With tuition fees back on the agenda and a general election on the horizon, everything’s starting to feel a little 2010. But, four years on, Jamie Timson argues the game’s changed and the next steps are crucial for education reform.
There were protests. There were promises. There were students in The Sun. But ultimately, there was nothing to be done. The coalition government — pressured by those who were set to gain vastly from the decision — raised the tuition fee cap to £9,000 and the rest is history. Except its not, fast-forward to today and lo and behold there’s one issue that’s rearing its ugly head again.
On one side we have the murmurings that Labour will look to pledge to move the cap down to £6,000 in an attempted vote winner that is reminiscent — as the old adage goes — of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic . If Labour want a real vote winner, they could look towards a graduate tax. Not alongside a measly reduction in tuition fees, but alongside an abolition. This isn’t pie in the sky thinking, a graduate tax is achievable, affordable and could actually be an election winner.
A graduate tax would work on the simple premise that the more you are paid, the more you pay back. This isn’t a socialist utopia, it’s common sense, those who benefit from their further education the most would pay the most, and those who didn’t, wouldn’t. It’s a pay-what-you-can-afford scheme that has very few downsides. Yes, some graduates would subsidise others’ university experiences, but this is no different to the income tax thresholds we have today. Whisper it quietly, but it would also actually involve more money being paid back, we’ve all seen the headlines, some groups saying as few as 23% of graduates will pay back their tuition fees in full. The system’s broken, there is a solution.
The time is now for a pledge from Labour to solve the problem and win some voters, Ed’s never going to win votes with red-hot put downs like the ‘dunce of Downing Street’. Alas, the difference between Red, Yellow and Blue is almost non-existent in Westminster, and it looks as if that may continue regardless of who’s in power, if Tristram Hunt is to be believed. The shadow education secretary recently stated Michael Gove’s vastly unpopular education reforms would be kept should Labour win the election. There must be something about politicians named Hunt that cause such mass disappointment.
Of course it would be best if there was a political party that would pledge to abolish the tuition fees in their manifesto, a real promise that surely wouldn’t be broken, maybe with a leader who’s able to stand up for students and young people during the television debates.
I had a dream recently where that was the case, its strange, it seemed so real, I really did agree with Nick.