back to article Cable lays plan for graduate tax

Vince Cable today laid out the ground rules for debate on funding higher education and strongly hinted he favours a graduate tax. But he stressed this was the start, not the end, of the debate. Cable, an ex-lecturer at the University of Glasgow, said that after 50 years of expanding universities the UK now had to accept that a …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    My plumber

    My plumber earns more than me and I'm going to be taxed because I chose the route of a ^better^ education. So, they're going to disincentivise better education. Way to go.

    Tax everyone for a better society.

    1. Anton Ivanov
      Paris Hilton

      Good Point

      However, you are looking at the personal incentive. That may not be what Vince Cable is looking at.

      If the universities funding is tied up to the economic contribution of a graduate the number of bogus degree programs is going to decrease and the number of degree programs that teach the high ROI subjects will increase. This will also increase the competition between them.

      So while bad for the individuals, the overall economic effect may actually be positive.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      ...your plumber also is self employed, may go days / weeks / months without work and wasn't funded by the tax payer.

      Why should he pay for your higher education?

      I've know people that have been in University for years (by that 10+) and never paid a penny in.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      How much did the taxpayer contribute towards your plumber learning his trade?

      How much did they contribute to you going through Uni?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      How much did your plumber's education cost; and who paid for it to start with?

      I think that university fees should be nominal, for all the usually supplied reasons. But I'm not sure how valid your plumber/graduate comparison is.

    5. Cameron Colley

      Perhaps you sholuld have tried harder?

      Or done a better course at a better university?

      Your plumber didn't get funded by the tax payer for three years of extra education.

      The only point in getting a "better education" is to make you a more productive member of society or make you rich -- you should decide which you want to be the case before you get your education.

      Lawyers generally get paid more than teachers, for example, it may be sad but both chose their career knowing that -- and the teacher will likely get a lot more piece of mind and a lot more leisure time.

      Apologies if I don't sound sympathetic, I am, but the real world is a harsh place and it's not the government's fault that you didn't choose to become a plumber.

      1. Eddy Ito

        Re: Perhaps you shoud have tride harder?

        "Lawyers generally get paid more than teachers... and the teacher will likely get a lot more piece of mind and a lot more leisure time."

        More peace of mind an leisure time? Most lawyers I've ever met have complete peace of mind given their general lack of conscience and leisure time? I'd wager most good teachers spend a fair amount of their free time grading papers, revising teaching plans and spending extra time with students meanwhile the good lawyer is off playing racquetball down at the club or swilling gin at the pub and the paralegals are doing all the real work. As for the bad teachers, lawyers and I'll add doctors, meh, like bugs there are too many to count.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Way to go indeed

      The fact your plumber earns more than you is testament to how ridiculous New Labour's notion that as many people as possible should be going to university (or re-branded polytechnics) - many getting mediocre degrees, dropping out, or reading pointless subjects - was.

      If this discourages people from going to university, then great as far as I'm concerned. We have plenty of graduates already, what we're severely lacking are people trained in skilled trades like plumbing, electrical wiring, construction, pipefitting, welding, etc. etc. All of which generally pay much higher incomes than your average office Dilbert graduate earns.

      1. PirateSlayer


        :D Here's a man that bought his lesbian teacher's lies when he was 14.

        're-branded polytechnics' have always offered degrees...the difference is they now award them too. You are one of these cretins that gets 'Polytechnic' confused with 'FE College'. Contrary to your ilk's beliefs, polytechnics didn't do courses like hair dressing and surfing, but courses like biology, chemistry, applied maths, applied physics and engineering.

        We need as many graduates as possible (have you ever worked with non graduates?).

        Plumbers, electricians (I take it that's what you mean by 'electrical wiring'), welding etc are ALL covered by apprenticeships or FE colleges (which have been scrapped and raped of funds by sucessive governments).

        Oh, and take your 'mediocre' degree from whichever 'old' university you went to (a 2:2 I don't doubt) and shove it up your quasi middle class arse, only the city really cares where a degree is from...everyone else can see further than their own colon.

        1. Anonymous Coward


          "'re-branded polytechnics' have always offered degrees" - I don't recall saying they didn't.

          "Plumbers, electricians (I take it that's what you mean by 'electrical wiring')" - Yes, that's what I meant as it's the correct term of usage since there's not such term as an "electricianing".

          1. PirateSlayer
            Thumb Down


            The implication was that 'rebranded polytechnics' are somehow substandard (despite always being focussed on providing engineers and scientists to industry) and that it is not a good thing that more people go to university to provide more skilled graduates to industry.

            The implication is that somehow people should be put off going to university and become plumbers and electricians...why should they? You act as if there isn't a market and someone can't elect to do this already. Are you suggesting oiks should know their places and instead of going to university they should be fixing your crapper? Also, if the market was flooded with electricians and plumbers, the rates would go down and they would be earning oik salaries instead of the quoted 60k a year (why do you think all British trained electricians and plumbers whinge about those Poles tekin' their jerbs).

            As for your "electrical wiring", electricians tend to do a lot more than that. 'Electronics' would have been the correct 'term of usage'.

            1. Anonymous Coward

              Does your boss tolerate with this level of incompetence?

              "As for your "electrical wiring", electricians tend to do a lot more than that. 'Electronics' would have been the correct 'term of usage'."

              No, that's the department of an electrical engineer - which is a different profession from an electrician.

      2. Naughtyhorse


        okay so when did john major lead Nulab??

        cos i'm sure that he was the dickhead responsible fo staring the 50% of kids should go to uni debacle.

        which anyone with a brain could see would lead to disaster

        especially as the tories had spent a good few years well and truly fucking up the school system by then. - the rise of the meeeja studies \modern english BA was inevetable.

        Then come the workers revolt of '97 (whaaa!) reversing the ludicrous position looked too much like voting against apple pie and mom for Nulab to countanance. Uni was a middle class preserve and Nulab were oh so middle class, there endeth the debate.

        Apart from that, way to go, though there is an arguement that runs that as a grad with a proper degree in a proper subject, from a proper college I earn a hell of a lot more than the arts grad that flips my burgers, ergo i pay more tax anyway. Not to mention the fact that i am coming closer to fulfilling some sort un spoken of quid pro quo deal with 'society' along the lines of 'they pay for me to go to school, I make society a (infitesimally marginal) better place to live.

        surely a better plan would be to sell all the useless feckless arts grads for medical experiments? see a return for societies investment, and the beagles/bunnies/monkees/rats/ released from research would enhance out kudos as a nation of animal lovers.

        I guess i'll have to go elsewhere to get a burger then, but it's a small price to pay.

        whatever, loads of stuff needs paying for, and it is only fair that a larger share of the burden land on those more able to carry it (comrades)- which is a bit of a surprising message from a tory govt

        intesting times indeed


        1. PirateSlayer


          Please tell me you're being ironic Naughtyhorse.

          If you're what "proper college[s]" churn out then god help us.

    7. Steven Jones

      Plumbing the educational depths...

      "and I'm going to be taxed because I chose the route of a ^better^ education"

      I didn't read anything that claims this would be retrospective (if it is, then it's going to be fun finding all those graduates froim 40 or more years ago).

      However, on a more general point, then I see Vince Cable also questioned the value of many of the degrees and that there might just be more appropriate training and education than just joining an ever growing pool of graduates with inappropriate degrees for the current workplace. Might one suggest that many would be more usefully, and cost effectively, engaged in vocational training that might make them more emploiyable and economically useful? Indeed they might want to consider plumbing as a lucrative career.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    already done

    Commonly known as progressive income tax.

  3. Paul 28

    Don't they pay more if they earn more?

    Apparently, graduates earn £100,000 more over their lifetime than "comparable non-graduates". So they already pay £30,000+ more in income tax (assuming lower rate early in their careers, then higher rate). Shouldn't we be simplifying the tax system, not complicating it?

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Then your plumber is paying more in taxes

    Did you do media studies?

