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March 17, 2009 3:21 PM

Newcastle East Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesman Greg Stone has expressed grave concerns over reports that university vice-chancellors are contemplating doubling the cost of tuition fees after the next General Election.

With two major universities and an estimated student population of between 15,000 and 20,000 voters, Newcastle East has one of the most student-dominated electorates of any seat in the country.

The seat is set to be a battle between Labour, who introduced tuition fees, and the Liberal Democrats, who remain the only major party to support scrapping of tuition fees.

The sitting Labour MP Nick Brown orchestrated a last minute switching of sides by Labour backbenchers to very narrowly win the vote to introduce them in 2004.

Greg Stone, Liberal Democrat, Parliamentary spokesman for Newcastle East, said "As an ex-funding manager for a North East university, I acknowledge that university funding is a key issue and investment is vital if our institutions are to grow and to remain competitive in an international field.

"It is vital for our universities to develop research and new technologies if our economy is to prosper in the future, but at the same time, we must not prevent our young people from becoming the graduates of the future by pricing them out of higher education.

"I am desperately worried that at a time of economic recession it looks increasingly likely that both Labour and the Conservatives will not oppose the vice-chancellors' plans to massively increase tuition fees by well in excess of inflation.

"It will inevitably hit many of the students currently at our universities, not to mention many families who are struggling to save to afford to send their children to university in the future.

"This will be disastrous news for not only the thousands of students in Newcastle East now, but for thousands of hardworking families on middle incomes in the constituency who look set to see the financial bar to university education raised even higher at a time when graduate jobs are in short supply.

"Only the Liberal Democrats will fight the next election on a platform of scrapping tuition fees and allowing universities to be properly funded by scrapping ludicrous white elephants like the £10bn ID Card Scheme.

"Labour's MP will have to explain to thousands of students and thousands of A-Level students in Newcastle East why he caved in on tuition fees, and why Labour is failing to take action to prevent further massive rises in the financial burden on their shoulders.

"I expect Labour's vote amongst students to collapse at the next election if this plan becomes a reality."