When I first found out about government plans to replace tuition fees, with a graduate tax based on earnings instead, I was fairly open to the idea. I don’t think that the current system is particularly fair, and as with many areas where political bickering has distracted from the purpose of the system, I am sure there is ample room for improvement.
Sadly however, it’s clear to me that this new suggestion is not very well thought out. I’ll admit that, like many students, I’m a little lacking when it comes to the deep, nitty gritty facts and figures of the treasury. So in doing research for this article, I’ve tried my hardest take in to account the arguments from both sides – but the more I’ve looked into things, the more it becomes obvious that the government haven’t done their homework properly.
On forums everywhere people have found problems and pitfalls, many of which have no obvious answer. For example, how do you define a “graduate”? If your lifelong ambition has always been to train as a vet in Newcastle and on graduation you bugger off to look after sheep in New Zealand, how is the government going to stop you? Are we all going to be trapped, forced to stay in the exotic surrounds of Slough until we’ve paid off every single penny? And who knows when that will be? The government doesn’t seem to have a particular time frame in mind –are these tax proposals for several years, or a lifelong financial burden?
I’m not against the idea in principle, but there are simply too many unanswered questions, and too many suggestions being tossed around at random. The thing that grates on me the most is the suggestion of different “prices” for different degrees. Charging science students much more than those doing other courses, for example, seems ridiculous. Limiting the amount of applicants for subjects such as the Sciences or Medicine will become a huge problem in the future. What our economy needs right now is to generate people who will generate wealth. The new proposals could make this problematic.
Though certain subjects require more equipment and contact hours, the government are vastly underestimating the effect of price on those applying for University, many already bewildered by the prospect of taking on three (or two if the government have their way) years of costs, however they will be paid.
Would you have done the course that you’re doing now, if there was a cheaper option available? Or ask yourself how you’d feel if your degree was one of the “cheap” ones. Would you be so keen to apply knowing that your course cost the same as others you had dismissed as useless?
Some of you are probably shaking your heads now, muttering and getting very Victorian gentleman about the whole thing. You are confident that your degree is the one for you, and nothing that the government can do or say will persuade you otherwise. But, I fear, you are in the minority. While there may be too many courses on offer at the moment, staggering fees will almost certainly cause a polarization of students to a number of subjects, and these which won’t necessarily produce the graduates that progressive society demands.
A recession will always generate new thinking, and perhaps how we view and pay for University at the moment does need looking at. However, these new proposals smack of a group of MPs dying to make their mark in their new positions, at the expense of the education system. Whilst I’m sure many of you can, and will answer the questions above, it doesn’t seem to be something that the government themselves have managed to do at present. Maybe you could give them a hand.