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Focus on the middle

Nick Robinson | 12:22 UK time, Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Up until now the focus of the argument about university finance has been on the poorest. That will soon change.

Lord Browne has clearly put a lot of energy into worrying about those from the poorest families and graduates on lower incomes. So much so, that he claims that one in five graduates will actually pay less under his system.

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There'll be a more generous package of grants and loans to cover maintenance costs for those eligible and a significant rise in the level of salary a graduate can earn before paying back any of their student debt (from 15k to 21k).

Critics still say that his package is not progressive enough and could actually result in those earning, say, 30k to 45k paying back more than those on higher incomes. The reason for this is that, under Browne's proposals, graduates will pay 9% of their earnings each year, as they do now. However, unlike now, the debt owed will increase over time as Browne is proposing that graduates start to pay the real rate of interest on their debt. Thus, if Daddy can pay off your debt or if you can pay it back quickly because you're earning a lot, you will end up paying less for education than someone who does it steadily over the years - just like any other debt, in fact.

There are a couple of ways in which Vince Cable may be able to make the system more progressive than Browne proposes. He could:

• Limit the speed student debt can be paid back - in the way mortgages carry a penalty for early repayment

• Increase the rate of interest charged to the richest graduates so that they subsidise those who never re-pay their student debt. Browne proposes that graduates are charged a rate of interest equal to the cost to the government of borrowing money - that's RPI plus 2.2% (still lower than a cost of a loan from a bank). The government is looking at charging RPI + 3%

What I'm told he will not do is propose that the richest should pay back for extra years to subsidise the poor. The reason is practical as well as political. Officials have told ministers that if people are charged more than the cost of their education the system would be regarded as a tax within the national accounts - meaning that the government's liabilities would appear as part of the national debt. What's more, many Tories will not wear the idea of a doctor being overcharged to subsidise someone who did media studies and ends up in a poor-paying job.

Forgive the detail but this argument - rather like the one about the removal of child benefit - will take place at two levels - the principle and the painstaking detail.


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  • Comment number 1.

    If VC agrees to this plan, makes it more expensive to pay over time than all at once, and then penalises those who try to pay early in order to save, this will well and truly be the end of the Lib Dems. Nick Clegg's gone very quiet all of a sudden...

  • Comment number 2.

    OK here is my plan :- When my son goes to Uni, My wife will also enrol (she does not plan to ever go into employment) Her £3750+per year loan (which she will never pay back) will pay for my sons £3750+ loan. His current school fees we will continue to save and will cover the rest.

    This way the government is paying my wife to get a degree!

    My dad is also planning to enrol a £3750 increase to his pension would be greatly appreciated.


  • Comment number 3.

    Nobody has considered privatising student loans, allowing for competative rates of interest and repayment structures to better suit particular students needs?

    A system like this would take into account the likley hood of a students repaying the loan, charging lower rates of interest to good students on good courses. Whilst those students who take part in less employable degrees would have to think more carefully about what they study as interest rates would most likley be higher.

    To put it simply higher education is a choice, and students need to be responsible for the choices they make. Allowing the market to accuratly represent the benefits and risks in undertaking a specific course students will be made more aware of the choices they are making.

  • Comment number 4.

    The work rate of university lectures should surely be questioned. An annual fee of £6000 per student for 32 weeks tuition at an average of 2 hours!! a week works out at around £90 per hour. 50 students per lecture and it equates to £4500 per hour. Private schools don't charge that much!

  • Comment number 5.


    I dont often agree with you, but on this occasion, you've called that absolutely dead right.

  • Comment number 6.

    Blair's promise that 50% of all students should go to a University has now ended up as those parents who can afford to send their children to university will benefit most.

    Such consequences when the old system gave the brightest and best a free university place and those who did not want or failed to go to university had excellent further educational facilities to pursue their studies elsewhere.

    Gone are the days when a student with five 'O' levels including maths and english could leave school and go straight into training as a nurse or teacher or many other professional careers where the training was 'on the job'.

    I'm sure many of us from the older generation would say it's time to bring the 'on the job' training' back so students can stop wasting their important years studying for something they know not what in many cases and got straight into some sort of career path at an early enough stage to change tack if they want to.

    Keeping students out of employment as long as possible to manipulate job figures has been a disgrace and has only undermined the opportunities for young people to try out the job market before settling into a career they actually enjoy.

  • Comment number 7.


    Can Lord Browne's report be trusted. After all he was the expert that gave BP their safety record.

  • Comment number 8.

    'Forgive the detail but this argument - rather like the one about the removal of child benefit - will take place at two levels - the principle and the painstaking detail.'
    Principles? Politicians? Are you having a laugh?

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    No getting away from it, unless they vote against this, the Lib Dems lied to every student and parent that voted for them including me.

    At least the Conservatives never signed the pledge and are following their previously stated path....

    Having allowed his conference to pledge for continued child benefit and now this, I hope Clegg suffers in the electoral booth for this latest betrayal. Two party politics is suddenly looking rather good and certainly more honest.

  • Comment number 11.

    " studies and ends up in a poor-paying job."
    It'd be nice for some reporter, any reporter, to actual back this ever repeated claim with some evidence, especially coming from people likely knee-deep in media studies graduates.

    There is an argument for making sure that people are not penalised for begin successfully, but the fact that previous generations of graduates are not even in the picture shows the real self interest of the political and media classes to avoid fair return on the gift the nation lavished on them.

  • Comment number 12.

    How squeezed are the middle going to be ? Very is the short answer ; not only squeezed but battered , bruised and cut to to the quick by the self confessed sharp elbows Cameron and his ilk. But this is only the thin end of the wedge ; its only the start. Affordable education, now you can pay for ever for it ; Winter fuel allowance , not if you can afford it ; child benefit, not if you dont need it; How soon will the NHS sucumb to the market - well why, if you can afford it why should you have your hip replaced on the NHS. The clock is ticking - its only five months - just think what can be achieved in five years. Come on Clegg , there must be some of your policies worth fighting for, or have circumstances changed sooo much since the election. Oh yes - you got yourself a minesterial car.

  • Comment number 13.

    It is reported that it has cost £1.3 trillion of taxpayers money to bail out the parasitic owners of banks and the 'socially useless' reckless, irresponsible and incompetent leaders of such institutions( more will be required in the near future).
    It is now the conventional wisdom that we cannot afford to educate our children.Perhaps we are underestimating the influence of Dave's 'telephone hacker' and media manipulator in the 'hackers haven' once referred to as Downing Street.

  • Comment number 14.

    Seems to me to be continuing labour philosophy....

    Rich are OK because this is trivial amounts of money to them.

    Poor are OK because there will be some dodgy scheme to give them my money.

    The people in the middle - hard working professional, middle class families, will be shafted big time as usual.

