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How should higher education be overhauled?

06:36 UK time, Thursday, 15 July 2010

Business Secretary Vince Cable has said a graduate tax could be brought in to make England's student funding system fairer and more sustainable. What would you suggest?

It would see students repaying the cost of their tuition through taxation once they begin working, with higher earners paying more. At present, the government lends students money to cover the cost of fees, with graduates beginning to pay back the loan once they are earning more than £15,000 a year.

In his first key speech on universities, Mr Cable set out a series of potentially sweeping changes, including the introduction of more market forces into the higher education sector and more flexible, shorter degree courses.

Should students repay their tuition through taxation? Is this fair? And what do you think of the introduction of two-year degrees? How would you cut the costs of higher education?

This debate has now been closed. Thank you for your comments.


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  • Comment number 1.

    In before 'Degrees aren't worth the paper they are written on' and 'Thanks to Nu Liebour'.

  • Comment number 2.

    The graduate tax seems to be a reasonable suggestion, and would be preferable to forcing students into debt before they even start out on their chosen career path. However, the effective dumbing down of the degree by reducing it to a two year time scale would be counter-productive. Vince Cable had better get this right as he has a lot of credibility to recover.

  • Comment number 3.

    They should be funded by the people who can expect to earn well above average salary's via taxation, free to enrol and financially supported during education, but you pay it back out of your increased pay packet when you graduate.
    At present the general public pay it for you.
    Vince cable, has hit the nail right on the head with this one.
    You benefit... You pay

  • Comment number 4.

    How should higher education be overhauled?

    First reduce places.

    The UK is producing far more graduates than there are graduate jobs.

    Second means test the students.

    Make it so students from poorer famillies pay less, or in extreeme cases nothing during their university education, whilst those from richer famillies pay more.

    Subsidise this with the proposed graduate tax on all graduates to help fund the nexr geberation.

  • Comment number 5.

    The debt of study hangeth like a cloud
    Of troubling darkness o'er a graduate's head.
    Therefore this measure that hath been avowed,
    Could stand their working lives in better stead.

    But what rate doth the taxman's scythe accrue?
    And for how long be these repayments due?
    A fair and just idea beyond compare?
    At least the money left they know is theirs.

  • Comment number 6.

    A graduate tax seems fairest as this will mean that those who choose to go into socially productive areas such as nursing or teaching or the police service will have to pay less back than those who chose a university education as a means of entry into such areas as Banking and the Law.

    A flat rate loan system as now means that a graduate nurse on £22,000 a year will have to pay back the same as a graduate financial analyst on £22,000 a month.

    If it is intended that this replaces the loan system and isn't just an add on it is a productive measure.

  • Comment number 7.

    The justification for this is that graduates earn more. In that case why is it necessary to single them out for extra tax. Surely they will pay more income tax anyway? Or is the government saying that someone who works and studies hard deserves to be punished more than someone who is just "lucky" enough to earn the same money as a none graduate?
    If a graduate does, as they claim, earn £100,000 more after tax over their lifetime, then they will have paid £33,000 more in basic rate income tax. That is more than enough to pay for a fully funded degree course, non EU students who get no support from us currently pay £8500 fees per year.

  • Comment number 8.

    This is how it used to work. A student got a grant to go to university, left university and got a well paid job and paid society back through the taxes they later earned.

    Simple, and based as much on the greater need of the country as that of the student.

    However it will only work if we go back to making university education selective in both the courses they offer and the levels of student selected.

    Courses would be based on the countries future skill needs and therefore selection must be based on expected working life.

    Anyone wishing to take any other type of degree would have to fund it themselves as would foreign students and I don’t see why we don’t go back to the old ONC / HNC style of education for the less able students or slow developers like myself.

    It worked before and it would work again and wouldn’t leave students in debt before they even started work.

    The one thing this clearly shows is that most of our problems have come from past political change that was often sold to the public as progress.

    Moral, if it isn’t broken don’t try to fix it.

  • Comment number 9.

    Go for it

    A 1% tax on all taxable earnings for ANYONE who has a degree from any UK university. Total tax take to be ring fenced and used to pay for current undergraduates and resurch funding.

    THe only difficult part is how to repay the last few years students who have repaid part of their topup fees.

    This tax must apply to ALL tax payers regardless of how many years ago they got their degree.

    And requires just one extra quextion on a tax return. IE DO you have a degree from a uk university or poly?

  • Comment number 10.

    A graduate tax is not any fairer. A graduate on a lower income is going to pay a larger proportion of their salary as tax, compared to a graduate on say over £100k.

    I'm sorry but the Government needs to be honest. Universities need an increase in funding and a decrease in students. We do not need the amount of graduates that we have in the subjects that they are taking. What is the point in going to university to improve your job prospects, if all you end up doing is a low end clerical job or working in a call centre etc?

    I think Universities should be allowed to charge what they like but they should have to provide a high level of full bursaries and scholarships. In return the government should stop messing around with higher education funding. The government should only fund/subsidise the courses that we need graduates in - maths, english, sciences, medicine, law, teacher training etc.

  • Comment number 11.

    We do not need, and never have needed, 50% of the population to go to university. It was always a pointless target designed for no better reason than to give some politician a good soundbite.

    Scrap all the pointless McDegrees in media studies and the like, and get back to a sensible proportion of the population (maybe 20%?) going to university. Then there would be enough money to make sure that those who do go to university, who would be studying useful deegrees, can be fully funded and not have to face the horror of graduation with enormous debts.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think this is a good idea in theory but obviously we don't know any details yet.

    Any suggestion other than the abolishment of fees would be deemed unfair by the student body but in a time of economy crisis this idea could be good to sustain the future.

    We await the details......

  • Comment number 13.

    Let's go one stage further. This hasn't just happened overnight so why not get all taxpayers who have benefitted from a university education to contribute. A small contribution from all those who benefitted from previous funding regimes would seem totally appropriate and would spread the cost fairly.

  • Comment number 14.

    Access to Higher education should not be determined by the thickness of your wallet, it should be on your academic ability.
    The government's role should be to provide equality of opportunity.
    As technological changes occur old skills disappear and new skills are required.
    The idea that education ends at 16,18 or 21 is outmoded.
    Graduates earn 40% more than non-graduates, a graduate tax seems like a good idea.
    Remember those politicians who benefited from free tutition and grants were the ones who ended it for everyone who came after them.

  • Comment number 15.

    The long term future of this country relies on a well educated work force.

    The problem with the UK is that our work force is either close to illiterate or highly qualified but poorly educated.

    Education is expensive but it is also an investment so it must be paid for somehow. But the cost must be better focussed. We have just too many graduates who are not very well educated for the current job market.

    We need fewer academic graduates (this can be achieved by bringing GCSE and A level standards up to the standards that they were 40 years ago) and also bringing back the Polytechnics where students can graduate in vocational degrees. There should certainly be encouragement for students to qualify via work related part time courses after leaving full time education at 16 or 18.

    I left school at 16 with a handful of GCEs fifty years ago and was encouraged to take a formal professional qualification whilst working in my career. To even stand a chance of getting to the interview stage for the same job now, you need at least a 2:1 from a Red Brick uni. This sums up the problem.

  • Comment number 16.

    I fail to see why paying for tuition through later taxation is not fair. You only get taxed if you are earning money and the amount of tax you pay is related to how much you earn so it seems really that this is a fairer system than we have now.

