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Deja vu

So, Vince Cable is proposing a graduate tax. Haven't we been here before?

It's been a while since I posted about HE funding (posts passim), but it's worth repeating some of the highlights:

  • Back in 1997, the Dearing Report recommended that because "those with higher education qualifications are the main beneficiaries [of higher education], through improved employment prospects and pay", "graduates in work should make a greater contribution to the costs of higher education in future". The report goes on to recommend an income contingent scheme along the lines of the Australian Higher Education Contribution Scheme.
  • Richard Gombrich's article from 2000 is still worth reading, and an indication of what HE is likely to suffer in the lifetime of this government.
  • Roy Hattersley was generally right in 2002, and he's still generally right now.
  • The then Education Secretary Charles Clarke heavily hinted at a graduate tax back in 2003. It didn't happen. Instead, we got top-up fees by a vote of 316:311.
  • A graduate tax will not be hypothecated, therefore Universities UK will not support it.
  • A graduate tax will take over forty years to reach steady state (being the period between graduation and retirement), but HE will continue to require support from other sources during this period. Ignore this at your peril.
  • David Willetts is wrong. Before he starts calling for us to "give more value to students and taxpayers", he should be aware that per-capita tertiary funding fell by 50% over the twenty years to 2000. During the same period, staff:student ratios fell from 1:9 to 1:17 (or 1:23 if research funding is excluded). The increase in funding under the last government did not substantially correct this. How much more value does he think there is to give?

I could say more, but not without repeating things that I've said over the past decade.

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The country isn't broke, its just spending more money than its getting in at present. That problem isn't in any way solved by a graduate tax that'll not make a penny for four years anyway and which will take a generation to really increase the funding for universities, if it ever does anyway. This is not a solution to the cost of higher education in the current era of spending restraint.

We have a strategic need for good graduates in many subject areas, especially science and engineering; thats why no country, anywhere in the world, has successfully implemented a stable graduate tax program. How would I pay for it? Through general taxation, which is exactly how it'll be paid for through the period of recession we're in and the aftermath under these proposals anyway.

It wasn't long ago that the Lib Dems were pledging a penny on income tax as a starting point for education. Cables statement doesn't so much show that they've sold out because, after all, one would expect to get something in return for being a sell out. Its more a demonstration of complete moral and intellectual bankruptcy from a tired, pathetic political party keen to be seen to be more frugal, more mean, more nasty even than their Tory masters.

...and I thought that I was bitter about the Lib Dems!

(unsurprisingly, I completely agree)

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