    NO CHANGE in that regard.

  • Comment number 15.

    breandan @ 11

    I agree that Media Studies graduates constantly get a bad press (ironically). I'm sure many of them find this both tiresome and unjust.

    Living in a university city, I quite often come across recent Media Studies graduates in the course of my day-to-day life, and I always say the same thing to them: "I'll have a cappuccino, please."

  • Comment number 16.


    ' But this is only the thin end of the wedge ; its only the start'

    The wedge you are referring to is the £150billion deficit left behind by Labour. This is the reason why everyone will be squeezed in coming years.

  • Comment number 17.

    . At 1:00pm on 12 Oct 2010, Walrus wrote:
    The work rate of university lectures should surely be questioned. An annual fee of £6000 per student for 32 weeks tuition at an average of 2 hours!! a week

    Always makes me laugh when duffers tell me how they only have X hours lectures per week. Of course the rest of the time on a full time course they should be studying. Listen to university challenge 'ponsoby-smythe, oxford, READING history'

    Depends on the subject of course: science/engineering/medicine etc have much more direct teaching than arts - but they still expect their students to study. The best of the students seem to understand this, study hard and do well. The duffers spend all their time propping up a bar then sleeping til midday, often missing most of their lectures, and then whine about not being spoon fed.

    I love the one where the father of a duffer on an English Literature degree wanted more lectures - presumably he wants the lecturer to stand at the front of the class and read the books out to his darling daughter who is too idle to read them herself.

    If you can't cope with this type of scholarly activity you need a SCHOOL not a UNIVERSITY.

    Same old nonsense, presumably from one of the duffers (or their dad).

  • Comment number 18.

    Not earning over 21K will be difficult for anyone with a recognisable qualification. RPI + 3% crikes that is 8% (or may be worse if our triple A falls). Has anyone considered what it would be like for some people facing a £30K debt for the decade or two. Having marched the HE sector up the hill of 50% graduates this new scheme will see them march straight back down. It is of course all about Micawber moneynomics with bad long term consequences.

  • Comment number 19.

    I worry quite a lot about the impact on those from the "squeezed middle" and suspect this may be a problem for them. I have a post spelling this out with further commentary on the public policy blog, The Brooks Blog, here:

  • Comment number 20.


    Nice to see you're on topic, Sout :o)

  • Comment number 21.

    I alluded to something like this about 5-6 weeks ago in that the centre ground is crowded out. If the public get sick of the comprimises that are a necessary part of coalitions, they will eventually force the main parties back towards what are perceived to be their traditional positions.

    Labour already appear to be doing it by Red Ed's slow shuffle to the left; Cameron has the sword of Damocles hanging over him thanks to a very itchy tory right, although it is difficult to see an emergent potential replacement for him and Clegg... Clegg is going to get left rather isolated in the middle trying to be all things to everybody and in real danger of being left high and dry when the tide goes out.

    There are other alternatives, people. We dont have to keep on voting in the same players all the damned time.

  • Comment number 22.

    Somebody enlighten me, please. Does the interest on these loans run from when you take out the loan or from when you become able to start repaying it.

    If the latter, there's a nightmare scenario looming as wage inflation brings more and more graduates into the pay back class. What, say, someone have a loan of £21,000 (3x 7,000) and takes a low paid (socially rewarding) job. Ten/twenty years from now inflation means that they are paid over £21,000 and suddenly have to start repaying plus interest at the market rate (RPI of 5% + 2.2% compound over ten/twenty years).

    Ten years from now they would suddenly be paying off nearly £40,000 and twenty years from now nearly £80,000.

    That would be enough to persuade most people to forego a modest salary increase. The government is creating a new poverty trap.

  • Comment number 23.

    #13 IPGABP1

    Where is that reported? I understood it was more in the region of 60 billion(ish) of direct support for liquidity for the banks

    1.3 trillion sounds an awful lot more than that! If we really owe 1.3 trillion on the bail out, then add in the 1 trillion public borrowings on top we are in real trouble!! Especially if you add in the black hole that is public sector pensions, we will owe about 3 times what the entire USA does - including their bank bailout

    Not good.....are you sure those figures are real? Or is that the figure of total UK debt including the bailout and other public borrowings all in?

  • Comment number 24.

    21. At 2:12pm on 12 Oct 2010, Fubar_Saunders wrote:
    "There are other alternatives, people. We dont have to keep on voting in the same players all the damned time."

    And it's very rare that I agree with you, too, but you're absolutely spot on with this.

    My concern is we're heading for a 2 party parliament and will end up like Belize, where both main parties seem to swap who's in power at almost every election.

  • Comment number 25.

    "13. At 1:43pm on 12 Oct 2010, IPGABP1 wrote:
    It is reported that it has cost £1.3 trillion of taxpayers money to bail out the parasitic owners of banks and the 'socially useless' reckless, irresponsible and incompetent leaders of such institutions"

    Yes, if only we'd had a responsible government over the last 13 years instead of one happy to stick its tongue up the backsides of the banks so long as the taxes from bank profits were rolling in we would assuredly be better off.

    And it might have been better if the national debt hadn't increased by around 400 billion whilst Labour were in charge.

    Or if we had got value for money on Government spending instead of billions wasted (see today's Times for examples of the Government's lack of control under Labour) we'd be better off to.

    Oh, well, let's hope we learn the lesson that Labour haveno respect for other people's money.

  • Comment number 26.

    24 - "My concern is we're heading for a 2 party parliament and will end up like Belize"

    Belize doesn't look all that bad.

  • Comment number 27.

    '' • Limit the speed student debt can be paid back - in the way mortgages carry a penalty for early repayment''

    So the really wealthy kids who take no debt will be laughing. While the ones who work hard and want to clean their slate will be charged extortionately. Well thought through!

  • Comment number 28.

    #7 Dear Walrus,
    You seem to think lecturing is the only service that universities deliver. You omit the cost of providing and maintaining lecture theatres, seminar rooms, halls of residence, staff offices, refectories and a library. You omit also the costs of stocking the library with books, journals and tons of IT equipment that needs constantly updating. You forget that you have to pay staff to run the libraries, the Registry, the exams office, the finance office, careers office, human resources and student services. You ignore the need for an army of cleaners, caterers, security officers and maintenance workers. You seem to think there are no electricity, gas, phone, internet and water bills.
    If you tried running a university without that kind of infrastructure, and with only teaching staff to pay, you'd have open air lectures under the trees, and not much else. It would be very cheap, but not cheerful.

  • Comment number 29.

    none of the real questions have been answered in my opinion

    - How does this set of measures increase our global competitiveness, at the very best I can see this being neutral in terms of takeup of graduate level education, at worst it is going to put people off in droves.

