Don Foster, Member of Parliament for Bath, has said he still does not regret his decision to vote in favour of increasing tuition fees to £9000 in 2010. In an interview with bathimpact’s News and Comment Editor Ramiye Thavabalasingam, Mr Foster spoke of his views on tuition fees, as well as the state of student housing in Bath.
The Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, who has served as Bath’s MP for 22 years, is set to retire in advance of the 2015 general election. In 2010 Mr Foster joined the majority of his fellow party members in voting in favour of raising university tuition fees to £9000 per year, despite a pledge to scrap them altogether being a key part of the Liberal Democrats’ election manifesto that year.
When asked whether he had any regrets about his career, and over the tuition fees decision in particular, Mr Foster said, “My only regret is making a promise that would never have been fulfilled,” adding, “I wish I never put myself in this position”.
Mr Foster argued that the Liberal Democrats broke their 2010 manifesto promise to scrap tuition fees in order to “secure the stabilisation of the economy,” arguing that “the stronger the economy, the more jobs for graduates,” and that “To end university with no job to go to is pointless.”
He went on to say that students have “moved on from tuition fees” and that this is “healthy”. However, whether or not the Bath’s new Liberal Democrat candidate Steve Bradley can still rely on the student vote despite the party’s never-forgotten U-turn on tuition fees can only be determined at next year’s election.
With recent campaigns against proposed student housing in Newbridge by local residents, the issue of the insufficient housing for a small city with two universities naturally arose during the interview. Mr Foster described the situation as a “chronic shortage,” proposing that “we should increase the amount of purpose-built student accommodation”.
When asked whether or not Bath students should receive a greater maintenance loan in keeping with the high cost of student housing in the area (as is the case for students in London), Mr Foster told bathimpact, “The moment we start having differential loans, things get screwed up. Increasing the maintenance loan will just give students more money to spend on limited housing”.
With the removal of the cap on student numbers and a deficit in student housing within Bath, only the future will tell how the small city will cope with this paradoxical situation.
Photo credit: Policy Exchange