We should remove all fees for higher education, and replace this with a graduate tax

Proposer
pezholio
State

Rejected

Vote Score

-2998

Age

2081 days


@pezholio edited education.md - over 5 years ago

published: true

What policies should we propose to give our children a good education?

What policies should we propose to give our children a good education?

Higher education

All higher education will be free at the point of use, funded by a graduate tax of 0.3% for lower earners, rising to a maximum of 2.5% for top earners. This will be payable for 20 years after the student has graduated.

This would encourage students to take up places at university by removing the stigma of debt, and would ensure that those who have benefitted more from their education financially would pick up more of the bill.

pezholio

@pezholio - over 5 years ago

This pull request has been automatically generated by prose.io.

Floppy

@Floppy - over 5 years ago

👍

This still gives a funding stream for HE, but as you say, removes the up front 'debt' stigma. Seems reasonable.

PaulJRobinson

@PaulJRobinson - over 5 years ago

If you're proposing a simple re - naming of the current system from " student loan " to " graduate tax " , then I agree. That is a much more accurate description of what we currently have , and it also doesn't discourage potential students by telling them they'll get into debt.

But if you're talking about introducing a new tax band which would be open ended (ie graduates would pay this tax for the rest of their lives rather than just until their debt is paid off) I'm not convinced that's particularly fair.

On 9 Jan 2014 11:18, "pezholio" [email protected] wrote:

This pull request has been automatically generated by prose.io.

You can merge this Pull Request by running

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https://github.com/openpolitics/manifesto/pull/48 Commit Summary - We should remove all fees for higher education, and replace this with a graduate tax

File Changes - M education.mdhttps://github.com/openpolitics/manifesto/pull/48/files#diff-0(8)

Patch Links: - https://github.com/openpolitics/manifesto/pull/48.patch - https://github.com/openpolitics/manifesto/pull/48.diff

— Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHubhttps://github.com/openpolitics/manifesto/pull/48 .

pezholio

@pezholio - over 5 years ago

It's a bit of both really. The payment will only be for 20 years (which is probably roughly what a student on an average income would take to pay off their existing debt), and will be means tested against income, so means those who earn more pay more.

philipjohn

@philipjohn - over 5 years ago

👍 Nice! When would taxation start, though? As soon as they earn, or once past the income tax threshold?

pezholio

@pezholio - over 5 years ago

My initial instinct was as soon as they start paying tax, but not sure that's fair. I think similar to the current student loan threshold is fair.

frankieroberto

@frankieroberto - over 5 years ago

Not sure I agree with this.

If we're going to remove all fees from Higher Education, which I think we should, then it should be paid for through general taxation rather than a Graduate Tax (which isn't much different from the current loan that's repaid through later earnings).

A Graduate Tax means that two people in the same job will earn different amounts, just because one of them happened to go to University decades ago - which doesn't seem fair, and might still put off some people from university.

Given that all society benefits from graduates, not just the individuals who go, and that taxation is already linked to income, we should pay for it using general taxation.

PaulJRobinson

@PaulJRobinson - over 5 years ago

As a 1998 undergrad I was one of the first to experience the joys of tuition fees and student loans (back then you had to stump up the cash before you even went to your first lecture which really did favour those from more fortunate backgrounds - apart from the substantial increase in the amount paid, today's "pay-after-graduation" students enjoy a much fairer system).

I think the principle behind the current system strikes the right balance of fairness (notwithstanding the actual sums which I think should be lower).

That's why I back the idea of redesignating the current system as a "graduate tax" but wouldn't want to tamper much more.

with kind regards, Paul Robinson

about.me/pauljrobinson

On 9 January 2014 15:39, Frankie Roberto [email protected] wrote:

Not sure I agree with this.

If we're going to remove all fees from Higher Education, which I think we should, then it should be paid for through general taxation rather than a Graduate Tax (which isn't much different from the current loan that's repaid through later earnings).

A Graduate Tax means that two people in the same job will earn different amounts, just because one of them happened to go to University decades ago - which doesn't seem fair, and might still put off some people from university.

Given that all society benefits from graduates, not just the individuals who go, and that taxation is already linked to income, we should pay for it using general taxation.

— Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHubhttps://github.com/openpolitics/manifesto/pull/48#issuecomment-31943591 .

timcowlishaw

@timcowlishaw - over 5 years ago

I strongly agree with @frankieroberto here. A 'graduate tax' is a tuition fee in all but name, as it's basically transactional - if you use a service, then you pay for it. I'd favour paying for higher education through general taxation (which may or may not involve an increase in the higher and additional rates, depending on how the overall budget balances). This also acknowledges that there are positive externalities for society at large from higher education, particularly through research funding.

However, (and I suspect that this is not the majority view here), I'd also like to see the distinction between academic / research focused higher ed, and vocational / training focused higher ed reintroduced. This doesn't necessarily mean that single institutions only offer one or the other, but just that the difference in intended outcomes for different courses and subjects is acknowledged explicitly, possibly with a differnent qualification title. If this happend, funding for vocational training could be raised through business taxation, as businesses are the ones that primarily benefit from vocational training. Happy to open a seperate PR around this if there's interest.

Floppy

@Floppy - over 5 years ago

Hm, yes. We educate our children because it benefits society as a whole, not just them, and this is the same the higher education. This is one of those times where I can see my own thinking being limited by the current state of affairs, and that's not right. I'd agree with funding HE through general taxation, as it used to be. I also agree with more vocational options as well, so I'd be interested in a PR on that, yes.

@pezholio, what are your thoughts on that?

stringfellow

@stringfellow - over 5 years ago

My tuppence (not necessarily well thought through):

I do not believe that all University education is equal.

I find it quite unfair that a scholar of (examples following are based solely on my own knowledge of what other graduates in my Uni days said of their courses) e.g. Bioscience gets the same level of financial help as one who does e.g. English Literature - the workloads are totally different as is the level of equipment needed and the "value" of the department, and the outcomes for society.

That is to say that I don't believe that going to uni and studying a course "because that's what one does, I'll do Psychology" is a good reason compared to going to uni "because I want to be a frickin brain surgeon, and need to graduate in Medicine". I don't believe the level of funding and hence level of societal support can possibly be regarded as equivalent, and so I feel that really, one should not necessarily means-test a student, but more means-test a subject. If the subject has graduates going on to earn X thousand a year, then it should get (perhaps) half the level of support for graduates going on to earn 2X thousand per year - but then those 2X students will have higher graduate tax in order to level it out - this way, people going to Uni actually think about what they want to do, look at the courses, the costs, the value of graduating, and then they may instead choose to go and do something more vocational (like an apprenticeship, common in Germany, I believe) if they decide it is not really for them. My support calculation there is clearly not well thought through because the level of value to society cannot just be determined by earnt income - the clear example here is that a well qualified nurse earns pittance compared to a many other less socially beneficial professions - but it serves only as an example of my meaning.

Summary: I don't believe flat support from general taxation is acceptable, and I don't believe the current system is acceptable. There are huge amounts of data on earnings, value to society, employment rate after graduating etc, and our policy should use the data to determine support, not vagueries based on what feels right. Sometimes complex is better, more appropriate, than simple.

👎 to PR from me.

PaulJRobinson

@PaulJRobinson - over 5 years ago

Interesting stuff from Steve:

On a personal level I agree on the 'hours worked' point. I received three hours with my history tutors at university - rest of the week I was in the library. Yet I was paying the same tuition fees (remember the fees are for tuition) as the medics who had huge amount of facetime with their tutors who were tutored non-stop - let's say 30 hours a week. So by my reckoning I should have had a huge discount, and science and medical students paid over the odds for all that extra tuition they took.

But as you say a Doctor provides far more value to society than someone who studied English Literature or Pottery, and I don't think many would agree that we should disincentivise people from studying medicine.

The difficulty is that I would like to live in not just a healthy society with loads of Doctors, or an efficient one that suits the needs of business, but one with a vibrant cultural and artistic contribution as well. I want British Universities to produce the next Christopher Nolan (English Literature at UCL - yeah I know rubbish old English Lit!!), or perhaps we can teach someone the pottery skills to become the new Josiah Wedgwood and bring the skills of a master craftsman back to British industry. I don't know. I'd like to think it's possible. But it won't be if we only try to foster those skills that we find 'useful' to society today. John Tyndall (unknowingly) helped coin the term 'blue sky thinking' with his research that had no practical application whatsoever. It's a concept that many scientists now value as it offers them the freedom to explore leads without knowing where it will take them. Such a concept extends, or at least it should, beyond the world of science. It should allow society to encourage the pursuit of skills and knowledge of an intangible or unquantifiable value. And yes I think that includes providing equal opportunities for those wishing to study mickey mouse subjects english literature, pottery, media studies, psychology (I mean who's life has ever been improved by a psychologist eh?)

