MP defends tuition fee increase

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THE controversial decision to allow universities to triple tuition fees has been defended by the MP of Hastings.

Amber Rudd voted in favour of the bill which narrowly passed last week despite violent protests in the capital as thousands of angry students vented their frustrations on policemen and women.

A number of rebel MPS voted against the Government, seeing David Cameron’s coalition majority nosedive from 81 to just 24.

However, Ms Rudd - who was elected earlier this year - voted along party lines and was adamant she had made the right decision.

Speaking to the Observer she said: “I have spoken to dozens of students in Hastings and even in Westminster where some came to discuss this issue with me and there is still a lot of misinformation being peddled about costs.

“They tell me that they can’t afford these costs (up to £9,000 a year) as though they were up front – they aren’t.

“Nobody should be put off by the costs – they only start to pay them back when they begin to earn a decent salary.”

The Conservative said the Coalition was justified in allowing the increases as a way of replacing government funding which is set to be slashed and said that “all departments have to make savings somewhere”.

And she also maintained that, far from preventing children from poorer families from accessing higher education, the new guideline would actually help.

“I am hugely sympathetic to the students who are fearful of the size of loans they may need to complete their education,” said Ms Rudd. “It is a big step and responsibility for any young person to consider.

“But, I would particularly point out to local students that there are elements that will improve the system for them.

“The threshold increase means graduates will only start repaying back their loans once they earn over £21,000 - and then only at £30 a month.

“A £150million scholarship fund has been aside to help students from poorer backgrounds and children on free school meals will have their first year fees paid for them.”

Ms Rudd also pointed out that part time students - of which the University Centre Hastings (UCH) has around 100 at any one time - will also now qualify for loans, and rubbished fears locally that a cut in higher eduction teaching funding could see universities like Brighton decide to close outside campuses like the one here in Hastings.

“These are beacons of success in Hastings,” Ms Rudd said of UCH and the college, “and they will continue.”

It is unlikely her words will wash with the 150 plus students who marched through Hastings town centre in protest against the plans.

Many told the Observer the bumper fees would prevent them from going to university - while mature students said they would not be able to afford to support their children through higher education.

And local Lib Dem candidate Nick Perry was adamant he would have voted against the increase. Mr Perry, who successfully lobbied Stephen Lloyd (MP for Eastbourne) to join the No vote, said: “??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????”