Staffordshire University Vice Chancellor backs Labour tuition fees plan

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The boss of Staffordshire University has backed Labour Party proposals to slash higher education tuition fees by a third.

Vice Chancellor Michael Gunn welcomed the plans to cut fees for students in England to £6,000 per year from autumn 2016 after it was announced in a speech by leader Ed Miliband.

Currently at most universities, tuition fees are set at £9,000 a year after being raised by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition following the 2010 General Election.

The new proposals, unveiled today, would be made possible by reducing tax relief on pensions for those earning over £150,000 per year.

Prof Gunn believes the impact on education in Stoke-on-Trent would be positive and would see an increase in those from the area going into higher education.

He told Staffslive: “I think these proposals are very positive.

“They are good for students; they are good for the university and potentially really good for the taxpayer.

“The number of students has gone down over recent years so we would hope these plans will have people re-exploring the opportunities that university could provide them with.

“We also hope it will not just be the standard 18-19 year-olds but older people as well who have been put off perhaps by the fees and who don’t already have a degree and would like to change career or learn new skills.”

His comments came despite Business Secretary Vince Cable labelling the idea as “completely financially illiterate” with many considering the plans unsustainable.

However, Mr Gunn, who is also chairman of the University think-tank million+, is confident the proposals would be properly implemented if Labour came to power in May.

He also believes they would not leave universities like Staffordshire and Keele under-funded.

He added: “There is always the risk that something comes up while you are in government that causes you to re-think.

“But they have been thinking about this for a long time and it looks as though it is properly funded and the figures add up.”

We asked Stoke-on-Trent college students who may be considering university what they think of the plans:

(Additional reporting by Jessica Turnbull)

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