Like studying history. Yeah there's no real value in studying it. But whether it's in the Courtroom, or in a newspaper, or on a soapbox, the ability to read vast quantities of text, analyse it, summarise it, and turn it into a coherent argument to persuade others, can be put to good use and provide plenty of value to a community ;-)

with kind regards, Paul Robinson

about.me/pauljrobinson

On 11 January 2014 16:25, Steve Pike [email protected] wrote:

My tuppence (not necessarily well thought through):

I do not believe that all University education is equal.

I find it quite unfair that a scholar of (examples following are based solely on my own knowledge of what other graduates in my Uni days said of their courses) e.g. Bioscience gets the same level of financial help as one who does e.g. English Literature - the workloads are totally different as is the level of equipment needed and the "value" of the department, and the outcomes for society.

That is to say that I don't believe that going to uni and studying a course "because that's what one does, I'll do Psychology" is a good reason compared to going to uni "because I want to be a frickin brain surgeon, and need to graduate in Medicine". I don't believe the level of funding and hence level of societal support can possibly be regarded as equivalent, and so I feel that really, one should not necessarily means-test a student, but more means-test a subject. If the subject has graduates going on to earn X thousand a year, then it should get (perhaps) half the level of support for graduates going on to earn 2X thousand per year - but then those 2X students will have higher graduate tax in order to level it out - this way, people going to Uni actually think about what they want to do, look at the courses, the costs, the value of graduating, and then they may instead choose to go and do something more vocational (like an apprenticeship, common in Germany, I believe) if they d ecide it is not really for them. My support calculation there is clearly not well thought through because the level of value to society cannot just be determined by earnt income - the clear example here is that a well qualified nurse earns pittance compared to a many other less socially beneficial professions - but it serves only as an example of my meaning.

Summary: I don't believe flat support from general taxation is acceptable, and I don't believe the current system is acceptable. There are huge amounts of data on earnings, value to society, employment rate after graduating etc, and our policy should use the data to determine support, not vagueries based on what feels right. Sometimes complex is better, more appropriate, than simple.

[image: 👎] to PR from me.

— Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHubhttps://github.com/openpolitics/manifesto/pull/48#issuecomment-32100101 .

pezholio

@pezholio - over 5 years ago

I don't think we should look at the benefit to society from university on purely utilitarian grounds (as a liberal arts graduate myself :wink: ), university teaches things like critical thinking, self-directed learning and other skills that are not necessarily related to the subject in hand. Also, more tutor-heavy subjects (such as microbiology for example), are more expensive courses to run, so it could be argued that cheaper, self-directed courses prop up the more expensive courses.

Also, I don't think subjects that contribute a lot to the cultural life of the country should be the preserve of a privileged few who can afford tuition fees. Doing that means that we potentially block out the voices of writers and artists from less privileged backgrounds.

PaulJRobinson

@PaulJRobinson - over 5 years ago

Agreed. The system should value the contribution of everyone in society, whatever it is they are able to offer, in whatever academic or non-academic area. Taxing fees differently according to subject goes against that principle.

with kind regards, Paul Robinson

about.me/pauljrobinson

On 13 January 2014 09:30, pezholio [email protected] wrote:

I don't think we should look at the benefit to society from university on purely utilitarian grounds (as a liberal arts graduate myself [image: :wink:] ), university teaches things like critical thinking, self-directed learning and other skills that are not necessarily related to the subject in hand. Also, more tutor-heavy subjects (such as microbiology for example), are more expensive courses to run, so it could be argued that cheaper, self-directed courses prop up the more expensive courses.

Also, I don't think subjects that contribute a lot to the cultural life of the country should be the preserve of a privileged few who can afford tuition fees. Doing that means that we potentially block out the voices of writers and artists from less privileged backgrounds.

— Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHubhttps://github.com/openpolitics/manifesto/pull/48#issuecomment-32154671 .

Floppy

@Floppy - over 5 years ago

This is a really great example of where our own assumptions are coming to the fore without evidence. This is something that must have been studied in depth. We should find and review the evidence, and base our policy on that.

PaulJRobinson

@PaulJRobinson - over 5 years ago

I know you're right. I'm just familiar with the 'worthless degree' argument.

with kind regards, Paul Robinson

about.me/pauljrobinson

On 13 January 2014 09:55, James Smith [email protected] wrote:

This is a really great example of where our own assumptions are coming to the fore without evidence. This is something that must have been studied in depth. We should find and review the evidence, and base our policy on that.

— Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHubhttps://github.com/openpolitics/manifesto/pull/48#issuecomment-32156116 .

stringfellow

@stringfellow - over 5 years ago

To be clear: My argument was absolutely nothing to do with "worthless degrees" - it was about resource use in a degree and effective "pay back" - within the same domain as the "graduate tax" idea.

Please read all my examples as simple thought experiments rather than "this one degree is worthless". You could reposition my argument, so that I am suggesting that a degree is "worthless" but I am not, more like "costs less".

Also, I think you misunderstood my meaning about how much support a Medicine student would get. I was not trying to suggest they would have a higher burden to do their degree (see my point about nurses). Again, these are all just arbitrary examples. Replace any course name with a random string of characters if it helps. My (limited) interactions with students/graduates/job seekers on some courses have coloured my example choice, but I'm not putting any subject in a box…

I'm just saying that currently, it seems too level (happy to accept that this is an incorrect view!). Courses may be taking on too many students simply because they get good money from them (shock!) and the graduates struggle to go into jobs in that field, a related field, etc. I know that any good degree gives great life skills, but I know from my recent experience of being at uni that some people are there because they don't know what else to do, and they may have needed a little extra help deciding at the age of 17... cost is a great decider (but higher flat fees are not a good check as we know - debt is horrific), more options are a good decider (sometimes!), like vocational courses held in as-high regard (or apprenticeships), so I suggest that the data is used to decide how much help a course gets and in which ways, perhaps even how many students should be able to do it based on some metric. I don't know what those metrics are, and I don't know how it should be 'unflattened', but I reckon the data exists and it should be used. That is all. Blanket policy/vagueries when there is data to make better decisions should not be something we go for, otherwise we are just entering ideology land and that is what we already have in government.

Possibly as an addendum, I would suggest that the idea of student loan/graduate debt, etc is fully extended to encompass all the other options that exist to get a 16 or 18 year old to the point where they can get a job. I don't know why uni students should be treated (in bulk!) differently to plumbers. The cost of learning is whatever it is for that particular field, and saying one group get X special rate (flat across the whole group even if they are all different) and another group have a whole different framework to get through (I have no idea how a plumber gets qualified?) is ridiculous. If one wants to become professional at X then they should be given the options all together with all the same caveats and conditions. (Maybe that means making universities that do ENTIRELY non-academic (if that is possible) courses, and treating them the same as a typical uni? Do these already exist?)

philipjohn

@philipjohn - over 5 years ago

Today I will be numbering my points, thus: 1. To pick up @stringfellow's last point, we (soceity) do IMO have a very unhelpful obsession with university and not nearly enough focus on individuals finding their passion and going down the path that turns that passion into their livelihood. I.e the how (uni/apprenticeship/etc) is not as important as the what (doctor/engineer/estate agent). 2. I think part of @stringfellow's argument here is about fee structure where (am I right?) universities will favour one subject over another because the "profit" margins will be massively different. Instead, it may be worth having uni's set their own fees, paid for by the state. To avoid an horrific cost hike, supplement that with a system where applications are dependent on a student showing a genuine interest (i.e. instead of just doing anything because they don't know what to do) and/or capability. For example, want to study particle physics in Manchester, you have to demonstrate reasonable interest in the field as well as excellent ability in A-Level (or equivalent) Maths and Physics.

frankieroberto

@frankieroberto - over 5 years ago

Strong 👎 from me on this one.

Floppy

@Floppy - over 5 years ago

I've proposed abolishing tuition fees completely in #150. Let's see if we can get somewhere on this :)

Floppy

@Floppy - over 5 years ago

closing as #150 was accepted as an alternative.