    - How is it beneficial to us as a society to saddle young couples coming out of education and into the world of work with a combined debt of some 80k at the very time they should be thinking about settling down, having a family, buying a house etc.

    That leaves aside the gobsmacking betrayal by the liberal democrats of their core student vote. The Tories at least are consistent, they have never cared about the squeezed middle and have shown time after time that they know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.


    Back to more of the old same-old, same-old buggins-turn, then?

    I would sincerely have hoped that people would have started to have investigated, let alone looked beyond the duopoly. Maybe they're still not ready for that yet.

  • Comment number 32.

    There seems to be a considerable flaw in this whole discussion and that is, where is the commitment by Commerce & Industry in all this. They make very little contribution and yet expect a great deal. Young graduates are always faced with the lack of experienece for not getting interviews and or jobs. Someone has got to give them that experience and that someone should be those who are benfitting hugely from students building up huge debts. Many just don't seem to play their part and that is so short sighted.

    Staff are the greatest asset for any company or organisation and yet they make very little contributions to ensure they get the best or invest in future generations.

    Students will, like in many other Countries, start living at home and going to their local University and this will have a huge knock on effect to the housing market, where vast swathes of towns and cities are held by private landlords, who charge obscene rates to students. ( guess there is a silver lining in any cloud). Universities should be made to register all student accommodation and set the rates, as landlords are getting very fat on the backs of many students struggling to get a degree and who end up paying interest on those rents in the long term.

    Many will realise that it will just never be a good investment to go to University, as there has to be a cut off point and that is rapidly approaching.
    Currently there are 49 Graduates chasing every job vacancy.

    My youngest daughter has just finished her Masters and built up a considerable debt. She has a job within the NHS in London but still has three more years training to do, once she has built up experience, to get her doctorate. She has just signed up for her NHS pension and now told she will have to pay more, work longer and receive less. She pays a huge monthly amount for her Oyster card, just to get to work, she is paying over £550 per month for a room in a house with five others, plus paying back each month her student debt, which attracts interest every month and only earning the entry level now being suggested that students begin to pay back these huge loans. Having studied so very hard for 4 years she still has very little disposable income and absolutely no chance of saving for anything in the future. What incentive is all this for young people.

    Who lives in cloud cuckoo land?

    The economy will totally stagnate, as already young people cannot get on the housing ladder anymore. At some point they will have their own family, whilst still paying back their debt, they will want to see their own children be able to go to University, so will be expecting to either save or help them when they go and to cap it all will probably be told they will be expected to look after their aging parents, as the Government won't support them anymore either and working for much longer.

    They can hopefully look at retiring at about 70 years of age and probably still in debt! Is that worth the investment they are being asked to take on?

    The trouble is, all this is being decided by a few rich kids in Government whose Daddy's put them through University, with no debt, so they have no idea how hard this is for the vast majority. They have the gaul to talk about Social mobility, what rubbish.

    Could someone please just show Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne what happens when you throw a stone in a pond and the ripples it generates. This is what they are doing with all our futures, without any idea what so ever how deep and how far those ripples will go and no chance of retrieving the stone once they have thrown it in.

  • Comment number 33.

    Simply a game of SMOKE & MIRRORS or if you like the SHELL GAME. Only its JOE PUBLIC getting scammed. Political games and nothing more, let it be seen that there a impasse and suddenly behind closed doors a soloution is found..........the DEM part of the CONDEM, are enjoying their once in how many decades of drinking thier version of LUCOZADE....

  • Comment number 34.

    This is ridiculous!

    Graduates generally pay much more in tax than non-graduates as they tend to earn more

    They are already paying retrospectively for their education

  • Comment number 35.

    Why, oh why, are we getting our knickers in a twist about this subject? Why don't we just go the whole hog and follow the USA pattern? If you want health-care, education or anything else, you pay for it! Simples! And if you can't afford it? Well, you just go without! The poor and 'needy' will soon learn to pull up their own socks, get decent jobs and not sponge off others. Society? What society?

  • Comment number 36.

    This is a marvellous outcome for the PoshBoys Coalition! The march towards a much more elitist and stratified society continues apace.
    The more salubrious parts of town will soon be cleared of the disadvantaged due to Housing Benefit controls and soon the more prestigious Universities will be able to rid themselves of 'working-class' students thanks to the simple mechanism of raising prices to the maximum.
    No longer will the wealthy sons and heirs of the Gentry have to share facilities with their inferiors!
    Incidentally how much of a £21,000 pa salary will be used up paying off a £30,000 loan at 9%??

  • Comment number 37.

    For the dinosaurs questioning why we need so many graduates let me explain it to you. UK no longer has a significant manufacturing sector. As a nation we have to compete and earn cash by providing high quality products such as biotech, It, electronics, design and high quality services such as (and I hate to say this) finances etc. If we do not have enough trained young to compete in the high quality sector then as a nation we are in the cr*p. For example China has twice as many university graduates as the United States, which used to be the world leader, according to statistics published for the first time.
    • In 2005, more students graduated from universities in the 19 WEI countries than in the 30 Member States of the OECD combined.
    Bottom line is we either educate our young or we will have no future as a nation. Which do you choose. If we educate how do we pay? This latest idea appears to be almost the worst way forward unfair and will discourage people form going to university. And lets all play the Clegg video on student fees what a quisling.

  • Comment number 38.

    There is no popular solution to the problem of university funding assuming that we want to keep the current inflated student numbers fairly constant. During the time of full grants the student population was much smaller and the taxpaying public could swallow the burden of full grants.

    So, those moaning about cuts either need to swallow a massive reduction in student places to get back to the good old days, or they need to come up with a realistic way of raising the money that doesn't involve simplistic rhetorical stuff like "Tax the rich 100%" or "seize bankers assets".

    I'm no fan of Clegg or Cameron, but all this class warfare stuff is boring ad hominem trash that doesn't propose any alternative.

  • Comment number 39.

    So unlimited fees, large loans, a small bit of finessing at the bottom end to make is a little fairer (something is better than nothing). Against the backdrop of the restrictions on funding in the remit Lord Browne has done a decent job of it overall - and given this is the best on offer then it is what we will get.

    Though truly it seems that the drawbridges are being drawn up behind the baby boomer generations - thank the gods I have no children to put through this miserable future existence that is being mapped out for them. IN debt almost from cradle to grave - I await Goves allowing the free schools to charge and then add in some NHS charges - privatisation by stealth (makes a change from stealth taxes I suppose but the effect is the same for the majority - less choice on what you have to spend you disposible income on)
    Education should be the most important area of government spending to allow people to do their best for themselves and the country, it should have been first to be ringfenced and last to be cut, instead we have the prospect of putting the future into large scale debt whilst retaining an unused and unusable piece of tokenistic weaponry(that we cannot even without a foreign power saying we can) becuase otherwise the Tory right will have a hissy fit - shame on them for ripping up the future for a false sense of importance.

