Venstre “flip-flops” on university fees

It took less than a day for the opposition party to retract a demand that a commission examine the impact of introducing university fees

It was a short-lived affair. Yesterday morning opposition party Venstre called on the government to set up a committee to examine the possibility of making people pay for their education.

But by the afternoon following a media uproar they had already got cold feet and announced that they didn't want to take a look at student fees after all.

“Venstre is not proposing introducing education fees,” Venstre’s parliamentary group leader Kristian Jensen told Berlingske newspaper. “Our proposal was to establish a commission to broadly examine [how the government pays for tuition]. One of the five points was to take a look at the pros and cons of introducing fees. We never decided that we wanted to introduce fees and we have not changed or policies. We still do not want to introduce fees. And now I don’t want it to be investigated.”

Jensen added that the reason for the turnaround was because the media debate made it sound like Venstre was interested in introducing fees, which you’d be forgiven for thinking after reading what Venstre’s further education spokesperson, Esben Lunde Hansen, told Berlingske yesterday.

“You’d have to be blind not to see that fees create a positive incentive structure,” Hansen said. “Of course there is a risk that introducing fees could hurt some groups, but it could also ensure that students finish faster and are more focused.”

The government earlier this year completed a reform of the SU student grant system, which was designed to find savings by encouraging students to complete their further education more quickly.

Danes and some EU residents are entitled to six years of SU payments, as well as free tuition, resulting in a generous system that Hansen yesterday argued ought to be the subject of discussion.

Jensen took this off the table, but added that Venstre still wanted a commission to examine how the government pays for education.

Magnus Heunicke, political spokesperson for the PM's Socialdemokraterne, criticised Venstre and its leader Lars Løkke Rasmussen for their “flip-flop”.

“Now Lars Løkke needs to tell Danish families what politics they can rely upon from Venstre,” Heunicke told Politiken newspaper, adding that no educational fees would be introduced by the Socialdemokraterne government.




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