Invest in a thriving future, invest in education

Education is the only thing that will equip us to solve the great challenges of the future. But the funding model is at breaking point. No more sticking plasters: we need funding and curriculum reform.

A fair, affordable funding model where post-16 education is free at the point of use

  • Radically reform education and maintenance funding to make education free at the point of use and fairly, publicly, and stably funded
  • A Lifelong Learning Entitlement which funds courses and qualifications across someone’s life
  • Fund campus life: subsidise food, transport, tools, and materials in universities and colleges

Invest in future skills and students as citizens

  • A Skills Transformation Task Force to lead on the skills curriculum we need to solve the crises of our generation
  • Funding for green jobs, retraining, and reskilling
  • High-quality vocational training and apprenticeships, with high-quality day release and broad qualifications
  • Value citizenship education, and fund further education providers to support students’ unions in every college
  • Lower the voting age to 16, and auto-enrol students to register to vote

Current present & future

Our education system is not fit for purpose today, let alone for the future.

  • Graduates earning over £27.5k pay a marginal tax rate of 41%
  • 61% of students will never pay back their full loans
  • 17.1 million adults lack the digital skills for their jobs
  • The UK’s skills shortage will cost us £120bn by 2030

From the earliest age, our education should set us up for life – and right now it doesn’t. We are taught to memorise facts and figures – but what we need is tech skills, mastering the AI revolution, how to navigate fake news, what voting actually means, and how to advocate for ourselves.

The government does not fund the education sector sustainably and stably. Our colleges have been underfunded for years, forced to make cuts and unable to pay staff fairly. Universities are forced to compete over funding like a market. The only way they can stay afloat is to bring in more and more students for their fee income - so they invest in things they think will attract us, but they don’t have the resources to educate and support everyone once they’re in. The problem is never too many people going into higher education: it is systemic underfunding.

The whole system is built on sand: and this means no one has the security to truly innovate. If we don’t value education and students as a society then we won’t have the innovation and skills needed for our changing tech environment. Business will shrink. Our economy will shrink. The UK will fall behind.

Alternative present & future

With the right funding model and a different skills focus and curriculum we can:

Make systemic changes to education, student and apprentice funding, ensuring that education is free at the point of use and funded sustainably and publicly, and universities and colleges serve the communities they are in.

Develop truly excellent technical and higher education where, regardless of their
backgrounds and levels of study, students take part in innovative and collaborative education which sets them up for their lives, with no bad route through tertiary education.

With a new, stable funding model we will see the foundations that our brilliant university and college staff need to be able to innovate their own research and teaching practice and deliver leading education at all levels.

With a curriculum across colleges and universities that’s bang up to date, we can ensure that everyone who studies a course and qualification is at their personal best, and has the skills at hand to support and contribute to communities and help fight the crises we are currently facing.

We can instil lifelong learning as a realistic aspiration for every single person in this country, with universities and colleges offering degree top-ups, so everyone can upskill across their lives, and value learning throughout their lives.

Policy Ideas

Reform the Funding Model for students and education.

For students:

  • Radically reform tuition and maintenance funding to make education free at the point of use and fair, by abolishing tuition fees and instating grant funding that covers students’ living costs.
  • Scrap the current student loan system and write off all ‘false debt’ for existing debtors to the Student Loans Company.
  • A Lifelong Learning Entitlement, to cover three qualifications, backed up by access to student support and access to childcare so that anyone who wants to is able to re-enter education at any point in their lives.

For universities and colleges:

  • Stabilise higher education funding to ensure it is fair, free at the point of use, and publicly funded.
  • Introduce a minimum employer contribution to employee training and education.
  • Fund campus life: subsidise campus necessities for all students, including free transport to and from campus, free food on campus, and grants to cover tools and material costs for vocational learners.

Invest in skills for our future

  • Establish a Skills Transformation Task Force to work with educators, unions, employers and government to identify and embed the skills needed to lead the way on technological innovation, to reverse the climate crisis, and to tackle poverty and inequality.
  • Incentivise colleges and universities to introduce post-qualification top-up modules as standard, to ensure that students can continue to develop their skills and progress once their courses have finished.
  • Immediate funding for green jobs, research and retraining, to make sure our generation has the skills to address the climate crisis.
  • Retain high-quality, broad vocational qualifications to ensure student choice for vocational students.
  • Ensure every single apprentice has a high-quality apprenticeship, with excellent day or block release training and continuous professional development.

Invest in students as citizens

  • Fund further education providers to invest in excellent students’ unions on every college campus.
  • Value citizenship education in colleges, and include financial, political, and voter education to give us skills for life.
  • Require colleges and universities to offer a voter registration service during enrolment.
  • Lower the voting age to 16 and automatically register all 16-year-olds to vote.

What Students Think

  • 84% of students believe tuition fees should be abolished.
  • 89% of students believe it should be easier to access further education.
  • 86% of students want parties to address high-quality apprenticeships.