Tuition Fees – Who Benefits, Who Pays?

Posted: December 10, 2010 in Politics
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Okay, so by the narrowest of margins,the Coalition Government got its proposals through the House Of Commons. Lucky for Nick Clegg, who had a face like a wet kitten before the vote…

The vote is done now, and no doubt the parties will argue till they are blue in the face over the rights and wrongs of how the vote process was handled. Attempts by the Labour Party to force a white paper review on the motion failed, as did the motion to allow longer than the allocated 5 hour debating time. Those will keep going on, but now it is time to analyse the Government proposals much more thoroughly, in a less partisan manner, in order to minimise the possible damage this bill could bring.

I’m well known for my distaste of the vastly over-inflated university system we have, but I do accept that unfortunately the situation will not change so my own stance will have to shift in a way that I can be comfortable with regards to this issue.

The Institute For Fiscal Studies indicates that the proposals as they stand will bring a more progressive system of repayments, but with more complications…and the possibility that the National Scholarship scheme could offer incentive to universities to turn away students from poorer backgrounds. What we need to realise is that the current university system will not work without contribution in monetary terms from three key areas – the Government, the graduate and the employers.

What the proposals cover is the reduction in the Government’s contribution to the tuition of students, and a three-fold increase in the contribution of the student to tuition costs. But nowhere does it mention any contribution by any employers of graduates. Why should they get to benefit from our universities without sharing the cost? People have said that employers do pay, in taxes, but with the reduction in Government spending in higher education that just isn’t the case.

So what the Opposition needs to do now, instead of arguing the toss over who’s right and who’s wrong, is to analyse and study this proposal and come up with improvements. Set aside political differences, and let’s make something that works for this country.

What have you got in mind, I hear you cry?

Well, if we REALLY have to go with increased tuition fee costs, let’s find a way of passing a portion of those costs along to the employer. Every time an employer takes a graduate above the earnings threshold, they can match the repayment contribution of the graduate. So if a graduate is paying £7 a week, the employer pays the same. It adds up to a much fairer system whereby the employer and the graduate split their part of the costs 50/50, the loans get repaid at a much quicker rate, and less of it will get written off after the 30 year cut-off point.

And once the economic situation improves, the Government can look at increasing funding at their end so that we have an equal split of Government/graduate/employer contributions. It’s a much fairer system than the one offered for voting by Vince Cable, and would merit at least a green paper cross-party review.

The vote is done – let’s move on and get it right for the sake of our future students!


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