Where does Theresa May stand on university student issues?
Now that summer break is over (for both parliament and students), it's time to finally work out what our new PM is all about. What's in store for students?
Aside from the media rabbiting on about her wacky taste in shoes and alleged borderline-obsessive cookbook collection, we haven't been able to learn much about our new Prime Minister in the months between her post-Brexit promotion and parliament breaking up for summer.
But now summer's over and we're in the midst of the Tory party conference, it's time to establish what's in store for the next few years whilst May's in power.
In her PM speech this week, she talked a lot about pledging to “restore fairness” in Britain. But are you convinced she'll follow through with such a promise?
And where does Theresa May stand on student and young people issues? Let's cast a glance at how she voted prior to becoming our PM…
The new PM on student and young people issues
Income tax on part-time jobs
May has voted in support of part-time workers and lower earners by saying the yearly income threshold after which workers start paying tax (aka the personal allowance threshold) should be increased.
The higher this threshold is, the less likely part-time students have to pay any income tax at all, as it’s unlikely they’ll reach the threshold – which is currently £11,000 a year.
We recently reported that a new law is being pushed by the Lib Dems that would prevent estate agencies from being allowed to charge tenants high and unregulated admin fees when moving into a new property.
Theresa May has consistently voted against making changes that restrict how landlords and estate agencies work, but it’s unlikely that her stance on this could affect whether or not the law is still passed.
However, at a time when the biggest student rent strike is going on, it’s clear that young people need support when it comes to affordable housing. The idea that the Prime Minister is putting agencies and landlords before protecting tenants isn't great.
Theresa May’s stance on immigration is one that’s pretty loud and clear. In January of last year, she tried to put forward a plan where non-EU students would be forced to go home as soon as they’d completed their studies, claiming they should have to reapply from their home countries if they wanted to return to work in the UK, but the move was blocked by Tory leaders.
Another past foiled plan of hers was a controversial billboard campaign where she sent out vans with signs telling illegal immigrants to “go home or face arrest” (see image above). The campaign was pulled shortly after commencing.
Controversially, she did move forward with the deportation of tens of thousands of students following a BBC Panorama documentary that revealed some students were involved in an English language test scam.
However, May's manoevre has since been condemned in court, as she was accused of basing the deportation of students purely on evidence from the documentary and that such evidence was flimsy. As a result, these students could be granted permission to return to the UK and seek compensation.
Back in 2004, May voted against Labour's decision to raise tuition fees from £1,225 to £3,000 per year, but then later voted in favour of the Conservative's move to triple fees to £9,000 per year.
She also chose not to vote against the government's recent decision to make retrospective changes to student loan terms, and it's difficult to ignore the fact that two separate waves of tuition fee increases for English universities have been announced since she came into power.
What was that about “restoring fairness”, again?
Admittedly, the situation doesn't currently look so hot for students, does it?
However, Theresa May has been quite ambiguous about where she stands on a few issues (perhaps intentionally), so let's just hope she surprises us all and pulls it out the bag for UK students when she steps up to the job of PM!
Are you a student struggling with any of the issues mentioned in this article? We want to hear from you!