This week, after regulations passed through the House of Lords, parliament approved legislation which will allow universities to offer fast-track degrees which are only two years long – allowing students to graduate earlier and save twenty per cent on tuition fees if they opt for shorter courses.
The news, you might expect, would have been greeted by champagne corks popping in Labour HQ. Back in 2016, it was Labour’s education team, backed by the shadow higher education minister Gordon Marsden, who pushed for fast-track degrees to be offered to students. Labour’s Roberta Blackman-Woods tabled the original amendment which called for ‘fees for a 3 year degree to be charged over 2 years to allow for greater funding flexibility.’
So surely three long years after that first amendment was proposed the team would be delighted to vote on their proposal which was also supported by the Conservative Party, and finally see it become law.
Yet, when it came for the new regulations to be voted on in the House of Commons last week, Labour took the usual step of, errr, whipping against it. The regulations passed with the backing of the Conservative party, but 218 Labour MPs ended up voting against it, including Angela Rayner, Gordon Marsden and one Roberta Blackman-Woods, who had put the idea forward in the first place.
What could possibly have changed since then?