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University tuition fees protest sign
Bob Bob via Flickr / Creative Commons

Ed Miliband promises to slash tuition fees to £6,000

If Labour get into power, they'd also increase the maintenance grant for university students by £400 a year

Labour leader Ed Miliband (aka that guy who can't eat a bacon sandwich right) has said that he would cut tuition fees from £9,000 per year to £6,000 if his party gets into power this autumn. Miliband set out his proposals at a speech in Leeds, describing the tuition fees increase of four years ago as a "betrayal of an entire generation". Under Labour plans, maintenance grants for students would also be boosted by £400 a year to cover living costs.

Of course, it's hard not to remember what happened the last time a politician said they would keep their promise about tuition fees. Nick Clegg slid into obscurity when he vowed to cap tuition fees at the last election, then just let his bigger, nastier coalition brother David Cameron do it anyway. If you feel like it, you can watch Clegg's sad, underwhelming television apology for that here.

Miliband described that abrupt U-turn as the moment that "left a whole generation doubting politics – doubting anyone can be believed or trusted". He also assured young voters that he definitely won't Clegg it up should he be elected. "I made you a promise on tuition fees. I will keep my promise," he vowed.

While the Labour leader's pledge will be music to the ears of young voters who don't want to leave uni saddled with debt, it's pensioners who lose out. Labour plan to pay for the cut in fees by reducing tax relief on pensions for those earning £150,000 a year. But you know, if your nan is earning a six figure salary and you're still struggling to pay for university, maybe you need to take a long, hard look at your relationship with your family. 

The number of people applying to universities has not dropped since 2010, meaning that the rise in tuition fees has not put anyone off. That's probably because paying to go to university doesn't feel real; you just stick it on life's credit card and move out of your mum and dad's house. But eventually, those student loan bills will catch up with you when you find yourself staring, post-graduation, into an empty fridge with £40,000 worth of debt weighing heavy on your shoulders. At least you scraped a 2:2 and had fun???

Tory chancellor George Osborne is unimpressed with the proposals, saying: "Ed Miliband's sums don't add up because the universities would get less money and there would be fewer students so it's bad for students, bad for universities, bad for the taxpayer and bad for the British economy." Liberal Democrat MP Vince Cable has also called Miliband's plans "fraudulent".

As with everything that Miliband, Clegg or Cameron say, there's probably an element of power play at work, in both the message and the timing of this announcement. But if you're 18, about to go off to uni, and puzzling over who to vote for, then Ed Miliband might have just struck a decisive blow in the scrap for votes. 

You can watch his speech below, courtesy of the Guardian: