Liam Burns, tuition fees and the death of irony

by Stephen Tall on January 27, 2012

With tuition fees of up to £9k due to kick-in for this year’s university entrants, the thorny issue of application numbers is bound to generate controversy: has the price hike deterred potential students, or had no effect?

The release of early data in October, suggesting an inital sharp drop, sparked controversy, not all of it well-informed as Mark Pack pointed out on LibDemVoice here.

So it’s good news that my colleagues at The Sutton Trust are establishing an independent commission, headed by Will Hutton, to assess the effect of fee increases, looking in particular at young people from poor and middle-income families. As Mr Hutton noted:

“We will be keeping an open mind; the aim will be to produce a dispassionate and authoritative analysis of the data as it emerges.”

Quite right, too.

And then I read this gem of a quote from Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, who successfully shows how you can express two contracdictory thoughts at the same time and think you make sense:

“A balanced and truly independent analysis that puts aside any of the panellists preconceptions about the merits or otherwise of the fees system is vital to ensure vulnerable students do not have to abandon their ambitions in higher education.”