Cathy Newman checks it out
Nick Clegg has been playing Santa this week – handing out presents to curry favour with his rebellious MPs. One of his early Christmas presents was more financial help for part-time students.
Today, he said all part-time students would be able to avoid paying upfront fees as part of the coalition government’s “reforms” to higher education. But here at FactCheck we think we’ve spotted a festive fib.
There are 300,000 part-time students, studying at institutions ranging from Oxford Brookes to the Open University. Some get government grants to help fund their studies, but many pay for their courses themselves.
The government has said it will start giving part-timers loans to cover the full cost of their tuition fees, just as it does for full-time students.
To benefit, students had to study for at least 50 per cent of their time – so someone who was doing a typical three-year degree course in six years or less wouldn’t have to pay any tuition fees until after graduating.
As part of yesterday’s last-minute concessions, Nick Clegg added a few sweeteners, promising that loans would go to part-time students who spent at least 25 per cent of their time at their books.
However, contrary to what the deputy prime minister said this morning, 100,000 part-time students won’t be eligible for the loans, so they’ll have to pay their fees upfront.
That’s because, according to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, about a third of the 300,000 part-time students are studying for less than 25 per cent of their time.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills confirmed to FactCheck that these students wouldn’t be eligible for support, and so would have to pay for their fees upfront.
Cathy Newman’s verdict
Nick Clegg’s had a traumatic few weeks. He’s been forced to break his pre-election promise on tuition fees, and now he’s at the helm of a deeply divided party. And it appears the pressure is beginning to show. In his desperation to shower his MPs with goodies, he’s exaggerated his largesse. Bah humbug.