    So rather than previous musings as to whether these were attempts to get Vince to resign I will change the call.

    Vince Cable resign - if you are going to betray your election manifesto to this extent then do the decent thing and quit and take any of your collegues who have a smidgeon of decency with you.

  • Comment number 40.

    Why should some people think higher education should be free? My parents worked hard and I worked hard to earn enough money to pay the full amount.

    It irritates me when people moan about £3,000 per year, when we as a family worked hard to pay for my £10,0000 per year fees and living expenses.

    If you can't afford it, take a loan, take a job, or start a business, or work hard to get a scholarship or business sponsor.

    I know at least two people who are getting state funding to do multiple under+post-graduate courses who have absolutely no desire to contribute back to research or the economy when they finish.

    What a waste of taxpayers' money!

  • Comment number 41.

    "How is it beneficial to us as a society to saddle young couples coming out of education and into the world of work with a combined debt of some 80k at the very time they should be thinking about settling down, having a family, buying a house etc."

    I'd suggest that 21 or 22 is a little young to be doing all those things.

    What's the rush? Isn't the 'have it all now' society part of the problem? Why should someone who has only just left uni expect to be able to buy a house?

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm a student who comes from a poor family, did well at school and studies at a Russell Group Institution.

    However, if I was faced with the kind of fees the government are currently suggesting, I would think twice about going to university at all, or would have to go to a less prestigious university who were cutting costs so they could charge less and perhaps not gain the same standard of education.

    For well-off people who can afford to send their children to private school these fees are reasonable enough; but there are people who support their families for a whole year on this kind of money, and their offspring could barely contemplate owing this much money, especially in this current economic climate where jobs after ANY degree course are far from guaranteed.

    You may never have to pay it off but it will always be weighing on your shoulders and the interest will always be mounting up.

  • Comment number 43.

    The way the sums work out it will be the middle income graduates who will be hardest hit. The sort of pay that teachers and social workers get. Although they can increase their incomes by getting promotion (and a few extra activities) many will not be able to boost their incomes significantly. If we want to attract highly qualified graduates into these professions, being stuck on a middle income whilst having to repay an ever increasing loan for fees hardly seems the right way to go about it. The result will be that the highly qualified graduates will look elsewhere.

    The other major effect will be on the housing market. If it is true that our economy is driven to a signifiacnt extent by the housing market, saddling new entrants to this market with extra debt before they even get on the bottom rung is hardly going to help.

    What the whole process might achieve is that we will be relying on distance learning (e.g.OU) and people going to 'night school'. Not a bad result with post 18 education meeting a student's need rather than being a rite of passage.

    None of this deals with the value of having students from abroad feeling some allegiance to Britain having studied here and gone back to their own countries and of course the research aspect of universities.

  • Comment number 44.

    re #7
    Not only that, but he managed to claim that these were not student tuition fess on R4's WATO - they were, in effect, enhanced salary earning fees. If that is not New Labour speak, then I'm a mushroom!

    1. It appears that New Labour learnt nothing from thirteen years in power and the credit crunch and banking crisis.

    2. There are worrying signs that The Coalition are keen on following suit, fresh from their time in opposition.

    3. It is curious that there is no enquiry from the media, and no offered information from Government, as to what increase there would have to be in basic rate income tax to provide: a) free Uni tuition and a grant, or b) free Uni tuition alone.

    4. Dave is/was keen to know what we think. I hope everyone who thinks it is daft to saddle future generations with tuition fee debt will make their views known by letter post to DC, GO and VC, bar none, at the HoC immediately. Let's give them a sackful!

  • Comment number 45.

    re #22
    I thought they said the limit for pay back time would be index linked?

  • Comment number 46.

    How can you spot a Lib Dem's telling a lie?

    Just watch his video........

  • Comment number 47.

    And the pain just keeps on coming, the lib dems are just spineless imho. If you make election promises keep them, don't sell out your principles.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg too, the supposed front line services that weren't going to be cut in the NHS must have bypassed my local PCT. Two wards and a specialist service closed with a loss of over 100 staff, 90% of which are nurses, OT's, physios, nursing assistants and support workers. Haven't noticed too many managers being put at risk though, funny that?

  • Comment number 48.

    ClubDeckBlade wrote:
    How can you spot a Lib Dem's telling a lie?

    Just watch his video........

    Surely you mean his or her mouth opens!

  • Comment number 49.

    I love it when people say lecturers only do so many hours a week. I do a chemistry degree and when the lecturers arent doing a full day in the labs, they are lecturing to 100+ students a time all day. And then they have a LIFE and also research and post grads and part timers to deal with. And still they are somehow available to people like me who have a question at some point random. Mine at least should be congradulated on how amazing they are.
    On the note of tuition fees, ultimately it hasn't changed yet and will only affect new students. Plus they don't have to pay them back until they are earning at least 15k, maybe 21k.
    I do agree with maintanence loans and grants increasing, along with bursaries. I live in one of the cheapest university cities in the country and still struggle.
    The middle are going to be squeezed harder, but it's all about living within your means. Try as a student living off about 3.5k for a whole year including travel, a lot of the bills, textbooks, etc etc.

  • Comment number 50.

    How about subsidising desirable courses more, teaching medicine etc?
    Or what about all those who got a free education (all those now in power) paying back some of the cost of their degrees, they are earning now
    rather than saying "we got it free now the money's run out so you have to pay"

    How much did any of the cabinet, (or Lord Browne,pay towards their degrees? Or did they get Maintenance GRANTS (Not loans)

  • Comment number 51.

    An alternative to penalising the hard working middle class (again)? How about differential fees depending on the course taken. So, economically valuable courses such as physics, maths, biology, IT etc would cost less than useless courses such as media studies, history, arts etc.

  • Comment number 52.

    Effectively it is a 9% tax increase for graduates on all earnings over £21k which they will pay for 30 years, as very few graduates will actually pay back their loans in full because of the additional of a real interest rate. Obviously it is difficult to know precisely what the debt of each student will be, but I work out that you will need a salary of circa £50k just to cover the interest on the loan, and above £70k for thirty years to have a chance of paying the loan off. In reality this will not happen as very few graduates leave unniversity and go straight into a £70k, most take at least 5 years to get to that level, and in the meantime interest will be being accrued on the debt. You then have the problem of women taking career breaks to have children to contend with.
    Interestingly one of the perverse outcomes of the review is that there isn't really a disincentive to not to go to the Russell Group universities unless you are convinced you will earn over £70k, as you still be paying the 9% premium on all earnings above £21k for 30 years irrespective of which university you go to, it just the amount of debt the Government will have to write off will be greater if you go to one of the universities charging the highest tuition fees.

