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Labour education chief admits Jeremy Corbyn was wrong on working class uni claim

Labour education chief admits Jeremy Corbyn was wrong on working class uni claim

Emilio Casalicchio

3 min read

Jeremy Corbyn was wrong to say fewer disadvantaged young people are applying for university since the introduction of fees, his Shadow Education Secretary admitted today.

Angela Rayner accepted the claim was untrue but insisted more working class, part time and mature students were dropping out as a result of eye-watering debt.

And she revealed Labour’s ambition to wipe the student loan book clean if they get into power would cost a whopping £100bn.

Some 73% more working class youngsters are heading to university since tuition fees were introduced under the Tony Blair administration, according to the BBC.

Since his better than expected performance during the general election in June the emboldened Labour leader has repeated his claim that fees are turning off hard-up kids.

But Ms Rayner said today: "I don’t believe that’s the case, actually."

"I believe more students are going into university," she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show this morning.

"But there are record levels of students that are actually having to leave university before they have finished their qualifications and I think that’s because of government policies.

"They have done away with maintenance grants, they have increased the percentage rates of loans and they have lowered the threshold for income so that people are paying more early on."

There has been rising concern about the amount of debt young people are being saddled with – especially after fees were raised to £9,000 a year and more.

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies warned last week that some of the poorest students will be lumbered with a £57,000 bill once they graduate.


Ahead of the election in June Labour promised to scrap fees and look at wiping the debt of existing students – although the party failed to cost the latter goal.

Today Ms Rayner revealed: "It’s a huge amount - it’s £100bn."

But she argued there was a "Treasury trick" afoot since a third of student debt goes unpaid when many fail to earn enough or work for long enough before the sums are wiped after 30 years.

"We’ve got to start dealing with this debt crisis that we are foisting on our young people," Ms Rayner insisted.

"It’s not acceptable. They are leaving university with £57,000 worth of debt. It’s completely unsustainable and we’ve got to start tackling that."


Her comments come after the former government minister who introduced student fees declared they should be scrapped.

Andrew Adonis said student bills had become a "Frankenstein’s Monster" and accused the Government of running a ponzi scheme with some students unable to repay loans.

But Universities Minister Jo Johnson said: "The government consciously subsidises the studies of those who for a variety of reasons, including family responsibilities, may not repay their loans in full…

"This is a vital and deliberate investment in the skills base of this country, not a symptom of a broken student finance system."

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