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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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Thanks for this data -- I hadn't realised things had slowed up quite so much.

Yes - I was quite taken aback by the figures. Given the current rhetoric from our supposed masters, and the typical views espoused by readers of right-wing newspapers forums ("universities are supposed to be elite - reduce student numbers by 50%"), the actual data tells a very different story.

To be honest, it's a bit shocking to me. I really thought the university sector expanded under new labour in terms of inclusivity. I genuinely believed we were educating more of the population.

Cool; I never realised I was in tune with readers of right-wing newspaper forums. I'd best check my Daily Mail subscription :)

That said, I do agree with your soundbite 110%


Part of the problem is that the FE sector has been even more underfunded than HE, and the abolition of the binary divide (between universities and polytechnics) in 1992 further narrowed the opportunities for students, particularly those who are less academic.

The Labour manifesto pledge from 2001 (and 2005) of 50% in HE (by 2010!) would have made more sense had the polytechnics been closer to the way they were before 1992, and had there been more funding for post-compulsory education in FE.

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