University tuition fee rises may end up taxpayers more than scheme it replaced

The Coalition’s £9,000-a-year tuition fee hike could cost taxpayers more than the scheme it replaced, a think-tank has warned. A £1bn-a-year “black hole” in university funding shows that the rushed tuition fee reforms are coming back to haunt both the Lib Dems and the Tories, despite all their claims that the reforms would save the country money.

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) says that the government “seriously understated” the cost of its higher education reforms and will either have to implement drastic cuts to student numbers or ask graduates to make higher repayments – a result that will deeply embarrass the Lib Dems.

So as well as having an impact on social mobility, lumping a lifetime of debt on future graduates and deterring future students from attending higher education, the drastic cuts to higher education will actually end up costing taxpayers more in the long run. However, this was clear from the start, and it has often been said that you do not cut public spending in a recession. This government’s policies may reduce debt in the short run, but in the longer-term the “austerity” programs may lead to irreparable damage to the public sector, to education, and to the UK as a whole.

None of this is new, however. A report published in 2010 stated that with state funding for University teaching being cut by a monumental 80% by 2014-15, the government will have to borrow more to fund the higher loans and pick up a bigger bill for those debts “written off” after 30 years; The report argued this will leave taxpayers worse off.

This is what happens when austerity reforms are pushed through as legislation before MP’s have had a chance to properly review and debate the proposals. The student protests of 2010 fell on deaf ears. It’s clear that either the Coalition MP’s who passed this legislation were either so short-sighted, they could not see the implications of their reforms, or the reforms themselves were ideologically-driven. But the Tories are anything but ideologically-driven, right?

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The Marketisation of Education: The Untold Story

Photo taken by Louis Sidwell, Nov. 2010

As the government plans to cut higher education funding whilst pushing up the cost of tuition fees, many are left reeling in the wake of the Liberal Democrats’ complete U-Turn on their own manifesto and the worries for the future of higher education itself.

The coalition proposes to cut teaching grants by 80%  and to raise tuition fees by nearly triple the current asking price as a “replacement” for the massive cut in education funding. This will leave Universities with around a 40% drop in their guaranteed incomes. But what will be the real repercussions of these proposals?

It essentially means that the funding of university teaching will shift from the taxpayer to the student, thus creating a free market in Uni courses. Continue reading

NUS Leader Responds to Clegg’s Letter

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Image by The CBI via Flickr

NUS president Aaron Porter responds to Nick Clegg. You can read the full letter here: NUS response to Nick Clegg PDF. Some extracts from the letter are noted below:

“I am pleased that you have clarified that your recall proposals were to apply to serious wrongdoing. But you should know that we would regard the breaking of signed, individual pledges to vote against higher fees as both serious and wrong. This is not as simple as coalition parties having to compromise.” [pg.1]

“You herald bringing part-time students into the scheme as a success – we agreed on the day Browne was published – but only those studying at 33% or more will benefit from a loan.” [pg.1]

“You trumpet the change in the post-graduation repayment threshold – convenientlyignoring that the £21k level won’t be introduced until 2016, or increased until 2021. If inflation is higher than 2.2%, the £21,000 earnings repayment threshold will not offer any real advantages to graduates by 2015/16.” [pg.1]

“You argue progressivity through the example of a nurse Continue reading

“Progressive” tuition fees hike progressing the wrong way

Portrait of Nick Clegg.

Image via Wikipedia

Despite claims that the proposed cuts in University funding and the hike in tuition fees are “progressive”, a recent analysis of the proposals, published today, argues that the “reform” of funding will limit social mobility and leave around two-thirds of all graduates paying far more for a degree.

The government’s proposals will see tuition fees as high as £9,000 a year, whilst introducing real interest rates for the loans as well as a longer period before the debt it “written off”. Million+, a university lobby group, states that these changes will hit middle-income earners the hardest, running contrary to the numerous claims by the coalition that “we are in this together”, and the statements that those with the broadest shoulders will carry the brunt.

The report also argues that pupils from poorer backgrounds will be deterred from applying to Uni, which is interesting as Nick Clegg is arguing that it is the DEBATE about reform that will put off poorer students. Clegg wrote to the NUS leader, Aaron Porter, urging students not to “distort” the debate over fees, saying that many wrongly believe they will have to pay the fees immediately. I think Clegg is missing the point here.

The report also warns that many women will be ending up in debt for the most part of their working lives, whilst mature students will also be deterred. With state funding for University teaching being cut by a monumental 80% by 2014-15, the government will have to borrow more to fund the higher loans and pick up a bigger bill for those debts “written off” after 30 years. The report argues this will leave taxpayers worse off.

“It is difficult to see how the proposals provide a long-term, sustainable framework for the funding of higher education and universities in England,” the report says. It also accuses the government of using simplistic measures to define social mobility, such as the number of students on free school meals who go to Oxford, rather than assessing whether a having degree helps those from deprived backgrounds get better jobs, the Guardian states.

Some have also claimed that the coalition is trying to push through the legislation before MP’s have had a chance to properly review and debate the proposals. It appears as if the opinions held by Clegg that the proposals are “fair” and “progressive” may be empty rhetoric. Meanwhile, protests are continuing up and down the country on an almost weekly basis, with students clashing with police and occupations of buildings taking place even as you read this. Stay tuned.