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UK General Elections: The Parties Manifestos

All parties standing in the Election have now released their manifestos. Below is an overview of the core commitments from parties representing England that we believe are relevant to students here at the University of Bedfordshire.

Beds SU

By Beds SU

Thursday, 27 June 2024

With just a week to go before the UK 2024 General Election we wanted to support our students in understanding the pledges from the parties standing here in England. We have used sources including party manifestos, the BBC website and Wonke (a blog for those working in Higher Education). Both sites referenced are non-partisan and offer insight and information on an impartial basis. Please also note the information below is shared in order the parties’ are currently set out in political landscape i.e. party in power, opposition and so forth.


Without question the top priority for students is the parties’ pledges on Higher Education. Below are the headlines:

The Conservatives

• The Conservatives reiterate that they will look to close courses where there is “excessive drop-out rates” or “leave students worse off than had they not gone to university”. In doing so they are committing to offering “100,000 high-skilled apprenticeships” in place of courses they don’t believe meet the needs of students

• The party confirm that if re-elected their plans to introduced ‘The Lifelong Learning Entitlement’ which would allow adults to apply for loans “to cover new qualifications” will go ahead from 2025, however, according to Wonke it will not technically come into place until 2026 and will only apply to “a very small number of higher technical qualifications”

• International students could expect an increase of costs on a number of levels from increasing visa fees, the removal of the immigration health surcharge and up to 30% increase in costs for postgraduate students and their dependents

• For home students there is a plan to introduce mandatory national service for all 18-year- olds with an option to take on a community role or apply for military placement, it isn’t clear how this would impact or work alongside plans for those wishing to go to university


• Labour’s core focus on higher education centres on “guaranteed training, apprenticeships, or to help all 18-21-year olds find work” that would form part of their proposed strategy for post-16 students

• There is a focus on plans to turn Further Education Colleges as they are currently know in to Technical Excellence Colleges and improve the range apprenticeships on offer

• There is a lot of focus on Skills England a plan to bring “businesses, trade unions, and local government” together so that young people have access to better job opportunities

• The manifesto also notes a commitment to focus on improving access to universities for all who aspire to go and improve teaching standards

• The Labour manifesto does not lay out plans for International students or student maintenance

Liberal Democrats

• If elected the Liberal Democrats pledge to reinstate maintenance grants, for disadvantaged students immediately, to make sure that living costs are not a barrier to studying at university

• Create new ‘Lifelong Skills Grant’s, giving all adults £5,000 to spend on education and training throughout their lives, with an ambition to increase this to £10,000 if future public finances allow

• Increase the number of people taking on apprenticeships. This would be achieved by replacing the current apprenticeship levy and introduce a skills and training levy

• Reintroduce the Erasmus+ programme which would make the UK an “associated country” again and increase opportunities for individuals to “study, teach and volunteer abroad”

The Green Party

• The Green Party’s core focus with regards to higher education would be to scrap university tuition fees and reintroduced maintenance grants

• For International students there could be a focus on increasing the numbers of internationals students coming to study in the UK and approval for dependants to join without the current minimum income rules

• They also set out a focus on increasing the spend on research for the duration of the next parliament (5 years) to £30bn

• The party also pledge greater collaboration between universities and the government to focus on developing green power and tackling climate and environmental issues

• Similar to the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party would look for the UK to re-join the Erasmus+ programme

Reform UK

• Reform UK pledge a commitment if elected to “scrap interest payments on student loans” and increase the repayment period to 45 years (Wonke put this into context by noting students may still be paying off loans into their 60s)

• A focus on universities offering two-year degrees to reduce student debt and enable students to get into employment earlier

• Cut financial support for universities that “allow political bias or undermine free speech”

• For International students, Reform outline plans to introduce new visa rules including a “bar” on dependents joining the person studying in the UK, and only students who have essential skills would be able to remain in the UK

• They also pledge a restriction to “undergraduate numbers”, so they sit below currently levels to tackle recruitment to poor quality courses and set minimum entry requirement

Cost of Living

We know students across the UK and here at UoB have been struggling with the Cost-of-Living crisis so below is a short overview of the parties’ pledges on this matter:

The Conservatives

• Pledge to maintain the current Energy Cap, to keep bills low

• Commit that by 2027 to cut a further 2 pence off National Insurance, “abolish the main rate for self-employed” and promise not to increase Income Tax rates and VAT

• They also commit to not increasing council tax bands, the introduction of new property charges or increase of stamp duty

• From September 2025 they pledge to offer 30-hours of free childcare to those with children aged nine months to five years


• Focus on banning “exploitative zero-hours contracts and the practice of “fire and rehire”

• Commit to delivering a real living wage that factors in the cost-of-living and remove age bands for adults

