Tag Archives: graduate tax

We must protect our universities’ freedom

Image result for universitiesIt is rare that governments get to do exactly what they want. Opposition parties, the judiciary and others have traditionally also wielded significant influence, tempering the more extreme ideas of those in power and highlighting the pitfalls of proposed policies.

This era of moderation is, however, coming to a close. Those who once held our governments to account are being systematically declawed.

Politicians who deviate from their party line are subjected to torrents of abuse and the threat of deselection. The House of Lords, with its essential powers of scrutiny, is ridiculed as stuffy and out of touch. And then there’s the Labour party, which is currently offering as much opposition to the Government as a hermit crab would to an Apache helicopter gunship.

The saving grace in all of this has been our universities and their academics, who have argued consistently on the side of reason and reasonableness.

But now our universities, too, are under threat.

It started with the gradual move – in which we were, sadly, complicit – from government funding to student tuition fees, turning higher education from a public into a private good and unleashing market forces into a domain in which they do not belong.

But it did not stop there. The new sector regulator, the Office for Students, has lost the policy-setting powers of its predecessor. The Prime Minister has launched a review of higher education funding that has more ‘red lines’ than a London bus map. And Vice Chancellors, who are forced to bear the brunt of this onslaught, have been demonised by MPs and the media for their salaries and expenses.

Whether or not this represents a concerted effort by the Government to emasculate our universities, the effect is the same. And we risk losing some of the last sane voices in the debate of our lives.

We have long been the party of thinking people, of academics and of students. We messed that up with our ill-advised coalition capitulation on raising tuition fees. But it is not too late to make amends.

So what should we do?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 14 Comments

Opinion: The truth about the graduate contribution

There is a real danger that many prospective students will be put off from going to university due to the confusion, half-truths and lies, often left unchallenged, relating to the new system of university funding and graduate contributions.

A bright light which breaks through the fog can be found over at MoneySavingExpert.com, where Martin Lewis pares things back to the bare facts. His Student Loans Guide 2012 makes the following key points:

  • Existing students stay on the old system of loans
  • Students don’t pay anything up front
  • Graduates will pay back £540 per year less than they do under the current system – graduates will have more money in their pocket each month
  • Graduates who earn less than £21,000 don’t pay back anything
  • Graduates will owe more and be in debt longer but this debt will not affect credit ratings
  • People shouldn’t think of the new system as a loan but as a graduate tax
  • The rules may be different for students in Scotland and Wales
  • Most people will never pay back all of this debt as the debt is wiped out after 30 years

A graduate tax: the very thing that the NUS has been calling for. It is a crying shame that the NUS has decided to be political over the new changes rather than do the right thing by the people it professes to represent.

I would be extremely disappointed if there is a single person put off going to university due to the spin put on the changes by the NUS. Let’s hope that as many prospective students as possible find their way to MoneySavingExpert.com where they can actually get some honest expert advice on what to expect when they take up their courses in 2012.

Editor’s note: You can also watch a video of Martin Lewis explaining student funding from 2012 on YouTube:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 19 Comments

PMQs: A points draw amidst chuntering, Morrissey and Mornington Crescent fun

Vince Cable lined up as a “bookend” for the Prime Minister at his question time today. One had a feeling, then, that university funding would be high on the agenda. And so it was.

In the first section of Q&A (with Ed Miliband) I think Miliband edged a points win – perhaps in decimal places. A “Rizla” win – a fag paper’s width between them.

Cameron failed to pick up Miliband on some obvious points. The opposition leader referred to English students likely to have the “highest tuition fees” in the world. But presumably that involves a comparison with tuition fees paid during study in other countries – rather than after graduation as in the case of the government’s proposals, which suggest “graduate contributions” rather than fees.
Miliband also referred to the system causing debt for graduates, but the system really can’t be described as instilling “debt” in the conventional sense. Cameron missed that one also.

In fact, Cameron only seemed to be warming up with Miliband but went on to score some corkers when Labour backbenchers asked further university funding questions.