  • Comment number 53.


    You really do seem to be a very angry andy about the notion of bringing back university grants for state school applicants. Incentivising, but not forcing, the affluent and concerned middle class to stay in the mainstream sector and at the same time removing a serious and growing impediment to the pursuing of high quality further education - particularly important now the lid is going to come off tuition fees.

    And yet you're a completely relaxed andy about the notion of parental means being the major driver of educational attainment and thus (to a very great extent) life prospects. A case of "no probs!" with the money over merit landscape we're increasingly painting for ourselves in this country.

    We must be just wired differently, I guess, since I feel the exact opposite.

  • Comment number 54.

    #15 Mr Davies

    Very good. Do you hand over you loyalty card to get the stamp as well?

  • Comment number 55.

    i am a high ranking liberal democrat offical using someone else`s ip adress if this government deciedes to proccede with univesity tution fees rising then we are pulling out of the coalition

  • Comment number 56.

    RIP the liberal democratic party, you have been shown up for the lieing, self centred toerags that you far.

    Welcome back two party politics !

  • Comment number 57.

    So Vince is doing a total 180 degree turn.
    He know that if the Coalition falls then the Lib Dems are history for a generation.
    All he is doing is putting it off for 5 years :-)

  • Comment number 58.


    You know full well or at least you should that the bulk of the principle sum of these debts will still be hung albatross like around these couples necks well into their late twenties / early thirties.

    What bank is going to give a couple earning say 30k each a year a mortage on a property when they are already say 50 or 60k in debt from their student loans ?

  • Comment number 59.

    This was the image the LibDems were sending out to young voters and students during the election campaign .

    As I said on the last blog this is an armageddon issue for the LibDems. They need to find a way to:

    1. get more money into the tertiary education sector (universities, technical colleges, apprentices etc.);

    2. protect the poor and disadvantaged; and

    3. makes those who can afford it pay more.

    Unless they can deliver all 3 the LibDems will lose the young voters they courted so assiduously during the campaign for a generation. It will also see a wave of members leaving the party and backbenchers voting against the Government. The Coalition might survive but the LibDems would be badly wounded.

    Of course if the LibDems can deliver all 3 then I think it will be legitimate to start believing some of their hype about a "new politics".

    Oh and Nick when are you going to give us a blog about the politics surrounding Murdoch and the BSkyB issue?

  • Comment number 60.

    The cost of students going to university is rising sharply each year. Its so annoying that this review is forcing most students to go into heavy debts once they finish university. For a normal average student doing a three year course, debt will now be at around £30,000 instead of £21,000 with the current tuition and maintenance fee. So for all those students who do medicine and others similar long courses that takes six years, they will leave university of debts around £60,000!

    The government should be spending more on universities instead of cutting them. Our universities in UK are now definitely the most expensive universities in the world and we are not even top of the league in global universities rankings

    Also there are loads of pointless courses in universities these days and should be removed so more places can be available for the more popular courses like medicine, science, maths etc. Not all the jobs students get after university will pay students £21,000 a year so those students will never pay back those debts

    From my view it is better to earn under £21,000 for the whole of your life once you graduated, then you do not need to pay back these massive debts

  • Comment number 61.

    @ 55 liberaldemocractserctretman

    If indeed you really are a 'high ranking liberal democrat', then I'm not really sure your complete lack of grammar shows that the liberal democrats are suitably intelligent for government!

  • Comment number 62.

    My daughter will be going to Uni over the next two years. Just in time for these changes. After that she wants to go and work and settle in the USA. Will she need to make these repayments from there, or is she one that slips away?

  • Comment number 63.

    This finally proves that the LibDems have sold out the electorate for 20 ministerial salaries and perks. An utter disgrace. Vince Cable knows full well that at his age, he's probably in his last Parliament. This measure will heavily penalise those families with an income around or just over the national average, whilst most Tory MP's and their ilk will not be hugely inconvenienced. I feel like we're back in the early 1980's again.

  • Comment number 64.

    Surely there is a risk that if Universities charge more for an expensive to run course then more people will do the cheap to run media studies and ppe and less will do medicine, physics and other subjects that we actually NEED practitioners of.

  • Comment number 65.

    53 - Same old chant. No evidence to back it up. Has the record stuck?

    Is 'parental means' really the 'major driver' of educational achievement? I thought it had something to do with the child's intelligence. If you were right it would mean that a billionaire could raise a cabbage to obtain a degree.

    Still not found the bit in your 200 page opus about your proposed reforms that deals with home schooling, children who spend some time in private schooling and some in the state system and the annoying HRA which seems to think that the state discriminating isn't right?

    It must be in there somewhere. Next to a doodle of a cat or a dog?

    Or maybe the 200 pages only exist in your head?

  • Comment number 66.

    Unlimited university tuition fees. The top places free to charge the earth. Loans instead of grants. Increasing private school hegemony. The affluent with a lock on life chances. Cutting education spending but hands off the banks who brought us to the brink. Not prepared even to address City bonuses. Is this what Tory Britain looks like?

    It is? ... well ugly cove, that's all I can say.

  • Comment number 67.

    Hello, is anybody out there with a functioning brain cell?

    The money's all gone. We can't afford to do what we have done in the past.

    Does anybody get it? There is no money.

    If we cut spending then some things will no longer be available.
    If we raise taxes to pay for what has ALREADY been spent, there will be less money available.

    Things, all things, will become scarce (because we can't provide them free) or expensive.

    Hello, is anybody listening? Has anybody got it?

    My advice, learn a trade like carpenrty, blacksmithing, or anything to do with horses, or other beasts of burden.

    You won't starve, or be without the ability to get paid, in some form, ever.

  • Comment number 68.


    and what does your media studies student say back to you?

    'may I have fries with that?'

    We'll all be back in service soon thanks to newlabour debts. Probably serving 'authentic British fayre' dressed up in flat caps and aprons to visiting Chinese tourists.

    Maybe Gordon Brown can finally repay his debts to us all by running a tatties and neaps stall on the Royal Mile and giving all the proceeds to the UK national deficit recovery fund.

    Does any labour supporter understand the mess they have left us in?

  • Comment number 69.

    The road to educational hell is paved with good intentions, which unfortunately, is probably what has been the unintended outcome of Westminster politicans attempts to widen access to University education.

    So, if you accept that premise - what to do?

    The 'island' mentality that we tend to have here in England often means that people find it hard to think outside the box.

    Parents whose children wish to attend University, assuming they are capable of working at a fairly high intellectual level, could look to Europe, particularly Holland, and see what is on offer.

    You and your children may be pleasantly surprised - and might get better value-for-money 'over there'.

  • Comment number 70.

    andy @ 65

    "Same old chant"

    But a good one. Why don't you try and address the issue?

