A labour of love?

A labour of love?Tom Frostick and Chris Thoung
March 2015

If the Labour party enters government in May 2015 it plans to reduce the undergraduate tuition fees cap in England from £9,000 to £6,000 a year. It also wants to increase maintenance grant support for students from lower income backgrounds.

This analysis finds that the negatives of the proposal – judged by what Labour says it wants to achieve – outweigh the positives. On the upside, the policy acknowledges that maintenance grants could have a positive impact on university participation. It would apply equitably to all undergraduates including those already studying when the policy is introduced. And it offers a choice to voters by reopening the debate about the balance between state and individual investment in undergraduate education.

On the downside, the typical beneficiary of the fees proposal is a graduate, 28 years after leaving university, earning more than £80,000 a year. Conversely, the lowest 60% of graduate earners by lifetime income gain little to nothing from the policy. In addition, Labour seems to overlook that applications from disadvantaged students have increased since the fees cap was raised to £9,000 a year, weakening the case that cap needs to be reduced.

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The route to employment

The route to employmentHolly Taggart and James Kempton
March 2015

Moving from economic inactivity into work can be challenging for someone with a mental health problem. But recovery colleges can help people make this transition. This report examines the role of these unique institutions, and suggests ways that their effectiveness can be enhanced. 

Initial evidence points to the uniquely educational approach of recovery colleges within secondary mental health services as having significant potential for impact on improving employment outcomes. 

The report argues that recovery colleges should therefore increase their focus on these employment outcomes, supported by more rigorous and systematic evaluation of the overall impact of the model.

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Open public services – better public services?

Open public servicesQuentin Maxwell-Jackson
March 2015

'Open public services – better public services?' contains a series of case studies to show where privatised and public owned services have succeeded and failed.

The report finds that competition only works when there is a realistic prospect of providers losing their contract, and that the most successful outsourcing deals are small in scope and easy to manage.

It also finds that success across both sectors - public and private - can be attributed to common ways of doing things, including the use of appropriate information and performance measures.

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Access the media release

Rt Hon Danny Alexander MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: "When looking at a discussion in the public sphere which at present mostly revolves around a simplistic Labour-public sector provision good versus Tory-public sector provision bad axis, it is refreshing to see a paper which outlines the strengths and weaknesses of both, as well as identifying why the success stories from either side of the fence worked as they did."

The liberal case for aviation

The liberal case for aviationTom Papworth and India Keable-Elliott with Patrick Day and Josh Thomas
March 2015

This paper considers questions of UK airport expansion from within a liberal tradition. Airports have both benefits and disbenefits, and balancing these so as to maximise individual freedom and social progress is the challenge faced by liberals of all parties.

On the positive side, airports facilitate travel and improve our connectivity with the rest of the world, thus providing a good for which people have a strong and increasing demand, and helping strengthen our links (personal, commercial and political) with the rest of the world. They also have profound economic effects, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of income for staff, shareholders and the government.

On the negative side there are a number of environmental externalities. Globally, the main challenge is the emission of greenhouse gases. Locally, the biggest issue is noise, though airports also have impacts on air and water quality, biodiversity, landscape and waste. It is these undesirable impacts on individuals or society generally – including indirect effects through impacts on nature – that fuel opposition to runway expansion.

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How to save public service choice for liberalism?

Bold, liberal tax reformsDavid Boyle
March 2015

This paper looks at choice and its meaning through the prism of public service provision. David Boyle asserts that neither the Right’s response to poor choice in regards to public services (let bad providers go bust) nor the Left’s (grin and bear bad services for the overall common good) is really good enough.

"Quality" is another word that has lost a great deal of meaning dependent on which political party stripes it’s being uttered under. What counts as quality in public service provision will inevitably cover a huge number of factors.

The essay is the fourth in a series of papers addressing contemporary issues in public policy from a liberal perspective. A selection of these papers will be published collectively in a forthcoming special edition publication, 'The Challenges Facing Contemporary Liberalism: 2015-2025'. Here are the others released so far:

Maajid Nawaz: On Blasphemy
Tim Farron, Neil Stockley and Duncan Brack: Economic liberalism, climate change and green growth
Adam Corlett: Bold, liberal tax reforms

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