Quite rightly Miliband highlighted the “80% cut” figure. He seemed more on top of his game this week and made an excellent joke:

Things are so bad that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (John Hemming) is offering his own unique solution to the votes tomorrow. He says that if you run quickly, you can vote both ways. I have to say that if the Kremlin were spying on the Liberal Democrats, we would know why: they want a bit of light relief.

Miliband quoted back David Davis on social mobility and the university funding plans. He also quoted back Cameron from last week “not so much waving but drowning”.

Cameron then gained a bit of composure with this rally (yes, it’s like tennis):

We are introducing a situation where nobody pays fees up front, including part-time students—which is 40% of students—and nobody pays anything back until they are earning £21,000. Under the new system, everyone will pay back less than they pay under the current system—They will pay back less every month; that is the case. The poorest will pay less, the richest will pay more. It is a progressive system, but the right hon. Gentleman has not got the courage of his convictions to back it.

Posted in PMQs | Also tagged , , , , and | 27 Comments

Nick Clegg writes to Aaron Porter on ‘Right to Recall’ and tuition fees

Nick Clegg, has written to Aaron Porter, President of the National Union of Students, in response to the NUS’ ‘Right to Recall’ campaign.

His letter in full:

Dear Aaron,

Thank you for writing to me about your ‘Right to Recall’ campaign.

The idea of a right to recall was something I proposed when I first became leader of the Liberal Democrats and I am proud that it is now part of the Coalition Agreement. However my proposal was for it to apply to MPs who were found guilty of serious wrongdoing by the parliamentary authorities. My intention has always been that it should be

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , , , , and | 60 Comments

IFS: Browne offers “a graduate tax by another name”

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) have looked at the Browne Report. Their conclusion raises some interesting points.

our analysis suggests that graduates with higher earnings would repay unambiguously more than their lower-earning counterparts.

Under Lord Browne’s proposals, this would for many become a 30-year graduate tax of 9% above £21,000 (with this threshold indexed in line with earnings). Indeed, for the lowest-earning 30% of graduates the actual level of fees makes no difference to how much they repay

Paradoxically, therefore, the more fees go up, the more the system approximates a graduate tax – indeed, a pure graduate tax

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , , , and | 7 Comments

Vince: why I’m saying ‘No’ to the graduate tax

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, has tonight written to all Lib Dem members in anticipation of the publication next week of the report of the Browne Review (‘The Independent Review of Higher Education & Student Finance in the UK’ to give it its official title).

Here’s what Vince has to say:

Dear Friend,

As you know, one of the most urgent tasks facing the Coalition Government is to reform the funding of Higher Education. Our objectives are clear: high-quality university teaching and research; fair access for all, regardless of background; and a progressive funding structure.

At the same time,

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , and | 97 Comments

Clegg backs graduate tax in Telegraph interview

Credit where credit is due, today’s Telegraph interview with Nick Clegg covers a range of substantive policy issues and gives the Deputy Prime Minister the space to give nuanced answers where the question requires them.

The biggest story is Clegg’s clear steer on a graduate tax as the way to square financial demands with the party’s dislike of tuition fees:

While David Willetts, the universities minister, said this week that it was for Lord Browne’s ongoing study to recommend increased tuition fees or a tax, Mr Clegg comes down firmly for the latter. “ children are very intimidated by levels of

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , , , , and | 3 Comments

Vince: Cameron is “100% behind” my graduate tax proposals

Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable is interviewed in the Sunday Telegraph (“in open-neck pink shirt and slippers”, intriguingly).

The paper chooses to headline it, Vince Cable: ‘I’m not having fun in government’, trying to feed into the narrative that Vince is a semi-detached member of the coalition government, though he’s certainly loyal in all his utterances. Incidentally, the headline quote set in context reads rather more uncontroversially: “People sometimes ask me ‘are you having fun?’ ” he says. ” No! It’s hard work and it’s tough, but it’s important.”

The paper largely ignores what seems to me a …

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 4 Comments

LibLink: Phil Willis – We must re-think the role of universities if we want to produce a world-class workforce

Former Lib Dem MP, Phil Willis – or Baron Willis of Knaresborough to give him his full title – has penned a piece for the Yorkshire Post arguing that now is the time for a radical re-think about the role and function of our universities and how they could be re-engineered to provide a world-class workforce to deliver world-class goods and services to a global economy. Until his retirement from the Commons, of course, Phil was chairman of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee.