    (preferably without silly references to billionaires and cabbages).

  • Comment number 71.

    The real problem with these proposals is the terrible assumptions that are made about graduates somehow earning lots of cash once they've finally got into the job market. The truth is that this is judged on past graduates, from when they were a rare(ish) commodity and could therefore demand higher wages.

    But today there are an enourmous amount of graduates all fighting for a relatively small amount of jobs. It is true that the UK cannot compete on a large scale manufacturing base, and we need to be providing intelligent services and high end products - for this we do need a lot of highly educated people.

    The problem is that there has been zero investment into these high tech industries, and as such are always stumped at the development stage (examples of which are fuel cell vehicles and stem cell research). Then other countries (Japan, USA, Singapore, Korea etc) are happy to invest and subsequently get the rewards of booming high tech companies providing lots of jobs for highly educated individuals.

    Instead of investing in these industries for all these graduates there has been nothing, and the lack of jobs due to the lack of industry has conveniently been covered up by putting an ever increasing number of young people through higher education and therefore out of the jobs market.

    But now the money has run out and so we are left with no industry, no jobs, and no way to continue paying for young people to stay out of the job market. The result is that many of those who go to university will be forever paying off a debt that they will probably never manage to do because they can't earn enough while working for the pitiful UK industries. Many will not choose this path because they wish to avoid the debt and we will end up with many young people out of work, or working at lower level jobs than they have the potential for.

    This country is going backwards fast. We need real investment to secure the future, other countries governments seem to know the value of this. UK governments never do.

  • Comment number 72.

    Heres my plan. most courses last an elapsed time 3 years but each is in effect only about 8 months. Simply cut all courses to two years and reduce the cost immediately by a 3rd

  • Comment number 73.

    Utterly appalled, it's great to be rich. The values of a rich oil executive. Think a large chunk of all this is to try to disguise what the real eventual effect on poorer people is likely to be.

    I've voted Lib Dem for years. Again? You must be joking. Alternative vote? ****** it.

  • Comment number 74.

    University is just a place to groom home owe types in the art of parting with their assets before the bottom drops out of the market!

  • Comment number 75.

    No65 AndyPandy,
    I am pleased to inform you that the parties are going well. When will you be available for a booking.

  • Comment number 76.

    We need to wake up to the fact that a) the number of people currently graduating with bachelor degrees devalues the qualification and b) there's a currently huge % of graduates employed in jobs that in no way require a degree. The Labour government skewed statistics about high earners to present a faulty idea that having a degree would naturally lead to a higher wage. Where are the champions for alternative routes into work other than university?

  • Comment number 77.

    Contrary to most comment and Nick's blog, this is not a debate about students and their payment for higher education.
    This is the vehicle for a total overturn of the philosophy and practice of UK higher education itself.
    The 'Level Playing Field' that the last generation struggled to achieve will be gone (forever?).
    Whilst it was ostensibly Level, the angle of tilt between the goal-mouths was always severe.
    New universities always found that it was virtually impossible to 'play uphill' because the levers of control that were applied with such gentle and precise sophistication by the Establishment, forever made 'Premier League HE' divided into the Champions League contenders and those also-rans.

    The greatest ploy was, of course, cross-subsidy between teaching and research funding. And, like fisheries Quotas, research funding was (and still is) always powerfully conditioned by historical practice - thus those with 'history' have a different starting point (...or They start the match with a 3-goal lead, in the analogy).

    When I was a young man, Colleges of Advanced Technology and 'green-field' had a window of opportunity to joint the Big Game. One or two succeeded (viz. Warwick) and, like Manchester City with BIG MONEY, now knock at the door of 'Europe'. but most ex-CATs did not make the big game and are forever in the relegation zone, along with the ex-polytechnics.

    So, how does the game's Management wish to re-configure the British game of HE?

    * There is a ground-swell opinion away from the Liberal Arts - which, latterly, have kept many a university afloat.
    ** The Applied, the Engineering and the Technology - on which the ex-CATs and ex-polytechnics built their reputations - saw, over the last generation, 'their' prospective students drawn to the Bigger Names in the League; they had to diversify into the Liberal Arts to survive.
    *** So the paradox is clear - those institutions that were created to supply the national skilled workforce are now at greatest risk of closure.
    **** And still the UK has no serious Great Training Establishments of the 'Applied', the 'Engineering', and the 'Technological' (c.f. Les Grande Ecoles de France).

    Is it important - without a production industry, why produce the people to run one?
    But without the people, both home-grown industry AND overseas industry emplaced in the UK - neither will or can flourish.

    I, for one, am seriously concerned that the **very survival** of my Home Nations is totally in the hands of Foreign Investors - in our Nations' case (UK Inc.), the 'Las Vegas Gambling Emporium' that we call the City Of London.

  • Comment number 78.

    It would seem that we are walking headlong into the past instead of the future. This will totally cripple any concept of social mobility in the UK. The best universities will charge the highest fees (fair enough) ... but instead of attracting the best students, they will only attract the wealthiest; which with the greatest of respect, is not the same thing. The only fair way to do this was a graduate tax. It's proportional to income, and everyone pays. I guess the problem is that the the interim liability would then become national as opposed to personal debt. [I'm sure there are some out of work City accountants who could find a way around that problem though ... ;-)]
    It's amazing what 'innovations' the 'new' age of austerity has brought. Universal benefits have gone; and now, universal education. I wonder what's next? Reinstatemtent of the Poor Laws and the workhouse?

  • Comment number 79.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 80.

    No20 Fubar,
    I knew you would understand the real topic. It is necessary because there are still idiots using this blog, usually politically thick Tory inclined bloggers who think the previous government, of which I was not a supporter,were responsible for the worst global economic crisis since the Wall Street Crash, and the recession that followed.

  • Comment number 81.

    No68 RockingRobin,
    An intake of 'neeps' not 'neaps' could possibly go someway towards improving your political education.Adam Smith was a voracious consumer.

  • Comment number 82.

    ToryandCompletelyMental @ 67:

    What a load of tosh! Typical Tory scaremongering on the deficit to provide the smokescreen that "we're broke and have to cut deep" when in reality this government gets to implement their pure ideology of small state, low tax and b*ll*x to the poor.

    Change the record. It worked, it got you miserable excuses for human beings into government; you don't need to repeat the mantra, we don't believe it. Just cut your pound of flesh from each and evry of the less fortunate of society quietly without gloating if you please. But remember in 5 years time the country will have seen the truth of the matter and send you back to the political wilderness where you really should have stayed...

  • Comment number 83.

    70 - "Why don't you try and address the issue?"

    Which issue? the one about how your proposed system copes with home schooling? Or about the HRA? Or about part state/part private education?

    I thought I'd RAISED these issue and it was you who wasn't dealing with them.

