The hyperbole of tuition fee reform

In the current environment of student anger and widely publicised strikes, the dominant headlines concern tuition fees tripling and teaching funding being slashed. In themselves, they are true, but a far stretch from being a fair reflection of the changes suggested. In reality, with all factors taken into account, the new measures are actually a good deal for students – especially for those at the poorer end of the spectrum.

The foundations given for the protests are actually pretty thin when analysed in detail. Tuition fees, now referred to as ‘graduate contributions’, have the potential to rise to £9000 per year. But, crucially, this is conditional on increasing access to poorer students. Under the new proposed system, higher fees have been coupled with counterbalances. Grant schemes will see large growth; both the absolute number given out and also in the generosity of those grants. Maintenance loans will also cease to be means-tested.

Another key aspect of the changes is the huge increase in the repayment threshold. Currently it sits at an income level of £15,000 per annum, but under proposed alterations would rise significantly to £21,000. This change makes a colossal difference to the funding system. For a student earning £25,000 after graduation (a typical second year salary for TeachFirst in London), under the old scheme, they would pay back £75 per month. Under the new proposed scheme, this would fall massively to £30 per month. I fail to see the problem so far.

Many tout the claim that these higher tuition contributions for the individual will deter people from attending university, but this is a premature assertion. No-one really knows what the effect will be and any guess is as good as another; the grounds for pessimism just aren’t substantial.
More specifically, people are especially worried about deterrence in arts and humanities subjects due to the removal of government teaching funds to these fields. However, the impact of this is easily exaggerated: York has already proven its commitment to arts and humanities funding, as a contributing factor in being awarded The Times’ ‘University of the Year’ award. There is no reason that intra-re-allocation won’t occur at universities; surely it is quite realistic to expect that many institutions will want to maintain their diversity.

Also, the idea of students taking on massive debt is misleading. The debt is only realised when earnings are realised. If a graduate continuously earns £20,000 a year, then their debt levels are effectively zero. Additionally, it is so important to frame this issue in the context of the country’s current financial position. The scope of government is necessarily reduced by the huge fiscal strain we find ourselves under. Part of the blame inevitably lies with the fiscal imprudence of the previous New Labour government. Many have protested because they feel abandoned by the Liberal Democrats, and their backtracking on pre-election policies. The reality of the situation though, is that, pre-crises abolishment of tuition fees was an ambitious policy suggestion, but post-crisis it is nothing more than a distant ideology. Students need to come back down to earth.

If there is one person at the centre of this whole affair who risks deterring disadvantaged prospective students it is not Cameron, not Clegg, but Aaron Porter. The NUS and their imperceptive pessimism have created a wave of negativity without presenting a balanced view of the actual situation. Rather than being informative, their apocalyptic assessments risk creating a self-perpetuating decline in the number of higher education applicants.

This move is not a privatisation of higher-education, it is a shift within the current and highly successful framework. Rather than being the result of a prudent evaluation of the policies at hand, the student protests of late seem to be based on bitterness over the election fallout. The two should not be bundled together. The new system stands to benefit many and probably isn’t worth donning a megaphone over.

67 comments

  1. Maintenance loans are not currently means tested.
    For an article that is trying to provide the facts rather than the hype around this issue surely basic info like that needs to be correct.

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  2. @Clarg

    http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/UniversityAndHigherEducation/StudentFinance/Applyingforthefirsttime/DG_171539

    How the Maintenance Loan works:
    All eligible full-time students can get a Maintenance Loan, but the exact amount you can borrow will depend on several factors – including household income, where you live while you’re studying, when you started your course and whether you’re in your final year.
    It’s also affected by any help you get through the Maintenance Grant (though not the Special Support Grant).

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  3. I agree that the public debate has been somewhat skewed, although it seems that the government has done a poor job in adequately communicating their ideas. That I would highlight as being their main fault.

    You argue a fair point that the idea higher fees will deter prospective students is as of yet unproven, but that “any guess is as good as another” isn’t quite true. There are plenty of decent guesses, but there are also a lot of poor ones.

    Whether or not it’s worth donning a megaphone over, well, I can’t see anything bad about students getting involved in their future and expressing their opinions. I agree however, that the ill informed state of the protests are a significant concern, and in writing this article you are making a good attempt to address that.

    Good job at slicing through the hyperbole.

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  4. There is so much information in your essay that I never knew until now! It makes you think – if only the Tories had marketed and explained the concept behind the rise in tuition fees, as clearly as you have done here, maybe there wouldn’t be so much confusion among the student ranks. I also think that the protests are so much more than a rally against student fees, rather an event within which the young people of this country can express their general contempt with the new government, who have completely disregarded all the promises they made to the young people, who, only months ago, so passionately voted for ‘change’. Cameron’s government might have the right ideas – but their backhanded dishonesty, and inability to communicate effectively with the masses will ultimately be their downfall.