    Once you accept that those who benefit directly from the education provided should pay for it rather than spreading that cost across the whole of the tax paying population then you just have to decide how to get that money from them - better to pay later when you have the better job* that you gained though your education than having to find the money up front.

    The argument put forward by the student unions that the lower paid graduates will be paying more in this system as a proportion of their income than higher paid graduates is pointless - that's always going to be the case regardless of how you get the payment back. Repayment of £15k of student loan is going to be a bigger proportion of a £25k salary than a £50k salary, at least if it's put in to the taxation system then other factors relating to means testing that are already within the tax system will automatically be taken into account rather than the current system that just starts payments when your income reaches a certain level.

    The two year degree idea once again smacks of dumbing down - employers are already demanding higher degree levels from applicants, how far do you think you would get with a 2-year 'degree' qualification from MiddleOfNowhere College (Accredited by University of VeryPrestigiousPlace following a large cash donation).

    * - Alledgedly better job, but that's another discussion probably best listed on a HYS entitled "BA - What's the point ?"

  • Comment number 17.

    I'm hoping to start a Physics degree in September, and I was made aware by the Student loans company that I would be paying back my loans that pay for my tuition fees and living at University as stated, after I earn at least £15k per year.
    Also, it told me that as your wages increase, so does the amount you pay back each year, and that this is deducted from your wages by your employer like a tax anyway.
    I'm not really sure how this new proposed system is any different to the one we already have.

  • Comment number 18.

    The elephant in the room is of course that too many people are going to University in the first place. Cut the numbers to a sensible level so that only people (of any background) that should be there are, and funding becomes easier.

    Tuition fees at £3000 per year are already very high (it was £1000 when I went which seemed fair). £7000 would be extortionate for what you actually receive.

    Perhaps Universities should focus more on raising revenue from research, and links with business and government, rather than hiking up costs for students.

  • Comment number 19.

    As the cost of education is 'notional', are we not already paying higher taxes to provide it, regardless of how far we were able, or we wanted, to travel?

    I seem to recall that, once upon a time, the exclusivity of a degree acted as a 'gold pass' to additional riches, not to be enjoyed by the simple person. In reducing the 'exclusivity' the pass is no longer a gold one. Indeed in some cases it is no better than a travel pass, if not quite as costly.

    If Vince Cable wishes to remain true to his liberal roots, note the lower case 'l', the art of taxation should be to raise capital for the common good. Determining that 'common' good is where we have, for thirty odd years, floundered and drowned, and I do not see a resuscitation unit in sight.

    Should we raise the standard of general education so that in very limited numbers only the 'best' need to, and can, go to universities? Unless, of course, they wish to stump up the whole cost all on their own.

  • Comment number 20.

    A graduate tax is probably fairer than the current system as it is based on the ability to pay, although it does seem to have a number of drawbacks.
    The current system is flawed, especially in that it favours students from poor backgrounds. What has a students background got to do with their ability to pay? It is irrelevant, what really matters is how much they earn after graduation, as the student loan isn't paid back until after a student graduates.
    I have a son at university studying architecture who is now 24, and I still have to provide details of my income to support his loan application. The application requires details of my 2008/09 Income, which is stupid as I have been out of work for 10 months. What relevance has my income 2 years ago have to my ability to help my son? I really don't see why my income should have any bearing on the size of his loan.
    The problem with the current system is it does not take into account the ability to repay the loan, which means the government has a massive problem coming their way in 20 years time when they have to start writting off loans that never will be repaid. My daughter graduated last year with a debt of £22k. She has just found a job, but her earnings means that all she is doing at the moment is paying off the interest the loan is accruing, so the loan isn't going down, and this is at a time when interest rates are historically low. When they go back to historic rates the loan will actually increase year on year. I have worked out that if she managed to get paid an average salary it will take over 20 years to repay loan, and this assumes she does not have a career break to have a family. If Tuition fees had been as high as is being proposed her debt would have been around £35k, and would take over 30 years to repay.

  • Comment number 21.

    Two year degrees?? Ask a physics student if they would be happy cramming their course into two years and see what the answer is. The workload for science degrees is enormous (I've seen three years of my son's degree course and can testify to the complexity and volume). I doubt whether many scientific professional bodies would be happy with a dumbed-down approach.
    Leave two-year status to the mickey-mouse subjects; but leave science and maths alone! This is something that universities should fight, otherwise the quality of degrees will suffer irreversible damage.

  • Comment number 22.

    You can only expect students to pay for tuition if you can give them reasonable expectation of a well enough paid job at the end of it. Instead of making degrees cheaper make them worth more to employers and reduce the number of graduates chasing jobs.

  • Comment number 23.

    We should fund universities from grants and local education authority. We should fund a maximum of 10% of the population on degree courses.
    We educate the rest using old fashioned apprentices. Employers need to be educated as well. The BEST engineers, the BEST scientists, the BEST of just about everything are those who apprenticed at the hands of experienced people.
    We need people who DO things, not people with degrees in critising arts, not people with degrees in media studies, or politics, but people who know how to build things, design things, write software, create amazing real useful manufactured goods.... things that are WORTH MONEY.

    Apprentices are the way forward. Instead of trying to get half the population to have devalued degrees and a huge tax bill spend that money setting up some factories, instead of buying BMW's for the cabinet, Volvo's for the police, Mercedes ambulances, American tanks, Indian software, Italian 'gym kit' and all the rest start BUYING BRITISH at a government level and the whole problem of unemployment, the deficit, finding jobs for the young, having something to do here other than tax each other and send pointless health and safety inspectors around will all dissappear and the UK could become the GREAT place it once was.


  • Comment number 24.

    'How should higher education be overhauled?'
    Pruning of useless courses and incentives to study sciences.

  • Comment number 25.

    We already have a graduate tax, it's called INCOME TAX.

    The deal has always been... the state pays for your education, you earn more as a result and then you pay back the state through a higher rate of tax.

    This really is rich coming from the generation that benefited from free education and generous student grants.

    Why can't we just stop the pretence that all degrees are equal? Can't we just fund the ones where we have skills shortages like doctors, dentistry, engineering, science etc. and let media studies, english literature and sociology students foot the whole bill for their McDegree?

  • Comment number 26.

    As long as tehy don't go down the route of " wealthy kids pay more", kids aren't wealthy, parents are!!!
    so why tax the kids on education that the parents have already contributed to via higher taxation?
    All kids have the same wants and needs, cos their parents earn more it doesn't mean they should pay the price (AGAIN!)
    Step up College courses in trades, current demographics show the number of trades averaging over 50 climbs year-on year, we NEED mechanics and plumbers and electricians, not lentil eating hippies on daft courses

  • Comment number 27.

    At last. A sensible alternative to student debt. Graduate tax is much fairer than tuition fees. It is also a great way to start helping people to understand that, if you want to you live in a civilised society, paying tax is GOOD and being in debt is BAD. Perhaps if the graduate tax is high enough, the system of awarding grants for living costs could also be restored and then we would regain the wonderful higher education system that was of such great benefit to me (and probably most members of the government).
    Why on earth would anyone in the education system oppose this idea?

  • Comment number 28.