    66 - "The affluent with a lock on life chances."

    oh, THAT issue. It's a non-issue. The affluent haven't stopped me getting on in life. I don't have a 50 bed mansion with its own helipad but I don't figure I need one to consider my life a success.

    It's yet another question you can't answer. How does JK Rowling's wealth hinder me? If a wealthy man sends his child to Eton how does that hinder a child going to a good state school?

    Did someone affluent frighten you as a child? You have an unfortunate obscession with them. What would you decree as being affluent? How many such affluent people are there? Either you'll come up with a small number, meaning there's lots of room left for the rest of us to carve out a decent life so long as we don't spend all our time moaning or the number will be a large one, sugeesting that it's not that difficult to become 'affluent'.

  • Comment number 84.

    "I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative."

    Pledge signed by (amongst others) Vince Cable and Nick Clegg

    Business as usual for the FibDems...

  • Comment number 85.

    "80. At 4:49pm on 12 Oct 2010, IPGABP1 wrote:
    No20 Fubar,
    I knew you would understand the real topic. It is necessary because there are still idiots using this blog, usually politically thick Tory inclined bloggers who think the previous government, of which I was not a supporter,were responsible for the worst global economic crisis since the Wall Street Crash, and the recession that followed"

    A question for you then. Do you think the country would have been better able to cope with the banking crisis if Labour had not spent £40bn a year more than it received in taxes each year after 2000?

    To borrow a well used but still reasonable analogy, if you spend all your money on a shiny new car instead of getting the roof of your house fixed, it may not be your fault that it starts to rain but it's still your fault if your sofa is soaked in the downpour.

  • Comment number 86.

    72. At 4:32pm on 12 Oct 2010, luckda01 wrote:
    Heres my plan. most courses last an elapsed time 3 years but each is in effect only about 8 months. Simply cut all courses to two years and reduce the cost immediately by a 3rd

    Two year first degree courses already exist - they cut out most of the holidays, compress it all down and you get the same piece of paper in two years not three. The cost may or may not be 2/3 of a 3 years course.

    If you like I can give you the URL for an American online university. You pull down menus on their web page to select what subject you want the degree in, then you choose batchelor degree, masters degree or PhD. You then go to a page where you pay by credit card - more for the higher degrees. The certificate comes through the post within 10 days.

    Like the martial arts teachers say ... how long does it take to get a black belt? ... go to the shop, buy one for £5, it's instant. If you think that makes you Bruce Lee, fine by me.

  • Comment number 87.

    "75. At 4:39pm on 12 Oct 2010, I'MATIRESOMEONEJOKEWALLY wrote:
    No65 AndyPandy,
    I am pleased to inform you that the parties are going well. When will you be available for a booking."

    No one laughed the first time.

    No one's laughing now.

    Do you find the children at your 'gigs' avoid eye contact and look a bit embarressed whilst you perform?

  • Comment number 88.

    Well it didn't take Vince Cable long to mull this over and quite clearly they haven't been in any deep and meaningful heated debates with the Tories. Just rolled over and accepted it once again, like the child benefit.

    I didn't vote for them but guess everyone who did, won't vote for them ever again. Dodo comes to mind!
    In fact I didn't vote for either of them knowing what the Tories were like before when they were in power and knowing what the Lib Dems had been like as my local politicians. I knew a vote for the Tories was a clear vote for dismantling everything this Country was once great for. It took Labour 10 years to undo the damage done before and reinvest in our schools, hospitals, road and rail infrustructure etc. They did many good things, which we all took for granted and we are all paying the price for the behaviour of those consumed with greed in the financial sector, with no sense of responsibility to anyone but themselves.
    All to be unravelled again and probably not recoverable if they are allowed to continue at the pace they are going.
    I am not a labour activist either but at my age have seen it all before and really don't like what I see happening under the guise of the deficit.

    Maybe those who went to private schools could carry on paying the same fees as they paid for that priviledge.

    Didn't traitors used to be hung in the Tower and doesn't the Office of Fair Trading have the ability to tackle businesses who misrepresent themselves or their products in their literature. If so both the Tories and the Lib Dems should be taken to task for lying to the electorate. Not interested in them telling us its different now they are in power shouldn't make rash statements unless they are sure of their facts and all this before the 20th Oct.
    Lets hope there are still some Lib Dem politicians prepared to stand up for what they truly believed in and walk away from this farce of a coalition

  • Comment number 89.

    Bye bye Lib Dems..

    ..the English middle classes won't like this at all..and the poorer ones will avoid it altogether

  • Comment number 90.

    I'm so glad I live in Scotland.

    But the chances of me ever voting Liberal Democrat again is quickly reducing to zero.

    Vince, my little cupcake, I hope you will have some weasel words of comfort for all those former Liberal Democrat MSPs that you will help create implementing this Conservative policy.

  • Comment number 91.

    Increasing tuition fees is a basic principle of fairness. Adults who benefit from the education they receive should be the ones who pay. If students want to be treated as adults then they should behave like adults and this means taking responsibility for the choices they make.

    Personally I wouldn't have any exemption for people earning below a certain level. Chances are these are people who have wasted the opportunity granted to them. Why should others have to pay for their fecklessness ?

  • Comment number 92.

    IBGABP1 wrote:
    "It is reported that it has cost £1.3 trillion of taxpayers money to bail out the parasitic owners of banks."

    Always pleased to correct simple errors (and repeat myself):

    It's not a simple matter to estimate the direct and indirect costs of the support provided to the banking sector. The newspapers, including most of the broadsheets, gave totally misleading headline figures at the time, presumably in an attempt to boost sales, and this confusion has survived since then.

    According to the National Audit Office "Maintaining Financial Stability acoss the UK Banking System" (December 2009) the net cash outlay totalled 117 billion (this covers purchasing shares in Northern Rock, RBS, and Lloyds, and loans to Bradford & Bingley).

    The net cash outlay is not the final cost, and this will not be known until our shares in the nationalised banks are sold. The direct cost may be less than this, and indeed Darling claimed at the time that the taxpayer might make a profit.

    There is also the conceptual question as to how to cost, if at all, the contingent liabilities arising from Bank of England liquidity support (200 billion and 250 billion), and the bank asset protection scheme (600 billion).

  • Comment number 93.

    The LibDems went into the last election with a whole series of uncosted promises that they never expected to be asked to meet (because they knew they were not going to win).

    What they overlooked was that they might get what they asked for (a share in government), and be called to account.

    Next time they might produce a realistic manifesto, or at least a manifesto that is no less realistic than the other two.

    This is not a defense of the LibDems, who I still regard as a fantasy party, but it might just be the beginning of responsibility.

  • Comment number 94.

    sagamix 53

    Here, unfortunately, you go again.