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  5. 4 Dec ’10 at 5:51 pm

    Nick Clegg's Ideological Commitment to Unreconstructed Thatcherism

    I’m all for hyperbole, especially when the alternative (as provided here) is blind misinformation.

    1. ‘Another key aspect of the changes is the huge increase in the repayment threshold. Currently it sits at an income level of £15,000 per annum, but under proposed alterations would rise significantly to £21,000.’

    The threshold for graduates paying back their debts is £21,000 in 2016 prices. The difference (from 2010 prices) is about £2,500 and means that students will both face higher monthly bills and have to start repaying their debt earlier.

    2. ‘Many tout the claim that these higher tuition contributions for the individual will deter people from attending university, but this is a premature assertion.’

    Whilst obviously no one can predict the future, polls have suggested quite the opposite of what you’ve asserted (without foundation). Ipsos Mori questioned 2,700 young people aged between 11 and 16 earlier this year and found that among those who would have been likely to go to university, only 68% would still be confident of this if fees went up to £5,000, while if they had to pay £7,000 only 45% would still be keen. For the poorest students – those with no parents in work – only 55% were prepared to pay fees of £5,000, and just 35% would pay £7,000.

    I’d say of all the ‘grounds for pessimism’ out there, the view of those the reforms will directly affect are probably the most reliable measure we have.

    3. ‘…it is so important to frame this issue in the context of the country’s current financial position. The scope of government is necessarily reduced by the huge fiscal strain we find ourselves under.’

    Nah, not really. In fact, justifying the reform this way is wholly dishonest. The proposed hike is a long-term (i.e. permanent) solution to a long-term problem (i.e. one that existed pre-crisis). If the current HE funding situation is really untenable in this time of crisis (as you, and the coalition government repeatedly assert), then why not make it a temporary measure (one that could be reversed if the financial crisis was ameliorated)? Oh that’s right, because this entire narrative is absolute tosh.

    4. ‘The reality of the situation though, is that, pre-crises abolishment of tuition fees was an ambitious policy suggestion, but post-crisis it is nothing more than a distant ideology.’

    I don’t really know what you’re attempting to say by ‘distant ideology’; that makes very little sense. However, this is irrelevant as the abolishment of tuition fees was a Lib Dem ‘policy suggestion’ before AND DURING the crisis for the Lib Dems. It was in their manifesto, published in 2010 before the general election. So your point is fallaciously premised and just utterly redundant.

    5. ‘If there is one person at the centre of this whole affair who risks deterring disadvantaged prospective students it is not Cameron, not Clegg, but Aaron Porter’

    I frankly couldn’t care less what Porter thinks or says. The NUS shouldn’t be framed as the voice of all students, because well, it isn’t.

    6. ‘This move is not a privatisation of higher-education’

    Perhaps not, but it is the marketisation of HE, which could be equally disastrous. For a better assessment of the dangers of this than I could manage try Anthony Barnett over at Open Democracy (http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/my-question-to-nick-clegg-isnt-it-marketisation-not-democracy-you-are-off).

    Come back when you’ve done your research. This is too important an issue to mislead people over.

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  6. 4 Dec ’10 at 5:52 pm

    Nick Clegg's Ideological Commitment to Unreconstructed Thatcherism

    Small error: I meant to say ‘the difference from 2012 prices’, not 2010.

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  7. @ Tom Fisher replying to Clarg

    Do you even have a maintenance loan?
    Every student can get a maintenance loan regardless of their parents’ income, but those whose parents’ have smaller incomes are eligible for larger loans under the means tested system.

    Yes, increasing the number of grants and the amount of money they pay out is surely a good thing, but it is clearly a better thing that more people (ie, those whose parents are not high earners, but also not low earners enough to warrant a grant) can get bigger maintenance loans.

    Making maintenance loans not means-tested just means fewer middle-income background students getting the amount of money they need. Instead of a variety of different sized loans tailored to the needs of all students, they are far more likely to be lumped into the category of ‘standard loan’ and ‘grant’: high income and low income. The middle income students will surely miss out.

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  8. Great article Tom, cuts through the drama with hard facts. This is a progressive solution to Labours debt crisis.

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  9. @ nick clegg’s etc etc

    1) You have used a very high inflation figure to get that, I don’t know what your grasp of economics is like, but that figure is most definitely an upper-bound estimate.
    You then proceed to contradict yourself, if that amount is positive, then monthly bills will be lower and they will pay back later.

    2) 11-16 year olds are going to yield highly spurious results. Also, if all they were presented with was simply that up-front figure, then that is exactly the kind of un-balanced and ill-informed judgement i’m talking about.