    Students have been told that it is reasonable to pay to go to university because they can expect to earn more with a degree. However, that is a lie - it may have been true for some in an era when ten per cent went to university and obtained rigorous degrees and therefore had an identifiable advantage over others in the job market, but that cannot be true with fifty per cent going to university, many of whom obtain degrees of dubious educational (let alone financial) worth. If it were true then those same fifty per cent would be earning more than they otherwise would and therefore anyway paying more tax. To impose a specific graduate tax is effectively admitting that many of the degrees people now get do not improve earnings and that the degrees are not of significant value to society in general (or else they should be paid for out of general taxation). It would be more honest to limit university courses to subjects which are of general value and to limit student intake to those who can benefit from a university education and then to pay for that out of general taxation, than to carry on with the increasingly bloated "never mind the quality feel the width" approach to higher education which now seems to prevail.

  • Comment number 29.

    If more students are wanting to go on to get Degrees, it's time we adopted the American system and raised the school leaving age to 18. That way students might possibly get reasonable qualifications BEFORE they leave school & not have to go on to Uni.

  • Comment number 30.

    I graduated in 1989 and would be happy to pay extra tax on my current salary to support the current generation of students.

  • Comment number 31.

    Don,t know what higher education is defined as....

    its working well
    doesn,t need any meddling from bankrupt politicians.

    Think the idea is more a Tory gimmick, like most of what is happening..
    nothing democratically arrived at at any rate.......
    bet non of their offspring feel the effects of what they are doing.

    But then it is a monarchy, we don,t have choices

  • Comment number 32.

    the cost should be paid partly by goverment and partly by tax after they quallify and start employment ,but not for foreign students let their country pay ,
    there should be a limit on the numbers on each coarse .we don`t want them all doing the same study otherwise they will all,be chasing the same jobs ,

  • Comment number 33.

    I have recently graduated from Liverpool John Moores University, with a degree in Economics, with the intention of getting a job with a higher wage than a non graduate. If you are going to be taxed more because you sacrifice 3 - 4 years of full time work to struggle with money through university whilst workin really hard to gain a degree, then if had my time again i WOULDN'T go to uni. Theres no attraction anymore, because your going to be punished financially either way. I can get a dead end job and not aspire to be anythin more because i'll be taxed a fortune. Also as a recent graduate, it is terribly hard to get ANY job at the moment so higher tax rates are going to help no one!!!! I could get political, but it probably won't get posted!! I'm goin to be directly affected by this and i feel very strongly about being penalised for gettin a degree to better my life!!!!!

  • Comment number 34.

    I think most degrees could be done in 2 year, but also i think we need to take the focus away from uni's full stop most of the time people do not use the knowledge they gained in their degree because jobs require them to have a degree no matter what it is, i think this is madness surely there is a better and cheaper way for everyone to prove they are intelegent to employers.What ever solution is choosen in cannot raise the cost to graduates too much simply because of house prices for first time buyers, they are now so high that the only realistic way any one is going to get a house is if they have a very good job and if to get this its going to cost them a lot then you are just creating an even more imposible situation. I think this is a very important situation to solve becasue by the time people manage to get their first home and settle down (currently the average age is 37 without help from parents)if it gets much higher we are starting to get to the age where your body might not be fertile by that age you probably don't have too long left certainly if things get much worse the age will easily create into the 40s

  • Comment number 35.

    This proposal makes me VERY ANGRY - for the following reasons;
    Why don't they stop spending the Billions upon Billions on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq???? This is wasted money. My brother has just come back from serving in Afghanistan and he said nothing is being achieved there. Has Iraq changed? Will Afghanistan change? All the money raised for Haiti earthquake? Where has it gone? Haiti is still in rubble; this is an example of world wide corruption. The fact is that the UK has MORE than enough to fund the education of its children - a decent fair country should provide higher education and stop fighting wars. How much is spent on DEFENCE year in and year out? Why tax young people because they have been educated? This is a VERY bad suggestion - I am beginning to lose confidence in these tricksters in charge of government FAST

  • Comment number 36.

    "10. At 09:34am on 15 Jul 2010, fomerworker wrote:
    A graduate tax is not any fairer. A graduate on a lower income is going to pay a larger proportion of their salary as tax, compared to a graduate on say over £100k. "

    Wrong if it is a flat 1% on all taxable earnings someone earning 10k will pay 1% of approx 3k where as someone on 100k will pay 1% on approx 93k.

  • Comment number 37.

    Scrap all the pointless McDegrees in media studies and the like, and get back to a sensible proportion of the population (maybe 20%?) going to university.


    These comments would be funny if they weren't so predictable. You live in the past. And no the past wasn't better.

  • Comment number 38.

    What about those graduates who have degrees in wealth generating disciplines who are persuaded to emigrate to Australia, New Zealand, USA etc.? We will be left with those graduates who have useless degrees and contribute very little return through taxation.
    But wait a minute, I found that I, as an engineer with an MSc, was being managed by a bunch of morons with degrees in useless subjects; so useless that all they were capable of doing was managing those people who actually do something.

  • Comment number 39.

    I'm studying with the Open University, paying for my own degree. I should not have to pay this.
    The problem is too many people goiny to university. We need fewer graduates, and a higher quality of graduates.
    If this tax comes in then I will continue my studies, but finish just before the end. After all, I already have a graduate level job (computer programmer) and are only completing a degree because I thought I should.

  • Comment number 40.

    The government complain about the "dumbing down of Britain", then want to introduce a tax that will discourage people to take useful subjects! Makes no sense to me. They claim it's not fair for people who will get lower paid jobs to pay the same tax, but they fail to consider they extra costs these higher students are faced with, taking post-graduate courses or continuing education at medical school. I would like Cable to answer me this one question, Why does this country insist on punishing people for being clever?

  • Comment number 41.

    Why would a graduate tax be better? The current student loan already caters for low earners. A graduate tax would:
    Probably end up in the treasury and not go back to universities.
    Would encourage some students to opt for 'easy' degrees that they would never pay for because of low earnings.
    Would encourage high earning graduates to emigrate so as to never have to repay the cost of their degree.
    Unless capped in some way, graduate tax would be highly unfair as a successful graduate would pay the cost of his degree many times over - even if the degree played only a small part in his success.
    A graduate tax would be a disincentive to hard work.
    Wealthy families would pay for their offspring to study abroad to avoid the tax. Only poorer students would study in UK resulting in higher state subsidies and a perception that UK degrees were second class.

  • Comment number 42.

    I agree with Mr.Cable - these moves would be much better than what Labour have installed.

    However, I do believe that those Families that can easily afford to pay for Higher-education for their Children SHOULD pay more.

    As an 'aside' to this problem, there does seem a need for SOME Taxpayers - who don't have Children - to be exempt or get 'relief' from taxes for such education.
    Alternatively, perhaps Families should only pay these Taxes - once they HAVE Children. This would help sort out a lot of other problems such as 'unwanted', illegitimate, children and 'Teen-mums' etc. Just points to ponder...

  • Comment number 43.

    I've been: a student, a graduate, a lecturer and an executive, so my perspective is perhaps quite well informed.

    I think Higher Education institutions are under a great deal of financial pressure under the current system (even before the supposed 'credit crunch'). HE institutions should get more funding because otherwise, as has been pointed out, the qualifications themselves are devalued because you can't afford quality teaching. This isn't about paying tutors more, because the wages aren't bad, it is about having enough tutors (I left partly because of the workload).

    Tuition fees should never be abolished completely because all too often I have seen people going to University and spending a fortune of other peoples money because they couldn't think of anything else to do after leaving school. People should be responsible for their degrees and aware that it costs money to study. This would also help motivate students to attend classes, work harder and strive to achieve. There must be consequences of their expense.

