An article I co-wrote for CiF, interested in whether people here at TSR agree with it.Those leading the recent student protests against tuition fee reform have done more than anyone else over the last few months to reduce social mobility in the higher education system.
The government's proposals for university reform benefit the poorest graduates above all others: a rise in the repayment threshold from £15,000 to £21,000 will reduce all graduates' bills significantly, while bringing the lowest-earning graduates out of the repayment system altogether.
While most students may have to pay this graduate contribution for longer, the myth of a "burden" of debt is the only thing that will put poorer people off applying. Those against the fees often neglect to mention that all students are going to be given more support through increased maintenance grants, that a new £150m national scholarship scheme will guarantee the brightest students a free first year or foundation year, and that all upfront tuition fees will finally be abolished by allowing part-time students to benefit from the loan repayment scheme. The blame can only lie with those spreading the myths if, despite all these measures, poorer prospective students are dissuaded.
Fortunately, however, this may not happen: people from poorer backgrounds are much less likely to go to university, but research carried out for the Sutton Trust showed there is almost no difference between the participation rates of the poorest students and better-off peers with the same A-level results. If universities are meant to take in the most intelligent students, regardless of background, then this may well remain the case despite all the misinformation. The issue here, then, is not fees, but that poorer students are being let down by a broken school system before even thinking about aspiring to university.
We recognise, of course, that students have concerns about getting value for money from their degree. Why should they attend when their lecturers aren't willing to give them contact time, and seminar classes become ever larger? This is an old phenomenon, famously noticed by Adam Smith, who complained in the late 18th century that many professors at Oxford had given up even the pretence of teaching. According to Smith, this was because the university was already heavily endowed, so the professor's salary was derived from a fund altogether independent of their success and reputation. As the professors no longer depended on the tuition fees paid by each student, there was little incentive to satisfy their changing needs and demands.
This is the situation now due to the large block-grant universities receive from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce). Like endowments, this is money they receive with a minimal link to the quality of teaching or the attention they give to students. By abolishing most Hefce funding and allowing funds to follow the students, universities will be forced to respond to student demands.
The forces arrayed against tuition fee reform are many, but few have come up with their own counterproposals. Some would make university education free again, but this may mean a sharp reduction in university places in order for the system to remain affordable, while certainly perpetuating a system where non-graduate taxpayers subsidise students of all incomes for the luxury of a university education.
Some on the Labour front benches appear to favour the development of the graduate repayment system, while Ed Miliband proposes a graduate tax. There are few details to discuss, but it could mean graduates pay back more than the cost of their education.
The National Union of Students has set out detailed, but flawed, proposals. It suggests an almost identical graduate income-related contribution, albeit one less generous to the poorest in that the repayment threshold would remain at £15,000, as well as totally severing university accountability to students by having all funding centrally directed.
We, and the growing number of students who support tuition fee reform, have bothered to read the Browne report and the government's proposals, unlike our protesting peers. We find it absurd that students should have been so misled as to protest against a more generous deal than the status quo.
The Liberal Democrats should know that some students stand with them in taking this decision. Especially Vince Cable: the policy he helped to construct ought to have his firm stamp of approval.
'Students should back tuition fee reform' Watch
- Thread Starter
- 08-12-2010 17:13
- 08-12-2010 17:41
I must say, I'm inclined to agree with "R042":I too take everything the government tells me at face value.
Did you know Iraq was 45 minutes from launching WMDs when we invaded?
How about the two of you go back to your rooms and do your homework...
Out of interest, how much did Cameron and Clegg pay for their university education?
- Political Ambassador
- 08-12-2010 17:48
- 08-12-2010 17:52
yeah, I'm totally backing it because I want to have 40k debt <sarcasm>
- 09-12-2010 01:05
I feel for those who've been sucked in (quite literally the hypodermic needle model) by this £9,000 figure, but failed to read the whole proposal.