    1. Citizen Kaned


      a decent plumber can make a shit load more than a high end IT guy. almost all trades can expect to earn £60k+

      i work at a flooring company as the IT manager. plenty of our subbies earn loads more than me.

      some of them earn thousands per week.

      in fact my boss who started our company was making £4k a WEEK fitting floors.

      i would never tell my kids to go to uni.

      also, you have to remember that so many mickey mouse courses around. fine art, media studies, drama.... all have about a 1% chance of getting a job in those areas.

      how about (not fair i know but since when has life been fair?):

      let all courses that are needed be funded by the tax payer. if you pass well (2.1 and 1st) you dont pay the fees etc.

      if you fail you pay the costs.

      any courses not deemed necessary should have to foot the bill themselves - why should a tax payer pay ANYTHING to people doing a frikkin degree in klingon or fine art? loads of my mates at unit did fine art, what massiv percentage have anything to do with fine art in their careers? a big fat zero!

      1. Mark 65


        "a decent plumber can make a shit load more than a high end IT guy. almost all trades can expect to earn £60k+"

        I'm not even a high-end IT guy and I earn just under 150k per year. Doubt there's many decent plumbers earning that. Plumbing business owners maybe but then you'd compare them to IT business owners.

        1. phoenix

          @ mark65

          If you're not a contractor I am well and truely in the wrong F*** company.

  5. TheRobster

    The only problem is...

    A while ago, the BBC basically proved that the "average" graduate, if there is such a thing, already pays something along the lines of £500,000 more taxes over a lifetime than a non-graduate, through increased income tax due to higher average salary, buying more therefore paying more VAT etc.

    So graduates ALREADY pay more tax than others, and they want to tax them again?

    1. phoenix

      @ TheRobster

      Hear Hear. A lot of the blame lies with universities who have ceased to be seats of learning and have fancied themsleves, like schools to being a private company ( I know a lot all ready are) and as such want to generate lots of cash and pay silly salaries.

      This country doesn't want to end up like Japan with suicides if you don't make it on to a dregree course. We need max 20% of the pop. to go through uni. The rest we need to do more import work - training to be plumbers, builders, metal workers etc. Why you ask? Because the numbers in those trades is severly lacking and they tend to hold the infrastructure together. No disrespect to teachers but I have been there ( at Uni) got the t-shirt and learned a damn sight more in work then I ever did in school.

  6. steward

    Will HMG...

    refund monies paid if the expected income does not materialize?

    If he wants after-the-fact payments, he should offer a money-back guarantee as well.

  7. Rogerborg

    Shut it, Vince

    What do economics graduates like Vince contribute? Hot air, seemingly. GLOBAL WARMING DENIALISTS!

    Seriously, he needs to quit vaginafooting around the issue and point at the elephant in the room: the engorged public teat that feeds so many graduates with no marketable skills.

    The State educates yoof in order to make them productive. If you're paid by tax money - surviving off the sweat of MY brow - then you wasted your time, and more of my money, arsing around doing Social Anthropology for 3 years.

    The solution isn't to nob around with the tax code, it's to get rid of the non-jobs that these parasites end up in, like the BBC, Diversity Empowermentisers, and political office. Without these cosy no-risk job-for-life bolt holes to burrow into, the next generation might be inclined to actually do real degrees, or learn a trade instead.

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley


      Wrong forum. The Daily Fail's forum lives at:

      As you clearly failed to comprehend the article: Vince was *kite-flying*. It's a common trick in politics to see how the public feel about an idea. But that's all it is at the moment: an idea.

      (The LibDems are entirely *against* fees in any form. But they're not the ones actually running the show; they're the straight men to Cameron's clowns. But feel free to blame the LibDems for having to compromise with the *Tories*—you know, the worthless bunch of tossers who ran this country prior to New Labour, and who taught the latter everything then knew.)

  8. R 11

    Higher earners pay higher tax

    He seems to have missed that higher earners already pay higher tax. A doctor pays substantially more tax than a call centre worker.

    AC's example of the high earning plumber is a good one too. The plumber earns well because his clients earn well. They benefit indirectly from their client's education and resultant jobs.

    A well educated workforce benefits everyone, therefore everyone should contribute through the normal tax system.

  9. nobby


    Isn't this just an incentive to get a degree then skip the country and go and live somewhere else?

    New Zealand is really lovely you know.

    1. MichaelBirks

      A Graduate Swap?

      This is exactly what happens here.

      NZ Varsity Grads leave the country, often to the UK, to avoid paying their student loans.

      Or at least earn at three times the rate and pay it off sooner.

  10. Number6

    The icon sums it up

    A tax is a bad idea, it has no limits and can be abused by future governments who think that graduates are cash cows. At least with a loan you know you've paid it off and the government isn't going to screw you for even more.

