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December 14, 2010

Live blog on Lords tuition fees vote

This afternoon, the House of Lords will debate and vote on the government's proposals to raise tuition fees in English universities to up to £9,000.

William Cullerne Bown and Laura Hood will be blogging below as it all happens.

Bookmark this page and come back at any time for by-the-moment news, instant analysis and comment on  what is said.

No fancy technology. Refresh your browser for updates. Read from the bottom up.

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20:37 No real surprises in this result, it appeared clear from the start that the government would prevail. However, Triesman put up a good fight. This blog will be updated when the individual votes are published, but for now, we are signing out. Thanks everyone for joining. 

20:22 And the proposal to increase to £9k is passed 273 votes for to 200 votes against

20.15 Next the vote to increase fees to a maximum of £9,000

20:15 And Triesman is defeated. Peers agreeing to the amendment number 215. Peers disagreeing number 283

19:58 awaiting decision on Triesman's amendment, which would negate the Commons vote and stop the increased fees proposal in its tracks

19:55 And now Triesman sums up for the opposition. He appeals to the peers to vote for his amendment if they don't feel that the evidence for the government proposal is there. The debate cannot be properly held until the other bits of the picture are in front of the house following the publication of a white paper

19:50 The UCU tweets that it is "quite stunned" by some of the things Lord Ashdown said earlier

19:42 on accusations that the proposal is being rushed through, Henley argues that by the summer, students will already be choosing the university they wish to attend. Everyone needs to know where they stand by then.

19:39 Lord Henley is summing up for the government. He continues to argue that the proposal is fair, despite some pretty convincing arguments to the contrary from some very passionate peers

19:28 Baroness Hollins raises the important question of the costs associated with studying 45 hours a week for five years to get a medical degree and how to prevent students from lower income families from being put off from a career as a doctor as a result of higher fees

19:25 Ashdown says he sees no problem in saddling young people with large amounts of debt, we already think it's fine to let them take out large mortgages. Why not make them pay back on their 'intellectual property' as well?

19:18 Ashodown says that he tried to talk the Lib Dems out of their stance against fees as far back as 1998. We've had to ammend the view we took, he says, but did so to form a coalition government to guide the country out of crisis.

19:17 This is a highly dangerous situation and the government has still not engaged with the students on the issue, says Lord Winston

19:02 Aaron Porter tweets: "cross-benchers in the Lords appear to be coming out in favour of a delay to tuition fees. Wonder if the Lords can force a Govt defeat?"

If John Krebs' powerful speech is anything to go by, the NUS president has got a point.

19:01 University is not like toothpaste or a fizzy drink, says Krebs: the market will not necessarily deliver what the nation needs. It needs deliberation

18:54 Lord Krebs, principal of Jesus College Oxford and chairman of the Lords science committee, says he is backing Triesman's fatal amendment: No, the proposals are not fair; no, they do not make HE more sustainable; and no, we don't understand their consequences

18:53 Blackstone says that Labour would have cut teaching funding, but not to this extent.

18:45 Martin Rees is sitting next to John Browne in the back row. Do they agree on this?

18:44 A quick summary on what Margaret Sharp said. It doesn’t look like she will be voting with the government. She ended her speech by saying there are things she likes in the package, but - with visibly heavy heart - “other elements that I don’t understand and are unfair.” Sharp’s main concerns seem to have been that poor students will be put
off, that the level of debt is just too high (£80,000 for a couple), that the “very high” 9% level of tax will last for 30 years for many. Oh, and what David Willetts railed against in The Pinch, that baby boomers are dumping the problem on the next generation. She’s also unhappy with the financing mechanisms. Thanks to HEPI, IFS and London Economics, she suspects the government’s loss on the loans will be more than the 28 per cent the Treasury has estimated. But even
on the Treasury’s own assumptions, the loss is more or less what it is saving in cuts from the BIS budget. “Down the line, the cost is just the same,” she says. In other words, what’s the point of all this upheaval? But Sharp did not tell us whether she will vote with the Opposition or abstain on the amendments. She’s not trying to rouse a rebellion.

18:40 Baroness Blackstone, vice-chancellor of the University of Greenwich and former minister, says teaching funding is an investment, not a subsidy. Removing funding for most subjects has caused despair in the sector. No other country has removed teaching funding for the main part.

18:35 Baroness Greenfield has apparently told the BBC that she will be voting against the increase

18:29 Lord Giddens is highlighting the many ways in which the US university system differs to ours. There are strong measures to widen participation, a credit system that makes it easier for students to opt in and out during their studies and universities with huge endowments. We are getting all the negative aspects of the US system under this proposal without the benefits

18:27 Despite all the merits of the proposed system, it is unfair, she says. However, she is attacking Labour, who have been hypocritical. Labour introduced fees, commissioned the Browne review and initially rejected a graduate tax. She does not say how she will vote

18:25 Repayments at 9% are in effect a 30 year graduate tax. I feel that we, who did not pay for our education, are lumbering the younger generation with substantial debt, she says.

18:22 Whatever people say about students being used to debt, she says, work by the Sutton Trust does show very clearly that a sharp hike in fees may make students very uncertain about whether they want to go to university. The larger loans means they are less likely to be paid off in the end.

18:21 but here come her 'substantial reservations'

18:19 Margaret Sharp, the 'undecided' Lib Dem  spokeswoman for education says she has some sympathy for Cable's proposals

18:15 He warns against seeing education as a market commodity rather than as something for the common good. A wide range of subjects must be offered.

18:09 It seems the Church of England is not entirely on board with this either. The Rev John Saxbee, chairman of its education board, questions whether the normalisation of this kind of debt is morally defensible or socially sustainable

17:55 Over at Channel 4, Gary Gibbon says Lib Dems expect the revolt among its Lords to be counted on one hand. "The Great Unknown in tonight’s vote," he says,  "is the Crossbenchers, but a significant proportion of them have university posts of one kind or another and their university friends are thought to be leaving them in no doubt that they want tonight’s vote passed.

17:53 Browne—Living costs during studies are what puts students off, says Browne, not tuition fees, which don't have to be paid back until after graduation

17:52 We recommended lifting the cap on student numbers as well as on fees, says Browne. Allowing institutions to grow in response to student needs is critical to the success of the sector

17:50 Lord Browne, who made these proposals in the first place, is up to speak. He says that he supports the government motion even though some of the proposals deviate from his report.

17:47 Cut on this level would never have been considered, he responds

17:45 Lord Ashdown asks Triesman how the Labour party would fill the gap left by the necessary sharp drop in funding

17:40 He appeals to the business people in the Lords. Would any of them disregard the effect cost has on demand? No sane person would make decisions like this in business without doing the market research. This proposal lacks the rudimentary science on which policy should be based.

17:38 Where too is the study on the impact of the proposals on women—those most likely to take career breaks?

17:34 Triesman—There is not a prayer of encouraging more lower income students to apply for university. Triesman wants to see the specific research on the "appetite for debt" among these families. These people suffer it but don't welcome it, perhaps there is too little experience of debt in the government to really understand this.

17.33 "it is, straightforwardly, undeclared privatisation of our universities"

17:31 Did Browne know about the cuts to come when he made the proposals? Triesman wants to know. If not, he was surely aiming for increased investments

17:29 He says that one vice-chancellor has told him that the government is somewhat disingenuous when it says it has the support of university leaders (as Vince Cable did in the Commons debate) it is, in fact a Hobson's choice. They are being forced to charge rates that no other country has contemplated.

17:26 Universiites will charge the top rate, he says. Any university charging less than around £7k will actually lose money

17:15 Commissioning a report does not necessarily mean agreeing with it. Labour commissioned the Browne review under very different crcumstances and it would be foolish not to disucuss it. This proposal changes everything, says Triesman

17:14 Lord Triesman on his proposed amendment—it's unfortunate but necessary. The consequences for the future of higher education policy and the damage the propsals will do cannot go unchallenged.

17:13 He says Lord Bilimoria's call for introducing fee increases gradually rather than all at once would be damaging

17:09 He reminds the house that Triesman's 'fatal' amendement would stop the fees proposal in its tracks

 17:08 Lord Henley opens the debate. He opposes the amendments and motions tabled to prevent the vote

16:29 Students are apparently planning a last-minute protest at the Lords during the debate

15:44 Welcome to today's live blog. The Lords will debate fees this afternoon now that the governmen has won the House of Commons vote on the subject. The coalition has a majority of 40 in the Lords but that doesn't guarantee an easy ride. Labour peer David Triesman has tabled an amendment in a bid to delay the vote and education spokeswoman Margaret Sharp says she is still undecided.

 

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