Theresa May tuition fee plan will turn off students, says Staffordshire University president

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Staffordshire University students are questioning the timing of Prime Minister Theresa May’s latest pledge over tuition fees.

May announced there will be an increase in the repayment threshold, which means graduates would start paying back loans when they earned £25,000 instead of the current £21,000.

With Staffordshire University and Keele University’s combined number of 16,000 undergraduate students alone, many people in the city could be affected by the move.

But Darren Clarke, president of Student Union at Staffordshire University, said: “She knows she hasn’t got a lot of supporters student-wise, and I feel like it’s definitely a potential way to get our backing for her.

“But actually it’s going to do the reverse effect in comparison to Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, in terms of students and how positive that went.

“It use to be about what students want. I mean, she’s done the right thing but she’s contradicted herself, I mean why put the fees up to then do this.

“It feels like it’s a little too late…” Darren added.

“It feels like the Conservative government are trying to appeal to a younger audience.

“Honestly, it’s more like slapping students in the face and then turning around and saying ‘sorry’.”

Tuition fees were first introduced by Tony Blair’s Labour Government in 1998 at a maximum of £1,000 a year, but have since risen dramatically.

Fees were set to rise again with an increase of £250 this year. The last rise was in 2012 when fees were raised from £3,000 to £9,000.

This year’s intake of students could face an average debt of £50,000.

Could the latest proposal potentially encourage more students to enrol at university?

“I mean, I don’t really think so,” said Darren.

“If people want to join university, they will. I don’t think it will change things in that aspect of things.”

The announcement comes after polls showed students continue to reject May as they back Corbyn, with 55% of votes for Labour.

Joshua Nicholls, 20, student at Staffordshire University, said: “It’s a decision that’s been made for us, the younger generation, she knows she hasn’t got a lot of supporters’ student wise, it’s almost a way to get our backing.

“She has done the right thing but it’s a little too late.”

Ross Hardman, 20, who also studies at Staffordshire University, added: “I think she’s doing it to boost her popularity, but that’s the aim of the game really, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

Only time will tell if May’s decision will restore the student faith in her party.

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