    Get your degree and emigrate, avoid the tax altogether.

    1. Mark 65


      My sentiments exactly. This will just hasten any brain drain from the UK. Why stick around to pay a shiteload more tax when you can just sod off elsewhere and reap the rewards?

  11. Mark Dempster
    Thumb Down

    Better solution

    Drop funding for Media Studies, American Studies, and all the other crap that no-one really needs, and which really exist as courses only to reduce the unemployment figures. Provide free tuition in science, engineering andother subject that will benefit the country. Raise the bar so that not everyone can get a degree without reasonable effort, so that degrees aren't devalued in the way they currently are.

    OK, fewer people will have letters after their name, but they can still get the same jobs they would have done with the nonsense degree - because they're rarely relevant to any real job anyway.

    1. PirateSlayer


      Another man who has clearly never worked with non graduates.

      The amount of shit work I have to look at/review/ amend because a "raised by the university of life" manager has written YET ANOTHER poorly structured technical document which makes no sense would change your view of so called "useless" graduates.

      Any graduate who comes out of university understanding how to structure a piece of work has a skill worth using in the workforce.

      Christ. When will people learn that ALL degrees are relevant to the job market. I WANT a better educated, intellectually developed workforce. If that means they read Media Studies for 3 years GOOD! At least they'll be able to write a fucking report!

      1. Clarissa

        @ PirateSlayer

        Wrong. It is the quality of teaching below university that needs to be looked at. If someone can't produce a properly structured piece of work by the time they leave compulsory education then something has gone wrong. How did they they manage to get through English Language or Literature essays without being able to organise them properly? Or write a proper report after a science experiment?

        Universities (and sixth forms) are not there to remedy a lack of basic skills in people who didn't pick them at school. That's what adult education colleges are for.

      2. Sean Timarco Baggaley

        "I WANT a better educated, intellectually developed workforce."

        Then you're going the wrong way about it. Western education systems are outdated, anachronistic and flat-out *wrong*. It's cranked out people with Bachelor degrees who can't even spell. Some of the degree-owners I've worked are genuinely intelligent, but a shocking number think "grammar" is someone who visits once or twice a year, along with "grandpa".

        The Victorians, who invented this travesty of an education system, sincerely believed that learning should be a chore. Unfortunately, the science clearly proves otherwise. Learning shouldn't "be" fun. Learning *IS* fun. They're one and the same thing. Homo Sapiens evolved a biological reward system for learning new stuff. It rewards curiosity and is what gives you that fist-pumping rush of joy when you solve a particularly difficult question or puzzle and learn something new.

        Buggering about with tuition fees won't make the slightest bit of difference. Until our education systems are fundamentally rewired to reflect this, they will continue to fail future generations. Guaranteed.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Good grief...

    Not even Labour tried to tax people based on their *potential* income. What if they never amount to anything?

    Injustice piled on injustice. If this were France they'd be swinging ropes over lamp-post about now.

  13. matt 115


    "Payments should be variable and tied to earnings"

    So two guys do a medical degree, one goes on to become a surgeon and the other doesn't like it so goes to work in Tesco. Now the surgeon has to pay off the other guys education?

  14. Dr. Mouse


    I was one of the lucky ones. I went to university when fees were still reasonable (I think about £1000/yr max, less based on parents income).

    There were 2 points I heard on the news this morning: First was this "Graduate tax". This is not a fair idea. We already pay income tax, which is linked to how much you earn. If graduates earn more, they pay more tax already.

    Add to this the student load system, which "taxes" (IIRC) you at 9% on earnings above a threshold (16k ish?) until the loan is repaid, and you already have a fair system. This tax would, if what I hear is true, be paid for life, not until the "loan" is repaid.

    I do not think it is a good or fair idea.

    The second point was bringing in 2-year degrees. I think this is a mistake too. There are only 2 options with this: Teach less or teach quicker. Teach less and you devalue, even further, the degree. Teaching quicker is, IMHO, nigh on impossible.

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Prof Yaffle


    So how come it's fair to pay a fortune for my arty-farty degree because I then started my own successful business versus what the guy over there paid for his expensive law degree when he then decided to spend his career in the voluntary sector? