Jeremy Corbyn, an outside contender to lead the UK’s Labour Party, has surged in popularity while saying higher education should be free for students. Corbyn argues tuition fees can be funded by increasing corporate tax by 0.5% to 20.5% and by having high-earning individuals contribute more toward National Insurance.
Corbyn’s statements og against the legacy of the Labour Party on tuition fees. Labour introduced tuition fees in 1999 at the rate of £1,000. In 2010, the Coalition government increased tuition fees to £9,000.
Britain’s tuition fee rate is among the highest in Europe with graduates owing on average $68,000 when they complete their studies. An Institute of Fiscal Studies report in 2013 said that British students will repay their debt well into their fifties.
The veteran left-winger addressed young people in an interview with the Huffington Post and pitched his idea with an apology:
“I want to apologize on behalf of the Labour party to the last generation of students for the imposition of fees, top-up fees and the replacement of grants with loans by previous Labour governments. I opposed those changes at the time – as did many others – and now we have an opportunity to change course,” he said.
His £10 billion plan to scrap tuition fees could be possible by having people with a salary of more than £50,000 contribute 7% more to National Insurance. Another way to collect the money necessary is by slowing down deficit reduction.
Chuka Umunna, Labour’s shadow business secretary and himself a candidate for party leadership before dropping out, commented on Corbyn’s move:
“I don’t buy the argument that somehow a more full-throated left advocation of Labour values is somehow more true to our values – I don’t believe it is.” He continued:
“If we want to be an alternative and put ourselves forward as a serious, credible alternative party of government than we’ve gotta wake up and deal with the world as it is … I’m sorry, the left of our party have no monopoly on the desire to build a fairer and more equal society.”
Corbyn’s suggested policy was welcomed by UCU, the trade union of academics and lecturers. Union leader Sally Hunt said that businesses should play their part since they too benefit from higher education.
According to the Guardian, the Corbyn tried to strengthen the already strong support the party gets from younger Labour members. Corbyn’s candidacy is popular, private polls show, revealing that he is leading the ballot for leadership.
Labour Party members are in dismay, fearing that Corbyn’s “popularity is making them a laughing stock.” Senior Labour members warn that a possible Corbyn victory in September could be a long-term disaster for the party.