MPs who broke vow on tuition fees ‘must resign’

MORE than half of parents with children aged 18 and under say MPs who broke a pledge they signed in 2010 to vote against increasing tuition fees should not stand at the 2015 general election, a new poll shows.

The National Union of Students (NUS) and YouGov poll released today also shows that nearly half – 45 per cent – of parents questioned think MPs who broke this pledge should resign.

More than six in 10 would not vote for an MP who broke this pledge.

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The poll results coincides with today’s NUS demonstration Educate, Employ, Empower in central London to protest at Government education reforms and call for investment in education and employment.

The survey follows the pledge signed by Liberal Democrat MPs before the last election to oppose any increase in tuition fees.

Later that year the coalition Government almost trebled the maximum fee level to £9,000-a-year.

The majority of universities in Yorkshire are charging top level fees of £9,000-a-year for students starting degree courses this September.

More than half of parents with children aged 18 and under disagreed with the statement “MPs who broke the pledge had a hard decision to make and should be forgiven” and just one in five – 18 per cent – agreed.

Liam Burns, NUS President, said: “Nick Clegg won the trust and votes of young people and their parents by signing the pledge, but has now lost them once and for all by breaking it.”

The Deputy Prime Minister and Sheffield Hallam MP issued an apology for breaking the pledge earlier this year.

Mr Burns also warned that students were being left with “a sense of desperation” for their futures amid major changes to education and a tough employment market.

The prospect of leaving university thousands of pounds in debt and facing a scramble for graduate jobs is a major concern, according to the NUS president.

Speaking before thousands of UK students are set to gather for a demonstration in London today, Mr Burns said there were strong feelings on campuses around the country about education reforms including the move to treble tuition fees and financial support for students as well as youth unemployment.

“Today’s students know they are going to be tens of thousands of pounds in debt before they even graduate and they know there’s little prospect of graduate employment”, he said.

“There’s a sense of desperation that people have.”

He added: “They’re slowly seeing opportunities being taken away, and are powerless to do anything about it.”

Ministers’ decision to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) – a grant for the poorest teenagers to help them stay in school or college – has had the biggest impact, Mr Burns said, while the final outcome of the decision to raise tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000 per year is not yet known.

Another survey by the NUS reveals students’ concerns about money, with the union suggesting the UK could be heading for an “epidemic of university dropouts”.

More than two in five of those surveyed said they have seriously considered leaving their course.

Of these, almost half of undergraduates said money worries were a key factor in considering whether to drop out.

The poll also found that 47 per cent of undergraduates say they are unable to concentrate on their studies without worrying about finances.

Mr Burns said today’s demonstration is a chance for students to pass on their feelings to Government and call on politicians to offer a better deal.

He added: “I don’t think anyone would blame students for exercising their democratic right to protest that Government is not doing well enough.

“We are not just taking action to try and stop something, this is almost to try and say that we think education is on the wrong path,” Mr Burns said.

He added: “It’s also a call to politicians of all colours to say we need a different direction in 2015.”

Students will march from central London to Kennington Park in south London where a rally is due to take place.

Among those expected to speak at the demonstration are comedian Josie Long, columnist Owen Jones, singer Grace Petrie and a number of union leaders.