Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has outlined plans today for a new graduate tax system. The new system will abolish tuition fees, which are payable after graduation. Students in England will repay the costs of university through taxation once they begin working.
The amount paid when a graduate has started working will depend upon earnings, compared with the current system which expects a fixed amount to be paid back.
Cable said that his plans are the “only possible way forward” for higher education.
Speaking at London South Bank University earlier today, Cable continued: “The reality is we are going to have to develop a model in which the balance of funding for higher education in England combines less public support and more private investment from those who benefit most from it.”
The NUS have said today that they welcome Cable’s backing for a graduate tax to replace student top-up fees, but warned that “any proposed alternative must be genuinely fair and progressive to win the support of students.”
Speaking after the announcement, NUS President, Aaron Porter, said: “Vince Cable’s support for the principle of a graduate tax is to be welcomed as is his recognition that those who earn most after university should contribute more back as and when they do so. He is right to ask why, under the current unpopular and regressive top-up fee system, a care worker or teacher is expected to pay as much as a corporate lawyer or banker.
“The fair solution is to abolish tuition fees and ensure that graduate contributions are based on actual earnings in the real world, rather than sticker prices in prospectuses, which are based on guesswork.”
The plans set out today could also see university degrees condensed to two years, a scheme said to “sound great on paper but are in effect education on the cheap,” according to the University and College Union’s general secretary, Sally Hunt.
She continued: “They would be incredibly teacher-intensive and would stop staff from carrying out vital research and pastoral duties.”
Porter added that students and families won’t be “fooled” by a simple re-branding or “marketing drives”. He believes that some “radical ideas” and “progressive thinking” were put forward today.
The plans also aim to get more students living at home and to expand private institutions, which would then allow students to be awarded their degrees from more established institutions.
A review of tuition fees and student finance is due to report in the autumn.
David Garner has given Nouse a brief statement regarding the University of York’s stance on the issue: “We would wish to know a lot more about the detail of the Graduate Tax proposal before commenting further. We are awaiting the outcome of the Browne Review and this is clearly another interesting input to that process.”