Myths over tuition fees

I CAN’T think of a government policy, from either Labour or Conservative governments, which has had so much distortion and misinformation peddled about it than student tuition fees.

Let’s start with the myth that university education was always free. It wasn’t!

Over the years many thousands of students had their grants means-tested, based on the joint income of their parents, and if that income was above a certain level, then daddy and mummy had to cough up. Now, as then, it will be the students from middle-class homes who will bear the brunt of the new policy, just as they do with Gordon Brown’s original tuition fees.

What is clear is that students from poorer backgrounds will not have to start paying anything back until they earn a salary over £21,000, that’s £6,000 more than under Gordon Brown’s Labour government policy, and, as now, they will asked to pay back just 9p in every pound they earn above that threshold. For example, graduates earning £16,000 now will be paying back on their loan, but on the new system they will pay back zilch, nada, nowt!

At earnings of £21,500, under Gordon Brown’s scheme, they would be paying back £52 a month, but on the new Tory system, repayments would be just £4 a month. Anybody done the maths on that? You don’t need a degree to see that students will be much better off under the new system. However, it is estimated that something like 55 per cent of students who pay the full £9,000, will have at least some of that debt written off, which rather begs the question, if a degree doesn’t bring you a job that pays better than 21 grand, what’s the point of all that education?

Not that every university will charge the full amount for every course, they won’t, but even with a fee of £7,500, some 49 per cent of students will have some debt written off, and 23 per cent will pay back less on the new scheme than they do now.

Whether university education should be free is a perfectly legitimate subject for debate, but having decreed that 50 per cent of students leaving sixth form should go to uni, Gordon Brown neglected, as usual, to work out who was going to pay for it all, and decided, in his usual panicky way to drop it on the students. The new policy will alter university education for the better.

Students will be in a stronger position to demand better tuition and lectures than hitherto. Getting value for their own money is a very good driver, I’ve found! And is it necessary for some courses to spread over three years? Maybe with harder work, and less time in the students’ union bar, two years could become the norm for some subjects, thus saving students money, and making room for other courses perhaps, and more students. A win, win situation, surely.

What I don’t think is really an option is that these privileged, and talented, young people should demand that those of us who never had the opportunity to go to uni, or perhaps were not quite bright enough, should pay from our taxes to launch them into a life-style with which we would all love to become accustomed.

“Let the rich pay for it all,” is the usual chant from the Left. Well, if those students who parrot that one haven’t worked out that there just ain’t enough rich people around to do that, then they really aren’t bright enough to be at uni in the first place.


Cornmill Lane