The Student Christian Movement (SCM) have reacted with anger to plans to lift the cap on university tuition fees in England. SCM, which is Britain’s oldest national student organisation, described its opposition to tuition fees as “an issue of justice”.
SCM said a fee increase would deter students from lower-income backgrounds. They also contrasted ministers’ reluctance to fund higher education with government plans to spend billions renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system.
The Movement’s comments follow the Browne Review into higher education funding, which recommended yesterday (12 October), that universities should be able to charge unlimited fees. The Business Secretary Vince Cable said the government accepts the “main thrust” of the proposals.
“Access to higher education should be based on ability, not the ability to pay,” insisted SCM’s National Co-ordinator, Hilary Topp today (13 October).
She added, “We are very concerned that a substantial increase in tuition fees will deter applicants from poorer backgrounds, and will enslave students to a lifetime of debt.”
While Conservative MPs and Liberal Democrat ministers have welcomed Browne's recommendations, there is potential for a serious rebellion amongst Liberal Democrat backbenchers.
The coalition agreement allows Liberal Democrats to abstain in votes on university funding, but some have already said that they will vote against, raising the prospect of a defeat for the government. The party's Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes, declined this morning to confirm that he will abstain.
Charlotte Thomson, a student at the University of Birmingham, said, “As a Christian student, my worry is not for those of us who are already in higher education, as we are in some sense lucky, but for those who are yet to consider university as an option".
She continued, “This will deter many people who could otherwise have had a very successful university career, which is definitely not fair”.
SCM is as an ecumenical student-led movement, described as "passionate about faith and justice". They bring students together to explore how to live out the Christian faith in today’s world. The Movement was founded in 1889, and was instrumental in establishing the National Union of Students (NUS) three decades later.