    However there *must* also be access for those who are less fortunate but want to study. Means testing is sometimes flawed because it works on the basis of your family and your family may not wish to fund your ambitions (I have seen this).

    I think a combination approach is needed, with means testing to help with fees, flexible loans to allow the people who most need it to get the most money (but restrict the frivolous) and an increase in scholarships and/or support awards. A tax on graduates is interesting but I think it should be scaled, perhaps to help fund the shortfall a 1% tax for the five years after you've paid back your loans or after you have graduated (if you don't have a loan)/(graduates need all the chances they can get and they have loans to repay). Graduates paying for life is a little unfair but I could help subsidise the system.


  • Comment number 44.

    Personally I do not agree with the idea of a graduate tax, certainly not if it isn't retroactive and doesn't tax past graduates that are still earning. People like Vince Cable are perfectly happy to suggest charging new taxes for recent graduates, when it is people of his generation who have benefited the most from attending university.

    At present there are more graduates than ever, competing for a limited number of graduate jobs. The net worth of a degree has been devalued because more people have them. Consequently the relative benefit from having one is devalued (degree inflation) and therefore students have to have a better grade.

    In reality the people to have really benefited from a university education are those who have graduated between 1950 up to the late 1990's when the grant system was still in place. They were able to attend university and incur little debt compared to today's students.

    I would be all for a graduate tax if it were to affect all people who have graduated since 1950 and that are still earning (not those on a pension). And since Vince is suggesting people who have the greater earning potential should pay more through this graduate tax, then why doesn't he open his wallet and dig deep?

    After all, most if not all the MPs currently in Parliament have benefited from attending university, so I suggest they be the first to be taxed. And in an indebted national economy the extra revenue surely wouldn't go amiss?


  • Comment number 45.

    The answer lies across a number of areas that are all going to be subject to public spending cuts in one form or another. The current system has weaknesses that are inherently bound to fail.The UK has not invested in the basic infrastructure that would allow a devolved method of study to gain greater presence.

    As a result, most students need to travel to Universities and study in less than appropriate accommodation, at a cost that is significantly higher than it needs to be.

    Firstly, this country needs to ensure its has the right level of broadband infrastructure to adequately support virtual learning environments.

    Secondly, there needs to be continued investment in local Colleges to expand capacity and modernise buildings to provide 'Centres of learning' which can be accessed by multiple students studying for online degrees at different Universities.

    Universities should concentrate designing courses that can be delivered as distance learning or campus based and give students the option of different study modes.

    Although Universities see themselves as distinct entities, they are bound together by the public purse and would serve the community more effectively by recognising that the value of a degree is not in maintaining a costly estate from which little is derived.

    Students are consumers who have little choice over costs. They need to be empowered if Universities are to be forced to change. As for fee payments, give students the option of repaying tuition fees by undertaking internships with key public service/local authority bodies for 1 years after graduation.

    This would improve their prospects of gaining paid employment and give the government a flexible workforce that could be targeted on key policy areas.

  • Comment number 46.

    Well this is all good in theory, but will this not accelerate a certain brain drain out of the UK? So UK citizens having got their degree will just prefer to move to the continent where they will not be taxed at a higher rate?

    Also, in all of these arguments I remember seeing one that got my attention and that is the question that surely all of society benefits from having an educated part within that society that has doctors able to cure you, engineers that are capable of building essential services and, God forbid, even having bankers that are able to look after our money? Is the tax system not already set up in a way that taxes higher earners at a higher rate? In which case, it seems to doubly penalise those students who dedicate a fair time and effort in learning their disciplines.

    I remember calculating how much money some students lose by not earning straightaway and being surprised how long it actually takes some of these students to recompense that loss. If you do a six year degree and come out with thousands of debt it will take a while to catch up with the person who is your age but became a wealthy plumber instead, and who also didn't have the stress of learning a degree and probably still doesn't have as much stress in the job that that student is likely to take on.

    I think education should be funded by all society and taxing income is a fair way of making sure that wealthy people fund more towards that pot. The important point for me is that education should be accessible to all people who have the talent to study and their should be no barrier to gaining that access. Asking students to pay IS a barrier.

    Alternatively, perhaps a corporation tax would help fund this pot with those requiring a higher number of graduates being asked to fund that pot to a higher degree, i.e. banks, engineering companies, software houses etc. etc.

  • Comment number 47.

    Lets slam the youth of today with another financial pressure. I've got an idea ... why not put a retrospective tax on all graduates such as Vince Cable. The earlier generation had free education - where is the fairness?

  • Comment number 48.

    Graduate tax is hardly a new idea. But ... It's great because it will make the parasitic banker investor housing investor get rich quick for being a YUPPI type graduate pay more tax to support the education of the engineers and tradesmen, architects and factory production worker types that really keep the country going.

  • Comment number 49.

    Meanwhile in Scotland... Scottish students still be have their tuition fees paid for by the state.

    English students already leave university around £10,000 more in debt than their Scottish equivalents. Now English students are to pay for years - possibly for life for a decent education. What will the price of being English rise to now?

    Why doesn't the BBC report the differences in legislation across the UK?

    It is in the public interest for the people of England to know they are getting a worse deal than people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    This is of course all down to the Barnett Formula that values a Scottish life at >£1500 more per person per year than an English life.

    When will the English people get fair funding and a fair deal? We need the English parliament back - to work in the interests of the English people. The British government always puts England last.

  • Comment number 50.

    Well, lets analyse this rationally shall we! The idea of tuition fees paid for a service delivered seems more rational than a graduate tax!

    Although, given the perceived 'social benefit' of an educated population one should accept the principle of a free education as an essential requirement for an enlightened, progressive society!

    A graduation tax by its very a-priori nature must be regressive. It represents a tax on intelligence, a tax on your mental ability, a tax on brains. If we accept this definition then can we compare the consequences of such a tax with similar regressive taxes?

    It reminds me of the glass tax or window tax of darker moments in our nations history!

    I suggest the consequences may be 'bricked up minds'

    We can also compare such a graduate tax with the intended consequences of environmental or 'green' taxes which are specifically designed to force individuals to alter their behaviour! These green taxes have been quite successful in encouraging the population to opt for purchasing more fuel efficient small cars!

    Can we conclude our future society will consist of more people opting to adapt themselves in a similar manner - the future is small minds folks.

  • Comment number 51.

    When our two took out loans from the Student Loan Company, the interest rates were low. Since graduation - one in teaching and one as junior medic, the Student Loan Company have hiked up interest rates on their original loan agreements - breach of contract?

    As the Coalition is selling off the Student Loan Company 'book' we expect the interest rates to accelerate, for existing graduates and new students too?

    Very sly, very stealthy - what does the National Union of Students have to say - been very quiet guys - why is that?

  • Comment number 52.

    The graduate tax is, in practise, not remarkably different to the current system: paying back the student loan through the tax system. The difference is that it is a lifetime payment, and everybody who obtained a degree from a British university is liable (except those who, at the time of studying were international students and thus liable for stupendous fees), for which reason I can imagine the current generation of politicians (who benefitted from a free university education) being reluctant to support what is obviously a fairer system that would ensure that prospective students are not deterred by the cost.
    However, it is essential that such a tax is applied reasonably: not all graduates earn enough to reach the present upper tax band of 40%, so perhaps the graduate tax should be tiered along similar lines to the present income tax bands (e.g. 25% shadowing the 20% band; 50% shadowing the 40% band). Furthermore, it should only be applied to jobs that require a degree qualification.
    Students under the current system should either have their debt immediately written off, or be exempt from the tax until they have repayed their student loan.
    On the other hand, I am against the suggestion for two-year degrees: this already exists in the shape of the Foundation Degree, and whilst it is be the most appropriate for some students, it must not be imposed on the top of the ability range, for whom longer degrees are optimal.
    As for encouraging students to live at home, this should be avoided: most students are in their late teens or early 20s, and need the experience of living away from their parents (because some day they will have to move out altogether...). Besides, each university is unique (and rightly so), and to restrict oneself to the courses available locally would be unfortunate – students should go for the university that offers the most suitable course. This is not to say that a course of remote learning is always inappropriate – indeed, it is often good for mature students who already have a home of their own.