    3/4) You’ve got a bit carried away. Of course it’s you can reverse it, just not for a long time. Not until the fiscal situation is healthy again (a long way off!!). Hence ‘distant ideology’: we might not seriously be able to discuss zero tuition fees for at least a decade. Yes Nick Clegg promised tuition fee abolishment, right until the last, but if you believed he could really make it happen then your a bit of a fool. Come on…

    5) Agreed, but he has media presence and a far-reaching voice, whether you like him or not.

    6) Irrelevant

    I have done my research. Feel free to respond.

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  10. 4 Dec ’10 at 7:37 pm

    Nick Clegg's Ideological Commitment to Unreconstructed Thatcherism

    1) I’ve used the figure quoted by the IFS (after they rescinded some of their initial analysis), who I imagine have a stronger grasp of economics than you or I. This is a really important point – as he govt has frequently used this spurious figure publicly to justify the hike. That’s either dishonesty or incompetence. Or perhaps a combination of the two.

    2) Yeah, I agree all 16 yr olds are thick and should be ignored. Whether young people’s impressions are mistaken or not is irrelevant – for it is their impressions which will guide their behaviour. Perception is reality and all that.

    3/4) I never said anything about whether it was realistic or not. I was merely stating the fact that the Lib Dems had it as a commitment, during the crisis, which is the opposite of what you wrote. And either way, with the political will it could very well be realistic. Not easy, but certainly far from impossible.

    6) It’s far from irrelevant. In fact it’s absolutely fundamental to why these reforms are dangerous and should be opposed.

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  11. @ Nick Clegg’s Ideological Commitment to Unreconstructed Thatcherism

    Did you actually just say ‘Nah, not really’ in response to the assertion that it’s important to frame these reforms in the context of the current economy and the pressure on public spending? Basing your justification on the fact that this is a long-term issue? You’re also apparently writing your comments whilst sitting on some moral pedestal, illustrated by your view that “justifying the reform this way is wholly dishonest.” You’re delusional if you think that the UK’s current fiscal position is irrelevant – every policy being drawn up by the Coalition government has to take into account that we’ve got the biggest budget deficit in UK history. Tuition fee reform is never that much of a long-term issue due to the beauty of democracy in the UK and the changing forms of governments. Governments come and go, as do their policies. You pose the question as to why not make the whole thing a temporary adjustment until we’re out of this current macroeconomic mess, but you fail to appreciate the likely costs of such a strategy.

    And the tagline of the NUS is “the national voice of students”. Quite contradictory to your blasé comment that you “frankly couldn’t care less what Porter thinks or says. The NUS shouldn’t be framed as the voice of all students, because well, it isn’t.” Um, bit ignorant for you to dismiss the NUS as some irrelevant crackpot institution that is widely ignored. Its opinions and actions, or rather rhetoric and propaganda, clearly have some impact on a fair proportion of the student population, particularly regarding this topic.

    And on a further note, B. Dee’s comment ‘There is so much information in your essay that I never knew until now’ pertinently highlights the sacrifice of policy knowledge people are so willing to make in order to back their chosen political ideology. I thought we were in an age of progressive politics. (No offence intended, Miss Dee.)

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  12. 4 Dec ’10 at 7:46 pm

    Nick Clegg's Ideological Commitment to Unreconstructed Thatcherism

    And obviously I never thought the Lib Dems could abolish tuition fees. They won’t even get AV, what a joke of a party.

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  13. @kitz

    Yes I do. I get how they work.

    You have a point. However, the minimum base-line was suggested in the Browne Review to rise to £3750, which is eligible to all. This is several hundred pounds higher than the non means tested baseline at the moment.
    Partial grants are available on top of this £3750, for households with incomes less than £60000. So both of these combined should limit the middle-class squeeze you talk about.

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  14. 4 Dec ’10 at 10:05 pm

    Pint of Guinness please Sir

    Finally, someone actually listening to what the government has been telling us! Well done Mr Fisher!

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  15. Tom Porter wouldn’t be a public school boy and a massive Tory would he???

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  16. 4 Dec ’10 at 10:59 pm

    Nick Clegg's Ideological Commitment to Unreconstructed Thatcherism

    Look, this reform is NOT part of a deficit reduction strategy. Yet it is repeatedly presented as such by the Tories and increasingly panicked Lib Dems. This is either dishonest or stupid. There’s no other way of framing it.

    The government is cutting £2.9 billion a year from the money the Department of Business Innovation and Skills gives to universities, which equates to an 80% cut in HE teaching funding. But universities will continue to receive as much money as before, if not more. In future, the money will just come from tuition fees rather than from the state. Via student loans, the government will still be providing the cash. And it will be well past the next election before repayments on those loans become significant.

    The “independent” OBR has stated that by 2015 when the new fees policy would be fully realised, the extra government borrowing for student loans will be £5.6bn a year. Even allowing for inflation, that appears to be more than the £2.9bn a year the government is saving from slashing its direct contribution. You see what I mean when I said this represented a long-term solution.

    The government narrative is that we have to cut government borrowing, quickly and significantly. This policy, whatever you think of it, does not sit comfortably within that narrative. And that is where the dishonesty I write of lies.

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  17. ‘York has already proven its commitment to arts and humanities funding, as a contributing factor in being awarded The Times’ ‘University of the Year’ award.’

    Yeah in 2010. I.e. 2 years before this will come into effect, so basically irrelevant.

    If it’s a choice between staying solvent or committing to the arts and humanities I wonder what universities will choose…?

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  18. You guys really need to work on your headlines. I don’t think ‘hyperbole’ will ever be catchy. You don’t need to impress me.

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  19. Great article which highlights an important point. The media coverage has been incredibly biased and misleading. A group has been set up on facebook for all those students who support the reforms.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Students-in-Favour-Of-Tuition-Fee-Reform/171073002913221

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  20. HELLO MY NAME IS TOM FISHER, I FLIPPIN’ HATE HYPERBOLE ME

    BUT YEAH WE HAVE TO TRIPLE TUITION FEES OTHERWISE THE ECONOMY WILL LITERALLY COLLAPSE

    DID I MENTION THAT I HATE HYPERBOLE?

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  21. It’s very patronising to assume that because people disagree with the proposals, they therefore don’t understand what the proposals are actually saying. Maintenance grants for the poorest pupils are rising by small a margin, from a maximum of £2,906 to £3,250, hardly a trebling of support for the poorest pupils. Also those entitled to obtain the maintenance grants will be reduced from families earning £50,000 or less to those earning £40,000 or less. As I have also mentioned in previous posts, Universities such as York, have a low proportion of students claiming bursaries, therefore the poorest pupils aren’t attending the better Universities anyway.

    York has already proven its commitment to arts and humanities funding, as a contributing factor in being awarded The Times’ ‘University of the Year’ award. I’m unsure what is meant by this part of the article, universities are yet to be hit by the 80% budgets cuts, therefore who knows what they will prioritise in the future? The arts, humanities and social science degrees roughly cost between £7,000 and £9,000 a year to run per student. The STEM subjects, which cost around £14,000 a year to run, are being subsidised by the rest of the government’s allocation, which in turn means students taking these subjects won’t be penalised for doing so. Therefore, the burden of taking a non stem subject is being shifted from the state to the student, encouraging individual responsibility, which anyone would know is pure Conservative ideology.

    Blaming Labour is also a non-argument, although not a Labour supporter myself, it is quite clear that most countries are suffering huge deficits and are going through austerity measures. Did Labour cause the deficits in Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, America, France and many more? Not likely, there main fault was not regulating the banking system properly and allowing our economy to be built upon consumer credit and debt. This however, has been true of many governments and our economy for many years has been built upon what I would describe as “fluff”.

    As an economics student I was very disappointed to see no mention of the rise in interest charges on student loans, as this will play an important part in the repayment process. Finally, one day it is my wish, to read an article on the politics section of the Nouse website, which isn’t simply repeating a political parties manifesto but of genuine facts and empirical evidence. Party politics is incredibly tedious and statistics can be manipulated to suit whatever cause you want to support. Sorry for the long post, hope it all made sense.

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  22. Finally someone speak sense!! Well done, Mr. Fisher, Well done!

    @Nick Clegg’s Ideological Commitment to Unreconstructed Thatcherism your arguments become more ridiculous and desperate with every rebuttal. Try reading the facts and not getting caught up in all the media and student created hype.

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  23. Finally, the facts. Not the misguided opinions, not the self-obsessed outcry of left wing students , not the premature death knell of education for all – but the actual, undeniable facts.

    This policy is progressive and will help the poorest students the most, if many of the disenchanted liberal democrat students voters feel strongly against it, then surely they feel strongly against fairness. It’s lamentable.

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  24. 6 Dec ’10 at 2:16 pm

    Nicola Shun-Macabee

    Hear hear, Mr Fisher.

    For weeks the student body have disgraced themselves nationally with their self-centred protest against a policy that underneath the student spin is not only fair in the circumstances, but crucially, undeniably required.

    How can a country that was so close to it’s knees financially continue to extortionately subsidise Higher Education that, in it’s own premise, has never been a divine right to anyone? The current system, when coupled with our dire financial position, is simply unnafordable.

    The students who may end up having to pay a little extra back when they’ve had their three years of frolicking and learning should spare a thought in their cosy £25,000 a year graduate position for the nurse or police officer or other public sector worker who will be sat wondering where their next pay cheque will be coming from…

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  25. 6 Dec ’10 at 2:22 pm

    Nicola Shun-Spacabee

    ‘The students who may end up having to pay a little extra back’

    Yeah, just the 6 grand more. To those of us without double-barreled names and privileged backgrounds that’s quite a lot.

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  26. 6 Dec ’10 at 2:27 pm

    Leonard "Bones" McCoy

    Cut foreign aid – that should save a few pennies.

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  27. 6 Dec ’10 at 2:27 pm

    The Archbishop of Banterbury

    I for one am delighted that Miss Shun-Macabee is unperturbed by the rise in fees. Maybe she can go back and do an English degree this time, it’s “its”.

    ‘The students who may end up having to pay a little extra back when they’ve had their three years of frolicking and learning should spare a thought in their cosy £25,000 a year graduate position for the nurse or police officer or other public sector worker who will be sat wondering where their next pay cheque will be coming from…’

    Well their pay cheque certainly ain’t gonna be coming from the coalition government.

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  28. 6 Dec ’10 at 2:34 pm

    The Archbishop of Banterbury

    Strip independent schools of their charitable status.

    It won’t pay for funding HE teaching, but it’d be bloody funny.

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  29. 6 Dec ’10 at 2:45 pm

    Nicola Shun-Macabee

    @spacabee – you’ve missed my point through your poor attempt at a class dig.
    Of course we would all love a cheap or even free education system, but it just is not a feesable option in such a climate. Are you seriously proposing that it is financially viable with your opinion? Or would you be happy to watch another couple of hundred thousand jobs go instead?
    80,000 of the poorest students are going to be able to access Higher Education under this proposal. The threshold for paying back the loan, as Mr Fisher pointed out, is also increasing..

    @Banterbury – you follow your it’s/its point with “certainly ain’t gonna be”?? My English degree would definitely teach me that such a sentence would stretch colloquialism to the wire..

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  30. 6 Dec ’10 at 3:28 pm

    Tommy Trewblu

    Says the girl who wrote ‘feesable’…back to the books for you young lady.

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  31. spelling aside, nicola does make a valuable point about the slicing of the public spending pie, there has to be priorities in a time of financial hardship.

    the sooner we accept as students that we aren’t actually as important as vital public services, hospitals, police forces and many others, the better, so this whole selfish facade can end.

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  32. 6 Dec ’10 at 4:49 pm

    Johnny McRah-Rahtington

    I can easily afford the rise in fees, if you cant then perhaps you should just go back to your council estate.

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  33. 6 Dec ’10 at 5:10 pm

    Kenton Smith-Abercromieandfitch

    Look, we can’t all go to University can we? I’m sure most of you couldn’t afford my family estate, but you don’t whine on about that do you?

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  34. 6 Dec ’10 at 5:48 pm

    Tommy Trewblu

    @Tim Monterey ‘the slicing of the public spending pie’

    This is the kind of reductive tosh that really doesn’t help win any debate.

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  35. 6 Dec ’10 at 6:16 pm

    Hi this is yr future calling

    Your financial prudence is amzing! Cameron, Clegg and Co. should totes hire you to sort out this whole mess!!

    “Also, the idea of students taking on massive debt is misleading. The debt is only realised when earnings are realised. If a graduate continuously earns £20,000 a year, then their debt levels are effectively zero.”

    No, moron. Your debt is slowly getting bigger and bigger! And you seriously never want to earn more than 20, 000 a year?? That’s cool, some people never want to own a house, travel, have kids, retire comfortably. All yr own decision, of course.
    Continued repayment idiocy:
    “Currently it sits at an income level of £15,000 per annum, but under proposed alterations would rise significantly to £21,000. This change makes a colossal difference to the funding system. For a student earning £25,000 after graduation (a typical second year salary for TeachFirst in London), under the old scheme, they would pay back £75 per month. Under the new proposed scheme, this would fall massively to £30 per month. I fail to see the problem so far.”

    I do, it’s a scam to make you pay back more overall.

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  36. “Of course we would all love a cheap or even free education system, but it just is not a feesable option in such a climate. Are you seriously proposing that it is financially viable with your opinion?”

    Funny how the rest of Europe thinks that cheap or free education is perfectly ‘feesable’ even in the current economic climate.

    Maybe it’s because the rest of Europe thinks that investing money in education is a more worthwhile cause than wasting countless billions in unwinnable international wars of doubtful legitimacy.

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  37. 6 Dec ’10 at 8:51 pm

    Tommy Trewblu

    Fees in Europe (for domestic students):

    Austria – free
    Belgium – €500 enrollment fee
    Czech Republic – free
    Denmark – free
    France – €165 registration fee
    Finland – free
    Germany – Approx €500 per term
    Greece – free
    Hungary – free
    Iceland – €100-€250 registration fee
    Ireland – €900 registration fee
    Luxembourg – free
    Netherlands – €1,200-€2,200 a year
    Norway – free
    Scotland – free
    Slovenia – free
    Sweden – €30 per semester

    Cameron’s Britain: Up to £9,000 a year.

    Jolly good.

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  38. Have some more stats:

    Most institutions in world top 200

    US 54
    UK 29
    Canada 11
    Japan 11
    Netherlands 11
    Germany 10
    Belgium 5
    Sweden 5
    France 4
    Denmark 3
    Ireland 2
    Norway 2

    Accessibility Rankings (not the same thing as cost!)
    UK 3rd
    Ireland 7th
    France 8th
    Sweden 9th
    Italy 10th
    Belgium 12th
    Austria 13th

    Netherlands are first, but fewer top institutions and more expensive than most of Europe. Finland are second, but top institutions? None to speak of.

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  39. 6 Dec ’10 at 9:33 pm

    Tommy Trewblu

    Presumably those stats were calculated at the current fees rate, so obviously they offer little insight into what would be a radically different system (whether you are desirous of the reform or not).

    Either way, I don’t recall making any point about the relative quality of our institutions against the rest of Europe’s. I was merely highlighting the gross disparity in cost (even at current levels) – a point which takes on greater meaning when one acknowledges the state of some of those economies (and the lack of similar fee rises elsewhere)…

    Finland has a pop. of 5.5m, so it’s hardly surprising they have no unis in the top 200. Not really much you can interpret from that.

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  40. 6 Dec ’10 at 9:48 pm

    Tom Fisher, York's very own David Tredinnick

    I can’t seem to find the accessibility rankings Fisher quotes online. The only one my google search provided is far less glowing, ranking the UK the worst of all Anglophone nations for accessibility and 8th out of 14 countries measured overall.

    ‘Global Higher Education Rankings 2010: Affordability and Accessibility in Comparative Perspective’, (p. 50)

    http://higheredstrategy.com/publications/GHER2010_FINAL.pdf

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  41. I’m pretty sure British institutions were world-renowned even before tuition fees were introduced; that was only a few years ago after all.

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  42. 6 Dec ’10 at 10:00 pm

    Tom Fisher, York's very own David Tredinnick

    It would appear that you’re quoting the ‘participation ranking’ (largely the legacy of New Labour policy you rabidly denounce no doubt?), which is simply the percentage of a particular age group (e.g. 18-21) at university at a single point in time.

    This isn’t the real accessibility ranking which takes into account other measures like gender parity and EEI ranking (socio-economic background, broadly speaking). Our low EEI ranking indicates that our student body isn’t representative of our wider population (which is news to no one of course).

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  43. 6 Dec ’10 at 10:21 pm

    Dominic Mantle

    As suggested by the title of the article, the main thrust of your argument seems to be that the problems with tuition fee reform have been hyped up by its opponents for political reasons. I consider myself somebody without fixed political affiliation, who rather examines the reality of changeable policy before making sweeping partisan judgements, and yet I am opposed to the plans to increase the cap on tuition fees to £9,000. I had never been on a protest in my life until I went on the National Demo, such was the strength of my feeling about the issue. Unlike some, I wouldn’t protest for the sake of protesting. I recognise that the series of cuts being implemented by the Coalition Government are one justifiably logical response to the facts of the budget deficit and the national debt. At the same time, I think the damage that will be done to Higher Education as a system outweighs the financial benefits of cutting state funding for university education; the country’s financial situation is not so dire that great swathes of state funding should be altogether withdrawn. You say that “If a graduate continuously earns £20,000 a year, then their debt levels are effectively zero.” – where the key word is ‘effectively’. In reality their debt levels would not be zero, but would have been temporarily suspended at zero. In reality, the only reason I can see that graduates would have for keeping their own earnings at zero would be the avoidance of the repayment of their student loans. In reality, the personal debt which graduates accrue over their time at university will be higher, and considerably so, than without the reforms to tuition fees. While you make some good points about increased support for students from poorer backgrounds, the increase in fees will nevertheless be financially damaging to students who are not included in this socio-economic bracket and yet are still by no means rich compared to some of their university contemporaries; who for want of a better term are ‘middle-class’. Furthermore, regardless of the actuality of increased support for students from poorer backgrounds, it must be recognised that some such individuals will likely be deterred from pursuing university education as an option due to the visible trebling of fees. At the same time, many ‘middle-class’ students are likely to be dissuaded too. I regretfully would term myself ‘middle-class’, and I would have given very serious thought to pursuing extra-university options had the reforms in question come a year or so in advance of my leaving college.

    In response to your argument that reduced repayment rates render the increased debt less problematic – students will still part with more of their earnings and prior to this will still be in debt to greater amounts. This represents a huge financial and psychological bulwark to the incredibly epistemologically important attainment of a university education.

    The Conservative-driven Government proposal that because of the hard economic times students should take on the cost of university education and by extension the graduate debt necessary for this to happen smacks of an ideological hypocrisy, when one of the most prominent themes of the Conservatives’ election message was that Labour had let us all down by failing to prepare for the bad times during the good and had instead built up a huge budget deficit. It seems that the Conservatives are both staunchly opposed to and warmly welcoming of debt in its various guises.

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  44. “If a graduate continuously earns £20,000 a year, then their debt levels are effectively zero.”

    Tom, are you aware of the concept of ‘time value of money’?

    Because if you do, then surely you’ll realise that thanks to that fact, it is virtually impossible for someone to earn less than £20,000 for the rest of his/her life. In 10-15 years time, even the minimum wage is probably going to be higher than that.

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  45. @asdadsas

    The time value of money… yes i am aware
    Are you aware of the Browne Review?

    The repayment threshold is set to increase in line with average earnings.

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  46. I used £20000 continuously as simple example, if i’d projected inflation 30 years down the line the article would have got pretty bogged down in numbers. Not everyone who reads it is going to know real vs nominal etc

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  47. @dominic “the country’s financial situation is not so dire”

    are you for real? we’re currently paying over £150m a day on debt interest alone. there is the answer to your free tuition fee debate in one figure.

    same old story – spending money we simply didn’t have for 13 years, the eye-watering levels of debt are unveiled and suddenly its outrageous to attempt to address it.

    there can be protest after sit in after smashing of property, but in reality, come thursday night’s vote we’ll all just have to accept that the student body of this country aren’t actually that special after all, and instead we’ll just be happy when that hospital bed is there for us when we’re sick.

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  48. 7 Dec ’10 at 12:41 am

    Tim Montery, York's very own Nadine Dorries

    Tim, are you the Sun newspaper in disguise?

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  49. 7 Dec ’10 at 11:27 am

    Dose of reality

    Just a few observations:

    Clegg as new thatcher person –

    polling 11-16 yr olds and asking them if paying more money would deter is like asking Turkey’s to vote for xmas – it’s meaningless data

    You are right that this is nothing to do with the deficit. HE is a long term howler that has been losing hundreds of millions in a completely unsustainable fashion for years. Higher fees is necessary to avoid this situation (recession or no recession). The HE sector desperately needs more market influence to drive up standards and improve cost effectiveness.

    Robert green

    You can’t excuse Labour because other equally wacky social democratic countries also bought the socialist lie of tax and spend. I point you to Australia where thanks to John Howard all they argued about was how much of their budget SURPLUS to spend on fiscal augmentation. Plus Ireland was brought down by being tied to interest rates set by Germany and France as part of their membership of the Euro.

    I admire the author’s pursuit of truth about tuition fees because frankly the opposition to it is ridiculous. The malevolent forces of egalitarianism are rising again and we have to crush them quickly and not accept their arguments as valid.

    Labour governments always run out of money – FACT.

    Because tax and spend doesn’t work, and you can;t run around “investing” in everything because there isn’t endless money and in fact money often makes things worse not better.

    Shrink the state – slash spending – cut taxes = prosperous nation

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  50. My two cents: the rise in fees should not be a problem, as it will not prevent anyone from going to university. Of course, some people might CHOOSE not to, but that will be a personal choice, not an actual barrier (i.e. everyone who wants to attend a university will be able to).

    Secondly, regarding that post about countries with free education… a) Countries like Greece do have free universities, but they do not compare to the UK ones. b) countries like France permit the existence of private universities (the fees at Business Schools in France are exorbitant).

    Thirdly, it is interesting that it is mostly the anti-fee commentators who resort to personal attacks instead of civilised discussion.

    Finally, education is not a right, it’s a privilege. We should all be thankful we were given the opportunities we were, not demand them. There are many other things we need more (health, primary education, infrastructure etc). Students should stop caring only about themselves, and start caring about their fellow citizens. Why should everyone else in society have to pay for a select few who attend higher institutions? In response to this argument, someone told me in the past that society benefits from doctors, lawyers etc who are educated at universities. Yes, but they pay for them directly – why pay for their education as well?

    A.

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  51. 7 Dec ’10 at 2:11 pm

    Robert Green

    You can’t excuse Labour because other equally wacky social democratic countries also bought the socialist lie of tax and spend.

    Christ, didn’t realise I was writing on the Daily Mail forum, my mistake!

    I enjoyed how you conveniently ignored my mention of America, known for their left-wing political rhetoric and socialist views. France is traditionally a centre-right country; I don’t think Sarkozy is particularly known for his socialist views either. There are many other examples of countries both right wing and left wing with spending deficits due to the global financial crisis. What I was saying is simply laying the blame at Labours door is ignorant and failing to account for the true picture.

    But on the other hand you have proved my point about the wrongdoings of the political party system. People become so tied up with either being Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem that they fail to acknowledge other opinions and cast their own personal opinions as you charmingly put it as- FACT. I suggest you re-read what I said as I did point out that Labour and previous governments were poor at managing the economy.

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  52. @ A Dose of Reality:

    “The malevolent forces of egalitarianism are rising again”

    Egalitarian: “believing in the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities”

    Are you actually serious?

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  53. 7 Dec ’10 at 4:43 pm

    Paul Krugman

    “Shrink the state – slash spending – cut taxes = prosperous nation”

    Oh dear.

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  54. 7 Dec ’10 at 6:07 pm

    Niall Ferguson

    Krugman: you said this…

    ‘My prediction is that politicians will eventually be tempted to resolve the [fiscal] crisis the way irresponsible governments usually do: by printing money, both to pay current bills and to inflate away debt. And as that temptation becomes obvious, interest rates will soar.’

    Making the current measures, responsible then?

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  55. 7 Dec ’10 at 7:26 pm

    Dose of Reality, York's very own General Augusto Pinochet

    “Shrink the state – slash spending – cut taxes = prosperous nation”

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  56. A few other points:

    – direct Govt. funding for Arts and Humanities courses is around £7200 per capita, which will need to be replaced by tuition fees

    – direct funding of universities shows as expenditure on the Govt.’s balance sheets, but loans to students do not, even if they are expected to remain unpaid. This means that there will be an immediate but completely fictitious “saving” of £2.7bn

    – using the Govt.’s own figures, in 2016 an ex-student would start to repay their loans, but would need to earn £40,000 in order to cover the interest on £35,000 of loans i.e. the debt would rise rather than fall unless earnings were very substantial, potentially for 30 years

    -it is not clear how this level of (rising) debt will be viewed by banks and other lenders when ex-students apply for commercial loans such as mortgages.

    One thing that many politicians seem unable to grasp is that many people are genuinely scared of the idea of being in debt, even if they may never have to repay it – and £35,000 is a hell of a debt for a 22-year-old!

    And finally – a large part of the financial crisis was caused by borrowing that could not be repaid, yet this appears to be precisely what is being imposed on future generations – and this is supposed to be good fiscal policy??

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  57. “You can’t excuse Labour because other equally wacky social democratic countries also bought the socialist lie of tax and spend.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the global recession caused by the banking sector? And isn’t the global recession responsible for the collapse in state revenues that has led to exorbitant budget deficits across the world?

    “Plus Ireland was brought down by being tied to interest rates set by Germany and France as part of their membership of the Euro.”

    Seriously? Ireland was brought down by having its interest rates set by the ECB? Not because its banking sector ****ing imploded and needed bailouts almost as big as the entire nation’s economy?

    What planet are you living on mate?

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  58. 7 Dec ’10 at 11:39 pm

    That's what you get for ackin hard

    What he said ^

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  59. How do you think the astronomically large housing boom in Ireland was started?
    It was the ECB low interest rate.
    When the bubble burst it screwed over the Irish banks who had these mortgages on their balance sheets.

    Both of you are half right

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  60. Excuse me, but you don’t get one without the other

    Irish banks recklessly lended BECAUSE of the ECB setting v low interest rates. They were able to offer cheap as chips loans to irish property devlopers, because cheap money was avaiable from other european banks, who in turn created a huge property boom where Dublin land became more valuble than London.

    When the crisis then hit the banks were left with billions of pounds worth of toxic assets that were worth about half of their pre-crash price

    Without the setting of dangerously low interest rates by the ECB the irish economy wouldnt have overheated to the extent that it did…

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  61. 8 Dec ’10 at 12:37 am

    I jest, I jest...

    What on earth has this got to do with the English Cricket Board…

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  62. Gordon Brown caused the worldwide financial crisis. In every single country.

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  63. I’m guessing I’m the only person here who would advocate a complete privatisation of the British higher education system. Oh well…

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  64. I really can’t believe Aris is still haunting these pages. Didn’t he graduate in ’98?

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  65. Nathan – feel free to jog on to that fantastic private institution the University of Buckingham.

    Oh right, no, it’s utter crap

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  66. 13 Dec ’10 at 9:05 am

    Dose of reality

    Good to see some people of the left can actually discuss things sensibly – shame on the others that couldnt.

    Rob Green – America’s government spending has been outrageous under Obama and i do group them with other social democracies on that front. Just because a country buys one socilaist lie (tax and spend) doesn’t mean they are ENTIRELY socialist – just that they have ceded on this one issue.

    BTW when i refer to egalitarianism i refer to the economic doctrine of socialism – not the idea that all are equal, which only a Nazi would dispute.

    The Ireland point has already been clewared up for me – thank you

    The Banking sector did not solely cause the crisis – it was reckless behaviour under poor regulation from the government which was exacerbated hugely in Britain’s case because over the fatuous spending of (New) Labour.

    If we had not grossly over spent we would have been in a far better position to deal with the effects of the sub prime collapse – most of teh jobs being lost now are down to gordon brown’s spending. That’s a fact and the sooner we realise this we wil lgo back to lower gov spending/a smaller state/ and low taxes that brought us all the prosperity of the growth in the 90s

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