Trebling student tuition fees will normalise debt for the young and contradicts Christian teaching, says the Anglican Bishop of Lincoln.
The comments from the Rt Rev John Saxbee came during an impassioned debate in the House of Lords over the Government’s plans to raise university fees to up to £9,000 a year.
Peers, many of them of 'independent means', approved the moves - but with fierce opposition from former university vice chancellors, noted educationalists, the opposition benches and one senior Liberal Democrat, higher education spokesperson Baroness Sharp.
Bishop Saxbee, who is a patron of the Student Christian Movement, suggested that the Government’s attempt to move university teaching from a public good to a private enterprise was morally indefensible and contrary to the teachings of Christ.
He declared: “The recent financial crisis shows us that policies based on debt are speculative to say the least. We must ask whether the normalising of debt in this way is morally defensible or socially sustainable."
“Surely it is for the sake of the common good that the state uses taxpayers’ money to fund higher education," the bishop continued. "It is the mechanism whereby the common purse funds what is for the common good.”
The Christian thinktank Ekklesia and the Student Christian Movement are among those who have argued that the government's current plans threaten the foundations of the public university.
Similar concerns have been raised by academics and student bodies across the countries.
Alternatives include tax and spending adjustments within the government's overall budget and a Business Education Tax (BET) put forward by the University College Union, Compass and the Green Party, among others.
See also: 'Future of public universities at stake, says thinktank' - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/13756