  • Comment number 53.

    Make it so students from poorer famillies pay less, or in extreeme cases nothing during their university education, whilst those from richer famillies pay more.


    I am sorry but I disagree. That is one of the problems with the current system. What relevance has your parents income got to do with it. If you go to university and graduate the benefits that accrue are exactly the same irrespective of your parents income.
    I can understand the argument for the very rich to pay more, particularly if they were able to sent their Children to Eton, but in reality the majority of students come from lower middle class families who have limited funds and whilst they try to help their children as much as possible can not. Why should a child from a Poor background leave university with a much smaller debt than a person from a slightly richer family who ends up with a debt in excess of £20k. As I said at the beginning after qualification they have exactly the same opportunities.

  • Comment number 54.

    4. At 09:29am on 15 Jul 2010, Scamandrius wrote:

    How should higher education be overhauled?

    First reduce places.

    The UK is producing far more graduates than there are graduate jobs.

    Second means test the students.

    Make it so students from poorer famillies pay less, or in extreeme cases nothing during their university education, whilst those from richer famillies pay more.

    Subsidise this with the proposed graduate tax on all graduates to help fund the nexr geberation.


    Which is pretty much what used to happen, about thirty years ago.
    About 10% of 'A' level students went on to either University or Polytechnic, supported by a grant that was means tested.

    What we should be moving to is something similar, but have a robust system for apprenticeships and vocational studies for 16-25 year olds. That way, accredited skills and professional qualifications are available to all as a means to getting a job.

    Please to cry "we cannot afford it". We cannot afford to short-change the next generation, otherwise we short-change ourselves.

  • Comment number 55.

    Lets not forget it is a choice to go to university and the point is that is should be for the top 5/10/20 % or whatever the number is of the population. If you have, as has been reported, 50% of students going to university, then it completely devalues the degree because everyone has got one.

    There needs to be a more staggered system in place like there used to be. Lots more apprenticeships, diplomas, HNDs, HNCs etc... it just seems at the moment it's a degree or nothing. More funding should be made available for the popular degrees like business studies, health subjects, maths, english and not for things like ancient greek. If someone wants to study an obscure subject then they have to pay much more towards the course.

    Getting the money back in this way does seem like a fair system. If someone who has a degree gets a higher paid job then they should repay some of the cost because they chose to get the degree in the first place.

  • Comment number 56.

    15. At 09:39am on 15 Jul 2010, swerdna wrote:
    ///The long term future of this country relies on a well educated work force.///

    That depends on the future envisioned by our ruling elites - in a feudal fascist society intelligence is not a primary requirement!

    The destruction of rational minds is a beautiful thing to witness!

    A nation existing as animals in the deluded belief they seek to live as angels requires no education or intelligence!

    Back to the Dark Ages folks!

  • Comment number 57.

    #23 anotherfakename

    I salute you dave.

    Experience is something we have been earnestly ironing out in almost everything. Managers are no longer adept at the jobs they 'manage'; people are recruited and promoted inappropriately because it is easy to get rid of a mistake; turnover instead of judgement is used as a quality control, and, anyway, all the production jobs are a very long way away. we are obsessed with 'service' and we have never done that very well.

    Never mind the Tories are back and Vince Cable in disguise is not the person we all knew and loved. Expect more dogma from the boys in blue with not a trace of yellow anywhere.

  • Comment number 58.

    I think there should be a sponsorship scheme from employers that would require students taking on work experience before commencing a degree. That way the employer can take on some of the cost with the guarantee of having a qualified member of staff at the end. It may also help students realise the employment potential before training. There appear to be far too many degrees without jobs at the end of it, more vocational training is needed. Students need to take on more of the financial cost themselves but it does seem unfair that we are in a society where many who are not working receive benefit but students who have limited time to attend paid work are penalised.

  • Comment number 59.

    Halve the number of undergraduates.

    Give them all a maintenance grant and let the Government pay the tuition fees in full.

    Do the sums - this works out just fine for the Treasury and I would suggest for education.

    There will be initial closures of (over-expanded!) institutions and loss of staff. Close one-third of the 'so called' universities and get rid of many of the, shall we say, less that rigorous or challenging courses.

    Result: fewer, better trained and educated graduates with no huge overdraft or loan interest or repayments or graduate tax to worry about.

    The latter is vital if the UK's housing market is ever to be even self sustaining. (It will decline substantially anyway, but taking extra money out of the pockets of those who might be the future first time purchasers is simply insane.)

  • Comment number 60.

    Mr Cable says the present level of government expenditure on university education is "unsustainable". A translation of this term is that the government regards extra spending on the universities as lower priority than all the other things it spends money on. Personally I can think of many items of government expenditure, that I would willing see go, in order to fund the universities.

    A graduate tax would give English graduates a further incentive to leave the UK, as many of the best ones do already, to work in countries where well educated young people are welcomed and well rewarded and supported, and not subjected to special taxes imposed in response to envy whipped up by the media.

  • Comment number 61.

    17. At 09:40am on 15 Jul 2010, Sam wrote:
    I'm hoping to start a Physics degree in September, and I was made aware by the Student loans company that I would be paying back my loans that pay for my tuition fees and living at University as stated, after I earn at least £15k per year.
    Also, it told me that as your wages increase, so does the amount you pay back each year, and that this is deducted from your wages by your employer like a tax anyway.
    I'm not really sure how this new proposed system is any different to the one we already have.


    As I understand the proposal you would pay the graduate tax for life, which means if you got a very well paid job you would pay substantially more than the amount you had borrowed. Conversely if you did not earn as much the amount of tax you would pay would be lower, so if the degree did not actually boost your income you could end up paying less than the value of your debt.
    There would no longer be a need to send you a statement each year showing the status of your student debt. The big weakness of the proposed system as far as I can see is there is no longer an incentive for a student to try and reduce the size of his debt by taking out a lower student loan or by going to a university that charges a lower tuition fee, as the amount he pays after graduation isn't linked to the amount he borrowed, but to the amount he earns.

  • Comment number 62.

    Anti-intellectualism is the road to tyranny!

  • Comment number 63.

    I have always thought that, with Student Loans, a lot of the money graduates pay back is interest. More well off students often pay their fees outright and often even take out the loan, put it in a savings account, and then take the interest before paying the loan back in full upon completion of their course.

    Surely with a student loan, those who earn the least take the longest to pay it off an end up paying back more interest. Those better off pay off their loan in a number of years or even immediately and this pay back less. This to me seems unfair.

    This seems to be the inverse of what would be fair. Would a Graduate Tax not balance this out?

  • Comment number 64.

    By the people that use and eventually benefit from them.

  • Comment number 65.

    So as well as paying more tax, you now pay even more tax. And all because you bothered to get off your behind and better yourself.

    I would've thought that the country as a whole would benefit from more graduates as well?

    Increase in wages then to pay for the extra tax graduates have to pay?

    Well done!

    Also what happens if the degree is self-funded. No tax - so look who benefits from that - oh yes those that are better off to begin with.

    Fair for all?

  • Comment number 66.

    Cut the number of places and get rid of the pointless courses. The gradute tax seems a fair way to pay it may stop the students who go just for a few years of drinking and having a good time.

  • Comment number 67.

    what if you got your degree through the ou or attended as a part timer with the funding paid by your employer.
    I dont think a tax is fair until universities are more effective and efficient.

  • Comment number 68.

    Now the reality is this.

    If you are in a high PAID job, you ACTUALLY ALREADY pay HIGHER TAXES and contribute MUCH MORE proportionately than lower earners, so this is basically a double whammy if you earn more.

    The cat is basically out of the bag, this is basically to pre-empt SUBSTANTIAL rises in degree fees.


    We STILL are NOT sufficiently targetting those areas which require HUGE numbers of immigrants.

    Its ALL very well shuffling numbers and how much it all costs and who re-pays however much but it is CRAZY and ILLOGICAL, NONSENSICAL and ATTROCIOUS ECONOMICALLY to NOT reduce over prescribed courses and replace with areas of economic shortfall, via providing incentives.

    DO universitys etc NOT have a CARE OF DUTY to sell courses of economic benefit, it is IRRATIONAL for such a system to sell courses in high numbers which are already proven to be far far above what the market/economy can adequately provide jobs for.

    It is also PURE INCOMPETANCE/NEGLECTION for government to not ensure that there is a LONG TERM EDUCATION PLAN which ACTUALLY fits/meets the NEEDS of UK economy, present and future.

    Our University system is basically not much different to a defense system which trains loads of pilots to fly Spitfires. Yes these pilots might have a skill, but what are they going to fly, because theres very few spitfires around, ok for shows, but it would be SUCH a WASTE of money/resources, time, and peoples lives.

    There are FAR in excess of 10,000 high level IT jobs available which positions are currently met via immigrant labour, hence we basically need upto 10,000 NEW IT degree course positions.

    ANY change needs to be done competantly, so STOP selling so many degree courses which are basically useless and of NO economic benefit to the UK or even to those who undertake them and who end up in lower paid jobs with a lifetime of debt around their necks.

  • Comment number 69.

    The principle of providing access to higher education for all is mentioned several times throughout this and related stories. As a university lecturer, I applaud this ideal - partially - but can't quite see how it tallies with raising fees? Surely the two approaches are mutually exclusive and if the objective truly is higher educaton for all then we should be returning to the system of free tuition and student grants that I was fortunate enough to enjoy?

    I have taught on "Supported Open Learning" courses (also called distance learning or SOL) and while it offers a practical alternative to traditional classroom teaching, once again it is NOT suitable for all. SOL is HARD work, students need to be motivated self starters who are prepared to take responsibility for their own learning (rather than expecting to be taught, often through the osmosis of merely turning up in a classroom a couple of times a term) and put in the hours of reading and writing needed. My experience is that less than 50% of those who sign up for such courses will do so, and those who do are generally the more mature students rather than teenagers fresh from A-levels.

    We as a nation (represented by the coalition as our government) need to make a tough choice now because it will impact on us only in future generations: do we want to have a wolrd-beating education system that will produce high quality graduates and ensure UK PLC is a world force once again, or do we want to give degrees to anyone who has the money?

    Further than that, do we see our teenagers (for that's what most undergrads are) as a way to raise funds for government now, or as the future of our country? If it's the latter, surely the questions we should be asking are along the lines of "what can we do to make your studies more productive?" and "how can we help you to learn in the best possible way, so that you can help put the Great back in Britain?" or even "how can we ensure that we provide you with the best available teachers for the job?"

    But what do I know? As the saying goes, "those who can, do; those who can't, teach". The lesser known third part of this saying is "those who can't teach go into politics".

  • Comment number 70.

    As someone who gained a degree some time ago, I doubt if I would have made the effort if I knew I'd end up paying for it for the rest of my life in the form of higher taxes (over and above the across-the-board higher rate tax band). At least if you've been given a loan you know that there's an end to paying out the money. In my day it was said that the money spent on universities was the country investing in its future. This vision has obviously been trampled in the mud by the short term outlook that now curses us.

    As for two-year degrees, what use are they? If anything, there should be an increase from three to four years and an incentive to take a more useful degree.

  • Comment number 71.

    There should be an extra tax on people who have been to prison as well then, and an extra tax on the sick to pay for their medical treatment. Then put an extra tax on fat people to pay for their medical help when they get diabetes, well if they have enough money for the food, oh and an extra tax on alcoholics, and one for people who look strange, and a tax for foreigners with degreed from foreign universities

    Basically we all benefit from people who have been educated, like it or not, therefore we should all pay.

  • Comment number 72.

    Curious how a “degree” is now valuable, it adds to your income! How has this happened? There have been “degrees” for years but they could not be as good as a media degree 2.2, as this can now be taxed. A BSC from Oxbridge or even a BA for the thicko did not add to their personal wealth did it?
    All degrees add wealth, do not put a date after you got yours and taxed, tax all degrees! Particularly MPs!

  • Comment number 73.

    I know lets punish the most intelligent citizens of our society, you know those nice folk who many provide the solutions to our economic, social and political problems! You know, those thinking people who may have the intelligence to educate and inform the public of the incompetence, moral bankruptcy and corruption infesting our society. You know, those that might have the intelligence to identify the inconsistencies in political pronouncements. You know those folk who many find a cure for all your problems and illness. You know all those creative folk who might invent or create the useful thing we all require in the future.

    Oh dear, lets stop those 'thinkers' from thinking - I fear intellect, its intimidating, it requires a certainty of knowledge I do not possess! The intelligent serve as a constant reminder of what humanity can achieve. Let our society be prettified in the irrational dark age of the now! Forget progress and social advancement, forget enlightenment and the endless search to push the boundaries of knowledge and understanding. Lets live in a world where Concorde's reside in museums and the mystic preachers of the doctrine of sacrifice stifle the very essence of what it is to be a Human Being! seek to exist as an animal in the deluded belief one seeks to live as an angels is the greatest fraud one could ever commit - it results in the destruction of the self and the triumph of evil!

  • Comment number 74.

    There is no need for a graduate tax.

    If a degree has any worth at all, Vince, it attracts an income.

    The tax that applies is Income Tax.

    Freely and gladly fund worthwhile degrees (concentrate the debate on worth in the higher education system) and, if there is a gap in funding, close loopholes in the general system of taxation.

    It's a fairer and more industrious Britain that I'd like to see.

  • Comment number 75.

    Vince Cable has had many good ideas about the economy in recent years but I think this one is ill conceived and fundamentally flawed. A loan, for however much it is, should be at a given rate and not one rate for some students and a different one for others. In the event a student manages to get a well paid job, it cannot be fair that he is effectively "punished" for it by paying more. There is a dangerous precident that the working population is rewarded for mediocrity and sucess punished as something undesirable. If the UK adopts these values it will pay dearly for it in years to come as talent find other countries to live in and leaves the UK to the spongers and hangers on.

  • Comment number 76.

    I think the best way to tackle university funding is to reduce the number of universities and degrees (at least those that recive government funding)

    By getting a degree and earning more I essentially support the government by paying higher amounts of tax. I would resent paying extra tax to allow people to study for an extra three years to receive a degree that does not benefit them in any way, who earn 15-10K a year for most their life and never pay back any of the money used to fund their education. I do not mean degrees such as nursing and teaching which clearly benefit the community, and should be generously funded by the government. However there does seem to be an excess of film studies, sports studies degress etc and I fail to understand why all these degrees should be funded by my tax money.

    I also fail to understand why the government do not put more incentive on degrees such as science, maths and engineering where there are a shortage of graduate every year. By taxing higher earners you are essentially making it more expensive to study for these degrees, when in fact certainly in engineering there is a massive shortfall of graduates.

  • Comment number 77.

    No doubt this will cause eruptions in Academia BUT as they receive £100sM to fund research from the taxpayer, they MUST be required to make all the projects (other than those supported by industry who must have first call) that the universities abandon available to others WITHOUT any hindrance.
    At present, some 85% of all projects are abandoned (orphan projects) but virtually 100% of orphan projects are buried "in case the private sector makes a success of them " (A university project development manager).
    If only 10% of all orphan projects were taken up by the private sector, it would revolutionise university finances.
    Secondly - too many useless degree courses - if universities promote useless degrees, they should be responsible for the costs / fees if a "graduate" remaibns unemployed for (illustratively) 2 years.

  • Comment number 78.

    To be honest i knew something like this would happen I am starting uni in sept and now i wish i hadn't bothered tories again.Ourselves and Northern ireland are the only 2 places who charge 3225 for fees scotland is free and wales is 1750? I do think there should be fees but what is not fair is if they are put up really high so the rich will only be able to attend uni. There should be an increase in funding and a decrease in students. More and more jobs now are asking for degrees so what is someone to do. I think the tories should look at there wages and expenses first.

  • Comment number 79.

    As a graduate I currently pay a graduate tax ; it is called income tax. Vince reckons I earn £100,000 in a lifetime more than a non graduate although I reckon it is nearer £300,000. I pay 40% tax on this which is at least £40,000. I have therefore more than paid back the investment of the state in my education.
    This is why tuition fees are compeletely wrong.
    The Government really does need to look at what incentives it is giving people to become better educated.
    Given the tax and benefit system my family are worse off than people who have not done a day's work in their lives.

  • Comment number 80.

    Why don't we have a non graduate tax to fund all the low wage benefits, unemployment costs, and illness costs that less educated people statistically suffer from? They cost us a lot more than university education does.

    It's just another attempt to spread jealousy to head off any consensus amongst the people about what should be done about our growing poverty as a nation.

  • Comment number 81.

    If they try and tax me for having a degree, I'll just leave the country. So will lots of graduates if they try this. We'll get 'brain drain' as the graduates who would have earned the top amounts leave for greener pastures. We'll be left with sub par workers as the few industries we have left collapse or move abroad.

    There's been little published in the news about the multi billion pound student loan black hole. I suspect it wont take many more years before the student loan company collapses, taking investors (such as the RBS group) with it.

  • Comment number 82.

    Forcing graduates to pay more income tax (whether or not their degree has been in any way instrumental in improving their earnings)will have one unintended effect - a brain drain! When faced with a high paying job in England or an alternative in, say, Switzerland which one will will be the winner.

    And what about the universities in Wales and Scotland? And what if one funds one's own degree in the USA - as a graduate, will the extra tax have to be paid on return?

  • Comment number 83.

    It has always seemed to me that there is something immoral in a bunch of people who gained their degrees free of charge deciding that everyone else should have to pay.

    If a degree is actually worth anything in the job market then graduates already pay extra because they earn more money and so pay more tax. So we already do what Vince Cable says he wants to introduce. And if we are to get graduates to pay more tax, who is going to pay for administering that?

  • Comment number 84.

    A number of thoughts which, if taken together, might help the problem.

    First we are trying to educate too many people to degree level. We should tie the number of graduates the country pays for to the demand for true graduate level jobs. If there are people who don't get selected on that basis, then they can choose to pay an economic price alongside overseas students, but the country cannot and should not view free or low cost tertiary education as being a universal or near universal right. Clearly this would result in a downsizing of the tertiary education sector, and hopefully we'd take the opportunity to shed the least valuable colleges, courses, and staff.

    Second, get university teaching staff in front of students, taking lectures and tutorials, for a vastly increased proportion of their time, so reducing the cost per graduate. The lecturer's research interests, and their desire to attend conferences, seminars , symposiums and so on should take second place to teaching undergraduates. Not all lecturers should be doing research anyway. Of course there will be exceptions, but most lecturers have a pretty easy life, and one which is orientated towards their interests rather than doing what justifies their posts to the rest of us.

    Take a look at how long a degree course should take, or needs to take. Right now, most graduates get 90 weeks of mostly pretty light tuition, if you count in the terms in which no lectures operate. My family graduated with an average of 6 hours lectures per week over two ten week terms a year, since lectures didn't happen in the summer term at all. Getting work marked, or a bit of feedback, took forever. I do understand that people need to be given time to think, but isn't this workload just a bit light? Maybe by moving the 30 week year up a bit, with rather more lectures and seminars we might be able to get more work than currently emerges from a three year course into two years? After all its the amount of work done that matters not the elapsed time between starting it and ending it. You might even adopt a system that lasted a couple of 40 week years plus a short exam term- which would actually be more time spent working than happens now.

    I'm convinced that with the right amount of places, getting more out of the lecturing resource and a little creativity on how to organise the course, that the UK can afford to educate the proportion of people it should be educating to degree level without any fees at all, or a graduate tax in any form. I do not think that UK citizens should be forced to pay for their education in order to indirectly fund academic reasearch.

    I think discussions on how we can get people to pay more to support a bloated and inefficient tertiary education sector miss the point entirely.

  • Comment number 85.

    Too many losers and dropouts are now claiming Uni places. More emphasis should be paid to commitment, along with thought to how to reclaim fees from those that leave the country immediatly after qualifying.

    Up-front fees are the best suggestion, alongside of scholarships for the brightest students.

    Basic education is a right, further education is a privilege.

  • Comment number 86.

    Who wants to join a club that'll have anyone? Graduates with the better surnames or from the better prep schools should be allowed in gratis, just as sports stars are given swiss watches & designer clothes to endorse, whereas the rest of you should only be allowed in on payment of fees on a sliding scale driven inversely by intellectual ability, athletic skill and physical attractiveness. Where the relatively poorer, more stupid, and uglier student has managed somehow to accumulate the required monies (by selling hair, internal organs &tc) they will be allocated according to a fixed number of places, capped so as to ensure campuses aren't overrun with monstrous thickies and God's ordered estate is not jeopardised. Particularly wealthy students of more valued stock coming from the best schooling background could be pre-allocated cabinet positions or senior roles in high-ranking global companies.

  • Comment number 87.

    No 25 "Can't we just fund the ones where we have skills shortages like doctors, dentistry, engineering, science etc. and let media studies, english literature and sociology students foot the whole bill for their McDegree?"

    Do we have shortages in the sciences? I know many science graduates who can't find work in their field.

    Why this hatred of 'arts' degrees? English literature a McDegree?! Surely this is one of the most traditional, proper academic subjects around? Apart from the benefits to culture and society from having people educated in the arts, I think you underestimate its importance in today's economy.

    The only person I know who studied the always maligned media studies is now a journalist.

  • Comment number 88.

    60. stated: "A graduate tax would give English graduates a further incentive to leave the UK, as many of the best ones do already, to work in countries where well educated young people are welcomed and well rewarded and supported, and not subjected to special taxes imposed in response to envy whipped up by the media."

    So far as the recipient country is concerned it receives a worker that is the product of many thousands of pounds invested by the parents and the state. The country would be mad to impose punitive taxes that may deter the potential immigrant.

  • Comment number 89.

    23. At 09:44am on 15 Jul 2010, anotherfakename wrote:

    Apprentices are the way forward. Instead of trying to get half the population to have devalued degrees and a huge tax bill spend that money setting up some factories, instead of buying BMW's for the cabinet, Volvo's for the police, Mercedes ambulances, American tanks, Indian software, Italian 'gym kit' and all the rest start BUYING BRITISH at a government level and the whole problem of unemployment, the deficit, finding jobs for the young, having something to do here other than tax each other and send pointless health and safety inspectors around will all dissappear and the UK could become the GREAT place it once was.



    Right on Dave. You said it. Last thing we need is more people walking around with media studys and sociology and other rubbish degrees. Should get rid of a lot of nutters calling themselves profesors and things and filling kids heads with rubbish. That should save some money.

    Trouble is with the UK is that over time people started thinking that people that work with our hands were nothing and you had to sit in an office and keep your hands clean to be worth anything. People don't want to do real work and look down on those people who do but getting your hands dirty is how real money is made not fake stuff like bankers.

  • Comment number 90.

    It's about time we saw some philanthropic acts coming from greedy banks and football players.

  • Comment number 91.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 92.

    A graduate tax is fairer in the sense that those earning most pay most tax. But this looks suspicious. We already have a graded income tax, why set up another tax system with more bureaucracy. Looks like one of Gordon's schemes.

  • Comment number 93.

    Not everyone needs a university degree, but if you make it an easy ride anyone who just want an extra 3-4 years off will go.

    Also, it's not only a matter of changing higher education, but also changing Employers attitudes towards other qualifications (i.e. GCSE's and A levels), these are virtually ignored now days by some companies as there are so many graduates.

    For Higher Education
    - Get rid of the non-degrees (Beatles studies etc.), these are just courses designed to create University jobs and totally pointless. This helps to cuts down the university overheads reducing costs.
    - Make degrees harder NOT easier, when a lot of students find out they are really going to have to work hard there will be a big reduction in demand, which will make the universities have to slim down and cut costs again.
    - Standardise evaluation and interviewing of candidates, you may have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but if you've not the aptitude why be allowed to waste a place in a university (unless of course the parents are willing to pay the same fees as foreign students so you don't use up a UK allocated place).
    - Means testing for grants to cover cost of living for students from poorer backgrounds, based on the cost of living in the area they are attending University / Halls of Residence fees etc. Note Grants NOT Loans (otherwise people from poorer backgrounds end up with huge debts compared to the better off).
    - Tuition fees should be paid by all in the form of a loan to be recovered later on when the student is earning a decent wage. Which their degree should help provide them with. Currently degrees have very little value as there are so many of them
    - Anyone dropping out, for anything other than health grounds should be penalised heavily in interest rates until they have paid back whatever tuition costs they owe.
    - Also anyone going abroad to work after University must be made to repay the loan even though it can't be taken in tax.

    For Employers
    - Make them justify why they need graduates for a lot of jobs, learning the ropes from more senior staff is more than adequate for a large number of jobs IMHO.
    - If they want people to get business qualifications etc, let the employers fund that, don't build them into business orientated degrees.

  • Comment number 94.

    I have some concerns about the grad tax idea:
    1) how do we know for sure that every penny raised will go straight back into higher education?
    2) Is it fair that graduates are now being asked to pay more in tax every day of their working life, instead of paying back a finite amount of money? Sure, some people would have been paying back the loan all their working life anyway (me!) but others may have been in a position to pay it all back through PAYE (my partner,who finished paying in March, 8 years after graduating).
    3) What rate of tax do you impose on graduates? Remember they still have bills to pay, mortgages to apply for, and they will be expected to build up substantial amounts of savings, given that they'll have no pensions to speak of.
    4) I'm paying back my loan under the current system, and I would not be happy if the new graduate tax was imposed on me at this stage. I've signed up to pay back only what I owe, not get taxed more, so hands off Vince!

  • Comment number 95.

    This sounds like a very good idea. I hope this would stop people going to university for a degree that is not worth the paper it is written on. This in turn would still allow people to go to further education but possible we would get more tradepeople.They to would have to pay but instead of not working with a degree I feel we would see a rise in employement. We would be training people in something we need, and not surfing degrees.However to link with this, Vince should look at the student loan company and who is regulating it. They are a complete let down. not fit for purpose. If the student loan company was a bank they would of been fined and possible closed down. So Vince go ahead and look at a graduate tax, the more you earn the more you pay, however I think there must be a cut of time say 25 years of working. This in turn will stop the student loan making a mess of ex students lives.

  • Comment number 96.

    Simple, only allow those with sufficient academic qualities to go to university. They are supposed to be academic institutions for higher learning - not degree factories for the masses. This is the way it used to be and there was never a problem funding it with no tuition fees and grants.

    In reality, only about 10-20% of the population will really benefit from going to university. We can afford that, and those people who do go will contribute to the economy through better technical skills.

    We cannot afford not to make the most of the intelligent people in our society. We need these people to create the jobs and economy for everyone else. They will repay what the government spent on universities many times over.

    If we fail on education then we will eventually end up a sweat-shop nation of manual workers!
    P.S. That's real education, not easy multichoice exams and meaningless qualifications.

  • Comment number 97.

    They could save a hell of a lot of money if they got rid some of the meaningless degrees that seem to pop up from time to time.

    There should be fewer people going to university. There simply are not the jobs for the amount of graduates being produced. When I was a kid, only the brightest went to university. Nowadays, it seems that any idiot can get into a university with barely the ability to read and write.

    I don't want to see my hard earned taxes wasted on useless degrees and idiot graduates who no one will employ.

  • Comment number 98.

    Tax is a very bad idea as it makes those who have chosen to do useful degrees in good universities to subsidises those who preferred an easier option of having fun with "wind surfing degree" from a "university for dummies".

  • Comment number 99.

    The country needs more graduates to keep our economy strong to the benefit of all in the UK.

    This implies that all taxpayers should shoulder the burden of educating students who are in courses for the benefit of all.

    I would determine a set of courses of benefit to the economy and some less so (like Classics & Art etc) fully taxpayer funded. Students wishing to study but finding the places allotted should pay, as would foreign students.

  • Comment number 100.

    You can't say that people who graduate with a degree should pay an extra tax because of it. Because everybody pays tax anyway but not everybody uses all the services that they are paying for. As somebody that rarely uses the NHS i would consider that what i've paid into the system has covered what i've used. Unfortunately it doesn't work like that.

    You can't effectively have a pay as you go tax system, which the graduate tax is. They should leave it as it is but have different bands after the £15k starting rate, then if you earn £30k you pay a small percentage more to the student loans company, with the scale increasing by £15k between bands. So that then what you pay back will be proportionate to what you earn.

    Also if all the degrees cost the same then obviously the higher earner will pay back what they owe quicker. However not all the courses cost the same to run. A computing degree can have all their coursework online without detriment to the students but the students will still (hopefully) have good earnings, where as a biology student needs to have a physical lab. So will Uni's charge depending on the course and will that be regulated so that all uni's spend a similar amount on the same type of degree's?


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