The Browne Review is an unmitigated disaster for young people. Fear of debt is already a major factor in deterring even the brightest school-leavers from poorer families from going to University. Adding tens of thousand to the current average debt of £23,000 will make this situation much worse, in effect excluding many from average backgrounds from the top universities and the most expensive courses.
Forcing 17 and 18 year-olds to choose courses and institutions on their expected ability to pay back fees, rather than on the basis of their talents and aspirations represents an appalling commodification of the hopes of young people. Skewing their decisions on financial grounds will create a less meritocratic society which misses out on the talents of many who had the ability to learn, but thought they lacked the ability to pay. Effectively excluding their talent from large areas of the workforce will cause long-term damage to the national economy, potentially forgoing growth and tax revenues far greater than their fee payments would have been.
Young people will not easily forget where MPs stood on this issue. Having pledged to oppose higher fees during the election Lib Dem MPs must loudly reject these recommendations. If faith in politics is to be restored these promises must count for something. We hope Lib Dems will take up Ed Miliband's offer of working to produce a progressive alternative to the further marketisation of education.