A few weeks ago students in our Better University forum voted to support the Graduate Tax as an alternative to the 9k fee regime.
This move represents a bold step by LUU. It’s often that case that students who oppose tuition fees will advocate free higher education as the alternative to fees. The problem with this argument is that education has never been free; it has to paid for by someone. In this instance it’s the tax payer.
Now as someone who recognises the huge public good that Universities embody, I have sympathy for an argument that says the public should fund them completely. However, not all of the public actually benefit. There are still sections of our society that are cut out from higher education all together, who don’t benefit from greater earning potential and who don’t even consider applying when they have the opportunity. And yet, under a ‘free education’ model, they are still expected to pay their taxes to fund other more privileged individuals through University.
There are those that argue that more graduates and the improved GDP figures that come as a result benefit all of us regardless of whether we attend University and ensure that, overall, we are collectively wealthier. But those extra pounds aren’t going to families that don’t attend University. No, they’re going in the extra froth on a cappuccino in a central London café.
So it’s right then that those that benefit directly from Higher Education should contribute to the cost. It’s also right that the public should make a contribution through taxation, given that Universities are a great benefit to our country. That’s where the Graduate Tax comes in.
This model of funding ensures that graduates only contribute to the cost of their degree when they’re earning above a certain amount. It ensures that Universities are still publicly funded as graduate contributions are only meant to subsidise, not replace, government spending on our institutions. Crucially, it removes the price tag and debt disincentive associated with 9k fees, that will inevitably put some people of from applying University altogether. Put simply, it’s the fairest way to fund higher education while we still live in a world where not everyone is able to go.
I’ve already stated that Leeds students were bold to adopt the Graduate Tax as their official alternative to University funding. In a world where fees are becoming the norm, LUU has rejected them and joined organisations like the National Union of Students in calling for a proper progressive funding model. It’s our future and it’s about time it was funded properly.
Nick Clegg once committed himself and the Liberal Democrats to an alternative to fees. Fortunately, Leeds University Union policy is worth more than his promises.