He has some tough things to say about the Coalition’s emergency budget:

The emergency Budget,

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , , and | 6 Comments

Opinion: A lucky escape from the graduate tax?

If the BBC is correct there is sufficient opposition within the Coalition to stop a graduate tax seeing the light of day and instead come up with a system that is like fees, but not fees, and retains some kind of link between student and university. On that we will have to wait and see what it is before commenting.

I do not though fully understand why a reputable economist like Vince Cable gave the National Union of Students’ graduate tax proposal serious consideration. Apart from the clear inconsistency and hypocrisy, Vince presided over a party tax

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 17 Comments

Opinion: No Need for a Graduate Tax

For a decade or so now governments have been firmly fixed on the idea that students should pay for their own education. So firmly fixed, in fact, that it’s easy to forget that until 1998 Higher Education was funded from general taxation and was, to the student, completely free.

It’s true that most taxpayers are in no further need of Higher Education. But that doesn’t mean they don’t benefit from its existence. Since most tax payers will one day be dependent on a pension (public or private) it’s in their interests that the next generation of wealth …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 7 Comments

Graduate tax is the fairest way of abolishing tuition fees

I was one of the lucky ones. When I went to university in the late 1980s and early 1990s I didn’t have to pay tuition fees. I left for the world of work without thousands of pounds of student debt hanging over my head.

I would like nothing more than to be able to abolish fees for good and make universities free for all. But to suggest that it is possible to do so now wilfully ignores reality.

The fact is the higher education sector has changed beyond all recognition in just a few short years. Universities face a funding …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 17 Comments

Opinion: Why a graduate tax is progressive

There has been at best, a muted response among Lib Dem members to the graduate tax proposals announced by Vince Cable on Thursday.

There appears to be a general agreement that these proposals are better than the status quo but not really ‘progressive’ and that the only really Liberal outcome is so-called free education.

It could however be argued that this phrase is a misnomer. Nothing is free. It may be free at the point of use, but it still has to be paid for. The suggestion of its advocates is that it be funded through general taxation, and specifically through a …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 34 Comments

Vince’s Graduate Tax is no easy win

Vince Cable yesterday floated the idea of a graduate tax to pay for university funding, as an alternative to top-up fees.

In the early 1960s, around 4% of young people went to university.  Today that’s nearly 50%.   Undergraduate education has changed beyond recognition over those fifty years and, with money tight, another government is having another attempt to sort out funding.  As Vince has made clear, a graduate tax is one option he wants considered.

Encouraging those with the ability

The UK has never quite cracked the problem of getting people from poorer backgrounds into higher education.   If you’re in the poorest …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 30 Comments

Vince Cable set to propose graduate tax to replace tuition fees

The BBC reports:

A graduate tax is to be proposed by the Business Secretary Vince Cable, in a keynote speech on the future funding of higher education. This would mean students in England would repay the costs of going to university through taxation once t hey began working. A review of tuition fees and student finance is due to report in the autumn.

Mr Cable, who has pledged to oppose raising fees, will suggest a graduate tax as an alternative system. This would mean students’ fees being paid by the government to universities – and graduates would then pay a higher

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | 60 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Chris Moore
    Hello Mary, you say this, "he party made a huge tactical error – when they could have had massive influence on a vote by vote basis – and betrayed millio...
  • Gwyn Williams
    As a student some 44 years ago, I delivered leaflets in a byelection in a new(ish)housing estate on the outskirts of Reading. It was uneventful until a furious ...
  • Steve Trevethan
    Might we please have a pamphlet or three on the harsh harm done to so many in our policy-deprived, not-rich fellow citizens and the some 25% of our children w...
  • David Blake
    Leaflets work, but they have to contain more than just 'Labour can't win here'. We need to get people voting for us because of our policies and values, not jus...
  • Alex Macfie
    @Mary Fulton: Confidence & Supply would have had the same risks for us as a full-blown coalition. It would have looked like we were just propping up the Tor...