Michael Gove’s “hypocritical” defence of tuition fees has sparked anger among students, graduates and voters, with some calling on the Tory cabinet minister to pay back his own university fees.
Lib Dem leadership hopeful Sir Vince Cable also found himself in the firing line after he suggested scrapping tuition fees would be “very dangerous and stupid”.
The politicians’ comments follow a huge swell in youth support for Labour after the party promised to scrap tuition fees for undergraduates, with de-facto deputy prime minister Damian Green calling for a “national debate” on the issue.
But newly-appointed environment secretary Gove caused controversy during an appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show when he said that people who go to university must “pay something back”.
“If you don’t benefit from a university education, you shouldn’t have to pay additionally to support those who do,” Gove said.
But many angry viewers were quick to point out that Gove, who studied English at Oxford University, was part of generation that studied at university for free:
Others criticised Gove’s logic, suggesting that offering young people a free university education actually benefits society as a whole:
Cable faced similar criticism when he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme that scrapping tuition fees would be “very dangerous and stupid”.
The Lib Dem MP was part of the coalition government that increased tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000.
The party faced a huge uproar over the move, having promised to oppose tuition fee increases during the campaign.
But Cable told Ridge yesterday that scrapping tuition fees would be “cheap populist gesture” that would create an unfair system.
“If you don’t have any form of fees, I mean who pays for universities?” Cable said.
“How do you end this discrimination between the 40% of students who go to university and would be subsided as opposed to the 60% who don’t? That would be highly inequitable.”
He added: “Universities are about the only bit of the publicly financed sector of the economy which is flourishing.”
“I haven’t benefitted from a uni education,” a man named Pascal addressed Cable on Twitter.
“I pay 40p tax rate. I wouldn’t mind paying for uni studies of today’s youth.”
Other’s also took to social media to share their frustration about the MP’s argument:
But universities minister Jo Johnson tweeted to say he “agreed” with the Lib Dem: