I recently met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond. We discussed a number of policy areas, including my personal concerns about student finance. In a recent emergency debate called by the Labour Party on student finance I intervened on the Shadow Education Secretary and forced her to admit the party would not pay off all outstanding student debt, as indicated by Jeremy Corbyn in the election campaign.
However, for all the furore over this, I am well aware that the level of debt facing graduates is not easy to bear to say the least, and I said we do need to look at issues such as the interest rate and repayment cap. I think there is an understanding on all sides that the £100bn cost of wiping all outstanding debt is not affordable (especially as that means passing it on to the rest of society, benefitting higher earning graduates but passing the cost to many lower earning non graduates).
That said, we do need to look at what changes can be made. In my view, the most important issue of all is how we ensure that students leave university with the highest quality education – because that is what will determine their earnings and career success for life. I am therefore encouraged that only those institutions able to demonstrate high quality teaching will be able to charge the top rate of fees. But there is much more to do in this area.