With the general election only 36 days away and the parties starting to prepare for their upcoming debates, here's all you need to know on each party's policies on education, training, schooling, universities, apprenticeships, tax and benefits as a young person. 


You may have already heard of Labour's policy to cut the maximum cap for university tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000, and as a prospective university student, you may be excited by the idea. However, even some Labour officials and supporters have criticised the plan, fearing that it might harm the chances of working class students (decreasing the fees means that there's less money to support poorer students through university scholarships and bursaries), while Lib Dems' Vince Cable has argued that the plan is 'financially illiterate'.

If you choose not to attend university Labour promises to offer as many apprenticeships as university places, with new jobs in new high technology and green innovations. Furthermore, if you fail to gain a university or apprenticeship place, and you are under 25 and have been unemployed for over a year, Labour promises to guarantee you a job. 

Once you've gained that lucrative first job they promise to increase your minimum wage from £6.50-an-hour to £8-an-hour by 2020 while also bringing back the 10p tax rate. 

If you're an international student looking study in the UK, although Labour is looking to introduce "stonger" border controls and reduce migration, they are ensuring that university students and high-skilled workers are not deterred, so you'll be even more likely to be able to stay in the UK having completed your degree. 

At the school level, Labour wants to increase the overall education budget in England, including schools, nurseries, Sure Start and provision for 16-to 18-year-olds, by at least the rate of inflation. (Funding per pupil is not specifically protected and pupil numbers are on the increase, so this will mean an decrease in education spending per pupil, however it will mean that they can create thousands of new school places and cap class sizes at no more than 30 pupils). 


If you're a potential international students, the party is continuing to bring down net migration to below 100,000 a year (it is currently at 243,000). Unfortunately they don't mention any plan to encourage international students and skilled workers to the UK. 

If you're already working, the tax-free allowance is going to be raised from £10,5000 per year to £12,500 per year by 2020. If you are lucky enough to earn more, also by 2020, the 40% tax rate is going to be increased to £50,000 per year from £41,900 per year. 

The Conservatives are not changing their university fees or proposing any changes for university students, however they are planning to create 3 million apprenticeships. If you're one of the 50,000 18-to21-year-olds unfortunate enough not to be in work you'll be even more unlucky having to take part in "community projects" or face having your Jobseeker's Allowance withdrawn. 

The party is planning to ring-fence the 4-16-year-old school budget in England, although in cash terms this will not keep pace with inflation. The Conservatives' education proposals have come under much scrutiny, even from inside the party, with complaints that technical subjects are being "squeezed out" in favour of traditional academic disciplines, so many young people are leaving without the necessary practical skills for employment. 


Surprisingly, UKIP's policies for education, university training make a lot of sense, and will benefit many of you reading this! They aim to scrap tuition fees for students from poorer backgrounds who take degree courses in the sciences, technology, maths, medicine or engineering who then work for the following five years in the UK. If you feel as though university isn't for you they are looking to place greater emphasis on vocational education, with an Apprenticeship Qualification option which will be equivalent to four non-core GCSEs and can be carried on to A-level equivalent level. 

It's also good news if you're an international student looking to attend university here. Although UKIP are looking to bring down net migration, they want to introduce an Australian-style points-based system which allows people to enter if they've the skills and attributes needed to work in the UK. The only downfall is for EU students where the party is hoping to raise your fees to the rate of non-EU students. 

Once you're in work they'll be increasing your personal tax allowance to the level of full-time minimum wage earnings, about £13,500, by 2020. If you're lucky to earn more than that they'll be introducing a 35% income tax rate between £42,285 and £55,000, at which point the 40% rate becomes payable. Furthermore, if you've been in work and contributed to National Insurance and tax, and suddenly find yourself without a job, you'll be entitled to a higher rate of Jobs Seekers' Allowance.


Photograph: Nigel Farage speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Gage Skidmore, Flickr, CC BY SA 2.0 


As you may have guessed, the SNP's popular policy of free tuition for Scottish students is staying. There's little mention of education under the age of 18 and out of university, although many have noted that under the SNP there are 4,000 fewer teachers, 140,000 fewer people at college and 3,000 fewer children from deprived communities at university compared to when they took power in 2007.

(While looking for facts for this blog I was interested to see this little number being bandied about - yes, amongst other things, it's actually possible to buy a Nichola Sturgeon signature teddy bear). 

If you're an international student the SNP will give you the chance to study and work in Scotland as a highly-skilled immigrant under a Canadian-style earned citizenship system.


It's good news all round for potential university students, with an abolition of university tuition fees. International students also benefit with the reduction to UK immigration controls. 

For those looking for work thousands of new jobs will be created through a national energy conservation scheme. The party wants to create "sustainable jobs" and promote more local production of food and goods. However, if you're unfortunate enough to be out of work, the party is backing a citizen's income, a fixed amount of £72 income a week to be paid to every individual, whether they are in work or not. This will take years to implement, so for the short-term they are looking to increase the minimum wage to £10 by 2020. 

Liberal Democrats

Education is a key theme for the Lib Dems this year, in part because they are looking to fix their broken promises. Their moves include protecting the education budget, from early years up to sixth form and college in order to raise standards and offer more free childcare for parents of young children. 

One nifty policy is cheaper travel for under-21s so they can afford to travel to work or college, and their attempt to create new jobs through a national programme to insulate homes. If you are an apprentice you can enjoy an extra £1 per hour on your salary. 

They are also looking to raise the personal tax allowance to £11,000 in April 2016 and then to £12,500 by 2020 in line with the Conservatives.

Plaid Cymru

The party are looking to introduce a compulsory modern foreign language GCSE in secondary schools and the teaching of modern foreign languages in primary schools. They are also looking at ways to strengthen the teaching of Welsh history and culture.

For potential university students they are against any tuition fee rises, and will seek the abolition of tuition fees as and when public finances allow.

 For young people overall, who often feel unheard and let down by the main parties, the policies proposed as a mixed bag. The big unfortunate news is that the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that schools in England will have less to spend per pupil over the next five years, regardless of who comes in to power next month. This is due, primarily, to increasing pupil numbers and staff wages, and schools will see a real-term reduction of 7% per child by 2020.

When the extra costs of teachers' pensions, national insurance contributions and wage increases are included, the real-terms reduction in spending could be closer to 12%. 

Pupil numbers are also expected to grow by 7% between January 2016 and January 2020, whilst economy-wide inflation between 2015-16 and 2019-20 is currently forecast to be 7.7%.