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Launching the party’s education manifesto in central London on 9 April, Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said the additional investment in careers advice was required to help teenagers make informed decisions about their future.
“Young people must be equipped with the right skills, the right knowledge and the right advice they need to succeed,” said Mr Miliband.
Labour has said it would use a proportion of universities’ existing access and outreach spending to fund the initiative.
However, neither Mr Miliband’s speech nor Labour policy documents provided any further detail on this.
Institutions will spend more than £700 million on widening participation in 2017-18, Labour says.
Universities in England are currently required to reach an access agreement with the Office for Fair Access, the sector’s access watchdog, if they wish to charge more than the “basic fee” of £6,000 a year. An institution’s plans to help disadvantaged students are then funded from a portion of the fees above £6,000.
The £50 million Labour plans to spend on careers advice would apparently come from this cash, which is presently spent by institutions.
Liam Byrne, the shadow universities, science and skills minister, has said the access regime would get a “reboot” under Labour’s policy to lower fees to £6,000.
The party would need to lower the “basic fee” from its present £6,000 if it wanted the Offa regime to continue.
Pam Tatlow, chief executive of Million+, said: “If the maximum tuition fee was lowered to £6,000 per year there would be a very strong case to reduce the lower fee cap to £3,000.
“This would ensure that all institutions charging fees in excess of £3,000 would need to agree an access agreement with the Office For Fair Access. However, universities and students would need to be fully consulted prior to access monies being used to partially fund any new careers service.”
The University and College Union also welcomed the commitments to improve careers advice for school children, but called for Labour to spell out its plans for adult education.