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December 06, 2010



How about the recent graduates like me that have already paid some tuition fees? Should I have a graduate tax applied to me too? That seems rather unfair.

Kay Tie

Plenty of arguments against it:

1. Graduates are already paying tax on the premium: at 50% in many cases. If society doesn't think that tax on the premium isn't enough to cover the costs, why should other graduates be asked to pay for something they never signed up to?

2. The quality of courses and graduates in the old days were high. Subsidising masses of poor quality students today to have a few years of fun pretending to study something important isn't inter-generational justice.

3. Any such levy will soon become a "progressive" one, such is the nature of setting a precedent for new sources of funding (look at APD).

Niklas Smith

Another argument against: fees give universities more independence from government. After all under the government's proposed system, a university charges a fee for each student and the state lends the student the money to pay for it. You get a functioning market.

With a graduate tax the money would have to be allocated to universities either through the budget or through a separate fund (as suggested by the NUS). This means that the number of students taken by each university will be based on central planning rather than supply and demand. Not the sort of result an economist usually likes, not to mention its effects of the autonomy of academia.

Adam Bell

Perfectly happy to pay an extra graduate tax as long as my graduate 'premium' (the additional element of my earnings as a consequence of going to university) is included in my tax-free allowance.

Luis Enrique

you didn't get it for free, you participated in a scheme where tax payers pay for university education

Luis Enrique

(meaning that somebody paid for you education and then you paid for somebody else's, meaning you paid for your own give or take. it was just an inter-generational trade, not a free education)

John Hampton

Could you explain how tuition fees 'tie people into the labour market in a form of debt bondage". They pay a percentage of earnings above a threshold (I think 9% of everything over £25,000). If they stop working, they stop paying. If they earn less, they pay less.

Phil Ruse

"overwhelmingly strong argument" - Really? The "in the past it was free" argument is by far the weakest.

Why should I pay for a prescription charge now when in the past they didn't? Why should I pay £'s in tax on petrol when in the past it was far less?


All students facing these new higher debts should just mass default.

Hell, if worked for Russia: http://www.berfrois.com/2010/12/deja-vu/ then why not?!


Students don't have a voice when it comes to bad teaching, however much they're paying for their education. Why antagonize a teacher who can make a difference in the quality of your degree?

john b

"One could argue against retrospective and hypothecated taxation on principle. But I‘m not sure these arguments are stronger than the principle of inter-generational justice."

Hang on. Isn't this the opposite of your logic in the post below?

The current generation of university undergraduates will be overwhelmingly richer throughout their lives than the current generation of taxpayers, because the median taxpayer will die about 25 years before the median university undergraduate. Therefore, inter-generation justice demands that we shift the burden onto the student rather than the taxpayer...

Peter Risdon

"(There’s also Paul’s point, that if public debt is a bad thing, so too must be private debt.)"

It's funny how the fallacy of composition only ever works in one direction.


Luis Enrique is spot on. The answer is to raise income tax back to a level it was in the past. But successive governments would sooner eat their own children than raise the standard rate of income tax.

The second answer is to reduce student numbers so that they roughly match the number of graduate jobs.

Every other idea seems like introducing complexity just to avoid the two simple but politically damaging solutions.

Paolo Siciliani

Power beats justice every time.
Beware what you are wishing for - these generations won't show any pity once they'll come to power, and they will, sooner then expected.
I don't want to debate on the merits, but just saying that pissing this people off now might turn out to be a backlash when those in power now will represents the vulnerable constituency.

Kay Tie

"these generations won't show any pity once they'll come to power"

Yeah, I said that in the '80s. Now I can see what an enlightened radical Mrs. Thatcher was. Time heals all wounds..

Paolo Siciliani

Sure, just wait and see


to the extent that having a degree raises your income, you already pay for it in tax.

Radagast Brown

The student loan for the fees is cancelled after 30 years. Assuming an average working life of 40 years, then a minimum of 25% of one's earnings won't be burdened by repayments.

Our education system now is mental. My Dad and others of the 45+, started work in journalism at 16/17. So not only do people now 'need' a journalism degree (3 years) but also 2 extra years called A Levels to be considered competent.

That was 5 years of subsidised superfluous education, now reduced to 2 years of unnecessary study.


"The student who’s paying £9000 a year will not put up with sub-standard teaching - and even if she doesn’t have an exit option, she has a voice. This should force universities to raise their standards. "

trouble is you are locked in? its not as if mid-course you can jump ship to a "better" uni?

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