• Similar to The Conservatives, Labour pledge not to increase current Income Tax, National Insurance or VAT

• Commit to cutting energy bills with the introduction of the ‘National Warm Homes Plan’ which would also seek to “upgrade five million homes over five years [and] generate more clean energy”

• Increase childcare support by creating 3,000 “new primary school-based nurseries” and ensure all primary schools offer free Breakfast clubs

Liberal Democrats

• Similar to the Labour party the Liberal Democrat focus on a commitment to reduce energy bills by focusing on more renewable energy and a 10 year housing upgrade plan

• Pledge to tackle rising cost of food by introducing a “National Food Strategy”

• Commit to offering all parents access to “flexible and affordable childcare”

The Green Party

• On Energy the Green Party pledge to spend £38bn across five years “to improve insulation”

• Commit to increasing minimum wage to £15 per hour for all

• The Green Party also focus on equal employment rights, including zero contract hours from first day of employment

Reform UK

• Commit to allowing parents to “front-load” child benefits for dependents aged one – four

• Reform UK also focus on cutting fuel duty by 20p a litre and abolishing VAT on “energy bills and environmental levies”

Each of the Parties manifestos also cover their plans on the Economy, NHS & Care, Environment, Immigration, Housing, Foreign & Defence, Crime & Justice, Transport and Democracy. The BBC have outlined the highlights for each Party on these matters here, simply tick the boxes for the party or parties you wish to find out more about and the topic.

The BBC and ITV have also run a series of televised debates with members of all parties which can be accessed on their catch up services, BBC iPlayer and ITVX and there are options to access BSL or subtitled versions.

Below is a final overview of each of the Parties, seeking election in England’s top priorities that haven’t be covered above:

The Conservatives

As part of The Conservatives core pledges there is a focus on financial support from raising the minimum amount of money pensioners receive before they get taxed, increasing spend on defence to 2.5% (of national income) by 2030 and an increase in funding for the NHS as well as a commitment to increase recruitment in both doctors and nurses. The party also note they would continue their plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as part of a deterrent to illegal crossings and introduce a yearly cap on migrant visas.


For Labour the focus on the NHS is cutting waiting times by increasing the availability of a further 40,000 appointments including evenings and weekends, recruitment of more teachers up to 6,500, and increasing more neighbourhood police officers to directly tackle “antisocial behaviour”. With regards to immigration Labour pledge to enforce a “Border Security Command” to resolve issues around people trafficking and smuggling.

Liberal Democrats

Personal Care is the top priority for the Liberal Democrats with plans to roll-out free personal care which would include “nursing at home” and greater support for “unpaid carers”. They also pledge to ensure everyone has access to a GP within seven days, tackle sewage discharge into water ways (rivers, seas), improve relationships with Europe and look to change the voting system in the UK.

The Green Party

At the heart of the Green Party’s plans are actions to tackle climate and environmental issues including reaching net zero (reduction of the amount of greenhouse gas produced and removed from the atmosphere), by 2040 and an investment of “£40bn a year to move to a Green economy”. They also focus on bringing the leading energy firms, railways and water companies back under public ownership, increase the number of social homes being built annually by 150,00 and dissolve the current Right to Buy scheme while giving local authorities the power to introduced rent controls. As with all parties the NHS is a core focus with a pledge to increase NHS funding, ensure everyone can access GPs and dentists and reduce waiting lists.

Reform UK

Reform UK’s core commitments focus around a freeze on immigration with the exception of individuals with essential skills and most notably those with medical expertise, support in stopping “illegal channel crossings and the ability to return individuals to France who have travelled to the UK via small boats”. There is a pledge to raise the “minimum amount” people earn before paying income tax both for examples those on salaries of £12,570 and £50,270. The NHS is also a core ambition for the party with a plan like others to cut waiting lists, increase staffing and promote use of other health care provisions (Private), the party also pledge to “end policies focused on reaching net zero”.

What if I don’t see anything here for me?

If you have read all of the above and maybe perused the parties’ manifestos but still don’t feel any of them offer you enough to gain your then you have the following options at the Polling station next week:

You can simply decide not to vote, it is your right to do and abstain from the Election or you can ‘spoil your paper’ this means rather than selecting a party you can put a cross through the whole paper or post it into the ballot box without making a choice. These options are also available to anyone who may have voting via the postal vote option or you are voting by proxy (selected someone to attend the polling station on your behalf as you are unable to do so).

You can read all Manifestos in full by clicking links below:

The Conservatives


Liberal Democrats

The Green Party

Reform UK

** "Our student membership live across 439 constituencies in term-time, therefore the SU has collated key policy headlines of the most highly polled political parties to encourage democratic engagement among our Members. We encourage students to consider all candidates standing in their area."