Clegg: ‘Breaking promise on fees was heart-wrenching’

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has described the coalition government’s decision to increase university tuition fees – which went against pledges he made before the election – as “heart-wrenching” in his speech to the Liberal Democrat conference.

September 21, 2011

The Lib Dem leader said the move had been “by far the most painful” part of moving from opposition to government but insisted that the party had done “the best thing we could” given the “simple truth” was that both Labour and Conservatives were set on raising fees.

Addressing conference delegates in Birmingham this afternoon, Mr Clegg said: “Government has brought difficult decisions. Of course the most heart wrenching for me, for all of us, was on university funding.

“Like all of you, I saw the anger. I understand it, I felt it, I have learned from it and I know how much damage this has done to us as a party.

“[It has been] by far the most painful part of our transition from the easy promises of opposition to the invidious choices of government.”

He said the experience had taught him that despite working hard on the details of the policy, it made no difference “if the perception is wrong”.

“We failed to explain that there were no other easy options. And we have failed so far to show that the new system will be much, much better than people fear,” he said.

Mr Clegg also praised his deputy leader, Simon Hughes, who he said had been “busting a gut” as the government’s higher education access advocate despite having reservations about the policy when it was first proposed.

“Simon didn’t like the decision we made, and for reasons I respect. But rather than sitting back he has rolled up his sleeves and got on with making the new system work,” he said.

simon.baker@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy