Blink and they hope you’ll miss it; the coalition’s rush job on the tuition fees vote.

Chris Stevenson profile pictureIn the midst of all the squabbling and backbiting that constitutes the discussion of the merits of the student protests, one important thing has been lost.  The sheer speed with which the legislation is being put through parliament.

The progression from idea to policy normally takes years, yet the Browne Review on Tuition fess was released on October 12 and here we are just two months later waiting for the vote in parliament. Yes, the Review took over a year to complete but all it did was recommend actions. Where were the endless consultations and meetings that seem to accompany all other legislation?

Westminster is moving so quickly that even the Liberal Democrat PR machine cannot keep up properly. For every Nick Clegg interview trying to explain the Lib Dem position, there is another minister, such as Vince Cable, ready to jam their foot into their mouths and confuse the issue.

It all stems back to the public sector cuts. When the recession was at its height the government realised that cuts would need to be made across all sectors, rushing through the tuition fee legislation gives the government an easy solution to the problem of how to implement these cuts in higher education.

The cuts are an attack on the very basis of university learning in this country and in no other sector would this kind of haste be tolerated. But due to the lack of public sympathy for lecturers and students and their actions, the attention is deflected away from the government.

Having the vote before Christmas also means the unions won’t be able to count on the mass support of the students in the new year. The vote pours water on one of the fieriest parts of the movement.

The students of 2012 will have to think far harder and longer about their futures than the government has, which is a shocking situation.

For a comprehensive look at how the tuition fees debate has developed, see here. For ELL coverage of the successive protests, both against tuition fees and cuts in general, see here.