that has space enough for all those who have the ability and ambition to be part of it.

Investment in students and universities brings with it a multitude of returns, and the Government must recognise this. A generation of young people needs action rather than words from Ministers who profess to care about their plight.

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