YouTube hustings: Time to drop our tuition fees policy?

Today’s YouTube question to the two leadership candidates comes from Liberal Democrat Voice’s own Stephen Tall, and is on the subject of student tuition fees.

(See also Monday’s videos.)

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This entry was posted in Leadership Election.


  • I think there may be a problem with the volume. Or is it my hearing aid…?

    In anycase, to answer what I suppose is Stephen’s question… “no”.

  • Paul Graham 4th Dec '07 - 12:11pm

    Thank goodness Nick didn’t answer the question – he is very wisely leaving this issue open to review (and for the party to decide!). The only really compelling argument against tuiotion fees is that they further add to the burden of an already financially burdened generation. Personally, I would prefer to see cuts in the standard rate of tax and the abolition of stamp duty for first-time buyers than continuing with unsustainable levels of state subsidy to universities (and greater independence of universities from the state is also a strong argument in favour of tution fees). Unfortunately, here in Scotland we are stuck with the present statist approach.

  • Geoffrey Payne 4th Dec '07 - 12:38pm

    Harvard, Princeton and Yale get massive donations from very rich graduates of these universities because that is how make it more likely that they can get their children into these places.
    The US has a culture of cronyism on a scale far greater than our own.
    I do not think we can copy that in this country, and I do not see how we can compete with them from private sources.
    If it could be done in the UK, it would have been done by now. There is no philosophical reason why the other 2 parties would not implement such policies otherwise.

  • Unexpected Tiger 4th Dec '07 - 12:42pm

    I’m not sure I see the relationship between ‘competitiveness’ and fees. I can only think of two things that’s referring to..competition for international students, the whole point of which is that it pays for itself, and for the best research, which is supposed to benefit the country as a whole, not the students, and should therefore be paid out of general taxation.

  • ‘The greatest benefit of university education is the recipient, not society’

    True for some but not for all.

    The problem with the charging fees is that the graduate who goes on to be a social worker or nurse owes the same debt as the person who goes on the be a merchant banker or company director.

    I would much prefer some form of graduate tax that means that those who end up earning large salaries pay back more than those who go on to do less well paid but socially important work.

  • passing (well, virtually live-in) tory 4th Dec '07 - 1:49pm

    It is a pity that everyone is concentrating on undergraduate funding. The point where the US system really beats the pants off the UK is in POSTgraduate education; both in terms of funding and structure of courses (of which, in the typical UK Ph.D. program, there is bugger all), and this is a subject that hardly attracts any attention whatsoever.

  • The ultimate choice that Stephen tries to create in 11 is a false one, unless of course no-one has the political will to stand up for free education and well-funded universities.

    It would be more than a shame, if having identified a real vote-winning policy, we were to abandon it so cravenly. And we would, deservedly, be more than hard-pressed to defend many of our 2005 gains.

  • 11 Stephen – how much do Oxford colleges spend on teaching each undergraduate compared to other universities?

  • passing tory 4th Dec '07 - 4:10pm


    Of course, the US system effectively does this. To go to college in one of the top schools you either have to be very rich or very clever (or be willing to take out a very big loan). I can’t recall the precise number of kids who go to Harvard on scholarships but it is high (60%?).

    Now, it is up to you whether you decide that in this approach the rich kids are subsidising the poor or whether they are buying advantage, but as a system it does seem to work quite well, and it does produce well funded universities free from the problems of state control and with a reasonable level of access for those who are less well off.

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