Clegg's TV victory boosts Lib Dem lead

April 22, 2010

At the midway point in the general election campaign, "Cleggmania" appears to be gripping the academy as strongly as other constituencies.

An online survey of Times Higher Education readers indicates that the Liberal Democrats' popularity has grown within the sector - at the expense of Labour - in the wake of the first televised leaders' debate last week, in which Nick Clegg shone for the Lib Dems.

In the two weeks since the previous THE poll results, 62 per cent of respondents say they plan to vote Lib Dem, 20 per cent Labour and 12 per cent Conservative.

In the previous poll, conducted before the start of the campaign, 40 per cent said they intended to vote Lib Dem, 33 per cent Labour and 15 per cent Tory.

The Lib Dems have been riding a wave of popularity since the leaders' debate, and secured even more support among THE readers for their higher education policies, including phasing out tuition fees.

Their policies were supported by 67 per cent of readers, followed by Labour (17 per cent) and the Conservatives (10 per cent).

The poll, which is intended to offer only a snapshot of feeling within the academy, also asked readers their preferred outcome from the ongoing review of fees.

Some 56 per cent want fees to be scrapped, 23 per cent prefer no change to the fee cap, 17 per cent favour a £5,000 cap, 6 per cent want a £7,000 cap and 4 per cent back an unregulated market in fees.

The Lib Dems were the last of the three main parties to publish their manifesto last week. In higher education, they pledge to:

- Merge the Higher Education Funding Council for England with the Skills Funding Agency to form a single Council for Adult Skills and Higher Education

- Ditch the government's target for 50 per cent of young people to attend university, and consider guaranteeing places for the best students from low-achieving schools

- Phase out tuition fees over six years, while setting up a national bursary scheme to support "strategic subjects" and students in financial hardship

- Ring-fence the science budget.

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