I think this government has had a bit if a wakeup call. They believed that everyone would see their point of view and accept anything they have put forward, instead the student fees issue has been the proverbial slap around the face to the reality that they are screwing with people’s lives.
But on this particular issue, I think if they had really looked at the question properly, then they could have come to quite a good solution, instead we have a solution which will impoverish students. It is going to turn people away from higher education just when we need to up our intellectual capital as a lot of our manufacturing is going abroad.
There has been a lot of talk about why should the tax payer pay for the Student education. To me, that answer is simple – because it’s in our interest. If it wasn’t, then we would not fund any education at all. We need graduates to become Engineers, Doctors, Nurses, Teachers etc. For every student that graduates, then UK PLC see on average a return of 2.5 times the investment.
However, the current system does have advantages, it does make students think about taking it more seriously and gives them some “buy in” to what they are doing. The new system would see them paying the debt over 30 years and even then there is no guarantee that it would all be paid off, as it is just written off at that time. So that means the Tax Payer would stump up the rest of it anyway.
Ed Miliband thinks a graduate tax is the way forward, personally I don’t agree. The reason I prefer the fees is that it does allow the opportunity for graduates to mange their finances properly, and if they choose to pay off their loans sooner, should their circumstances allow, then they can do it. With a tax, it will always be hanging over them. A graduate will generally pay more tax anyway as they will generally be paid higher and accordingly taxed through income, so yet another one is hard. And in reality, yes we pay for a graduate education but when they graduate and get a job, then they are paying and investing in the next graduates, so it all comes out right.
I think we could have been a bit smarter about fees by targeting them appropriately to the needs of the country. In recent years we have had less Maths, Science and Engineering graduates, therefore we could encourage students on to these courses by having lower fees, and higher fees on those courses that are not as needed. This would also be in the public interest as they are funding courses that are needed for UK PLC and therefore in their interest. For the other courses, then they can have higher fees, therefore they can still do it, but they take some more of the cost.
Anther thing to think about is to encourage students to find potential employers to sponsor them through university. It would provide focus for a student, as to potential employment, and also employers would be able to take an interest in their candidates coming through, with potential placements etc. As it is industry who benefits in the short term by employing the graduates, then they should take more interest in the Education systems.
Finally, the drive for everyone to go to university has been wrong. A sensible view about Vocational and Academic training is required. All we have done by encouraging more to go to university is we have diluted the output, when many would have been better going through vocational routes. I think university should be open to all who are able, regardless of background. But by the same token, positive discrimination does us no good either, we can’t pay for people to go through university if they shouldn’t be there, regardless of background.
In summary, my solution is
- Not shoving everybody through University
- Keep Student fees, but a reasonable amount
- Targeted fees according to UK PLC need
- More Industry/Business Student/Course sponsorship
- Better promotion of the value of a graduate.
So, for the Government to look at just a quick fix Economic solution is so short sighted that we will suffer for this as a country in about 5 years time, an education time bomb, which started ticking the moment the Lib Dems turned their back on their pledge.
- Tuition fees: ‘The proposals have far wider personal finance implications for students” (telegraph.co.uk)
- Tuition fees: ‘With our public finances in such a poor state, we can no longer rely on taxpayers to subsidise higher education’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- How much will you pay for a university education? (telegraph.co.uk)