Ruffley backs scrapping of university fees for students in Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket

Monday, 13 September, 2004

David Ruffley MP this week announced that the Conservatives will abolish university tuition fees. Conservatives' radical plans will boost higher education funding, scrap tuition fees, reduce student debt and provide for an extra £21 billion investment in universities. Local Conservatives have been pleased by the positive response nationally to this new policy.

This would save students and their families across Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket up to £3,000 a year each when the Government introduces its planned top-up fees. Across Bury St Edmunds, Stowmarket and the surrounding villages, there are over 3,000 full-time students aged 18 or over who might benefit from this policy, and more than 4,500 students aged 16-17, many of whom may soon go to university.

David Ruffley explained:

'Labour betrayed students by breaking their promises at two general elections not to introduce fees. They have let down hard-working families across Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket, leaving young people with huge debts when they start work. Labour's interference in admissions has also tied universities tied up in red tape.

'This Government claims it is giving more money to poorer students, but it is taking it straight back through soaring fees. Under a Conservative Government there will be lower student debt and grants for poorer students.'

Under proposals to restore free access to higher education, tuition and top-up fees will be abolished with students instead paying a commercial rate of interest of around 6.5 per cent on loans. Grants will be retained for poorer students.

As part of the £21 billion package for universities, £3 billion will go directly into modernising teaching facilities, with the expensive university Access Regulator and the Government's 50 per cent admissions target both being abolished, freeing up funding.

David Ruffley continued:

'Labour have broken their promise and scrapped free higher education. We will keep our promise.

'Our policy is fairer than the Liberal Democrat alternative- in Scotland, they still charge tuition fees to students after they graduate. Worse, Liberal Democrats would force the poorest students in Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket to live at home and would not guarantee university students a full three-year course.'