Lib Dems divided over fees

March 8, 1996

A split emerged this week among Liberal Democrat students over their party's latest higher education plans.

Mixed messages are emanating from the Liberal Democrat Youth and Students group in response to proposals that could result in students paying an extra Pounds 400 per year on average to cover fees andmaintenance.

Last week, the group's press office, based at Liberal Democrat headquarters, was directing press requests for comments on the proposals to Charles Anglin, the only National Union of Students national executive member elected on a Liberal Democrat ticket.

Mr Anglin asserted that Liberal Democrat students were likely to support the plans, contained in the new policy paper, The Key to Lifelong Learning. This was because increased student contributions were a "realistic" and "vital" step towards ensuring adequate higher education funding in the future.

But this week the group's senior executive condemned Mr Anglin's views, pointing out that a recent Youth and Students' conference had reiterated support for the principle of "free" higher education, with extra costs met by the taxpayer.

Tim Prater, the group's chairman, said he expected considerable opposition to some of the policy paper's proposals at the Liberal Democrats' Easter conference in Nottingham next weekend.

Most Liberal Democrat students wanted to retain the party's plans for student support to be linked to the benefits system, and for all fees to be covered by the state, he said.

The new policy paper, unveiled by party leader Paddy Ashdown, two weeks ago, calls for increased contributions from students, employers and the Government to cover maintenance and fees.

"We do not believe the costs of the original proposals would be as high as some believe, and we will be asking the party in Nottingham to retain its commitment to free education at all levels," Mr Prater added.

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