    "Incentivising, but not forcing, the affluent and concerned middle class to stay in the mainstream sector and at the same time removing a serious and growing impediment to the pursuing of high quality further education..."

    We did this one to death last night, and you weren't able to come up with anything that justified the notion that the private schools are a serious impediment (or even, in fact, a trivial impediment) to main-stream standards. Now, almost amusingly, you raise your own degree-of-difficulty with "serious and growing impediment"! Are you going to come up with something new now, or can we just chuck this claim in with most of the rest of your stuff, in the bin marked "desperate hyperbole"

    "...the notion of parental means being the major driver of educational attainment and thus (to a very great extent) life prospects."

    Now here, at last, you are on very slightly more fertile territory. When we went through all of this before, you will recall that what we found, several times, indeed, was that there was an association between fully-involved parenting and children's academic success. There was also an association between the tendency to be a fully-involved parent and being relatively well-off. But what there was not, was an association between sending children to the private education sector and those children being academically successful. In fact, we found that there is a big group of parents in the wealth bracket sufficient to be able to afford private education, but who remain in the public sector, and whose children are academically successful to a degree that is indistinguishable from those who are privately schooled.

    So yes, relatively wealthy parents often have successful children but it doesn't really matter whether they use public or private education - the results are basically the same.

    So, are you going to trim your arguments to take this into account, or are you going to pursue your reflexive agenda against the private schools ignoring the complete absence of factual evidence to support you?

    Personally, I would suggest a drive towards supporting and assisting less wealthy people to be more involved and competent parents would be the key, with that approach having a far greater chance of success than railing on against the private schools.

    But don't let me obstruct your star-boggling zeal to tilt against your chosen windmill. Watching someone miss the point so spectacularly as you are doing has a certain comedy value, and blogging is meant to be entertaining, as well as informative!

  • Comment number 95.

    Following on from my #92

    Direct cost of tax-payer support to the banks = 120 billion
    One year's tax revenue paid by the financial services sector = 60 billion.

    So recovered in 2 years.

    Actually the direct cost should be considerably less than 120 billion. The issue is assessing the cost of the risk the tax-payer has assumed. Some of this has always been there in the Bank of England's role as lender of last resort, but this risk mushroomed after 2000/2001 (which by some coincidence is just when Brown abandoned prudence).

  • Comment number 96.

    'In fact I didn't vote for either of them knowing what the Tories were like before'

    Public spending increased under the last Tory goverment didn't it? So if the Tories are the same as they were before then this can only mean that the cuts are due to the deficit left behind by New Labour.

  • Comment number 97.

    6. virtualsilverlady

    “I'm sure many of us from the older generation would say it's time to bring the 'on the job' training' back”.

    Spot on, I couldn’t have put it better myself.
    Which leads us to the question of why the Government isn’t doing more to push this most obvious solution – what, or who are they frightened of?
    Why are they obsessed with getting so many kids into high debt early on in life?

    Just follow the money trail & the answers can be found in the banking community because they're going to be the only real winners here with the kids paying the "going rate" of interest for a long time.

    PS: Great to see the LibDem’s following their conscience on this one; what else are they going to loose their bottle on?

  • Comment number 98.

    "Forgive the detail but this argument"

    please don't say that like it's a bad thing

  • Comment number 99.

    The government believes that graduates are getting something for nothing, and so they must pay. However, why choose to draw the line between seconday and tertiary education. Surely those who stay on until 18 are "exploiting" taxpayers by ensuring that their future employment options will be improved, and result in higher lifetime income expectations, than those who leave formal education at 16. If the executive believes there is no intrinsic value to be had from a well educated population, and no benefit to the economy and taxpayers as a whole - that their task is only a matter of managing the bottom line - why educate at all?

    Then we have employers who say that employing graduates costs them a lot of money in salary and benefits - some of which are the result of governemnt legislation wrt indigenous employees - so how can it be fair to ask them to bear any of the costs of tertiary education, whether it be through taxes, or bursaries/apprenticeships.

    However, we are still left with the conundrum, where does UK plc think it will find those people with the skills to allow the country to keep the lights burning and food on the table, let alone develop new technologies and the capability to exploit them? How will the UK economy continue to grow, and more importantly, compete on the global stage with all of the low cost emerging nations who are determined to improve their lot and devil take the hindmost?

    A possible way forward was signposted by a significant change in business practices in the 90's with wholsale outsourcing of jobs to low cost overseas economies. May be they have hit on something fundamental that should be copied and/or adapted by the government.

    One business model, as mentioned above, would be to do away with all education, and rely on private education, or immigration, to supply a pool of skilled labour. Such a plan avoids the hazard of determining what is, or is not, a useful skill - let the market decide. Those parents/individuals who choose to fund uneconomic training/education do so at their own expense, and not the taxpayers. Businesses would simply buy in the skills that are needed to fulfil those positions requiring any given level of skill/training/intellect - corporate taxes would be lower because the burden of education costs would be removed from the exchequer, and the costs of training employees would be borne by an external 3rd party, not the employer - surely a win/win situation all round. Increased competitiveness leads to increased profitability, leads to a virtuous circle of growth, and hence wealth.

    Let the indigenous population look after themsleves through a process of tough love (see Frank Field's latest take on cutting government costs). Those parents who can afford to bring up their children, including educating them, will provide an indigenous pool of homegrown talent. Those who can't afford children will have to ask themselves if it is repsonsible to have children in the first place, especially if their economic future is fundamentally uncertain. This decsion process will be clarified and simplified through the addition of very heavy cuts to welfare benefits (as well as the education costs discussed above), and will act as a corrective to the welfare dependency mindset, and foster personal resposibility - a key government objective. It will also serve to incentivise those of limited means to ensure they are gainfully employed, and manage their fertility appropriately. As has been stated recently by a goverment minister, it is not the purpose of the state to fund lifestyle choices. Further, and as an unforeseen but welcome additional benefit, we will see the implementation of an 80's Tory policy, first mooted by Sir Keith Joseph during Mrs Thatcher's tenure at No 10, that of the virtual elimination of socio-economic classes D & E - save those low/non skilled workers needed to fulfil those menial jobs in the economy that can not be automated (eg:- road sweeper, hospital porter, dustman) - leaving the nation a happier and more prosperous place.

    I can't understand why nobody has thought of this before. Can you?

  • Comment number 100.

    17. for jon112dk. Nope I never went to University but had a duffer of a daughter who is now a senior Vice President of a Euro 30 company.
    And 28. for badlinguistics I remember full well finding an obscure out of print book in a public library (but not in the university library) that the lecturer so fondly used .
    Now my point is - Why do all this analysis on student fees without doing it on lecturers, universities and all the admin paraphernalia that goes with it? Of course, rather than accepting the need to be self critical, it's easier to attack those who ask this sort of question.


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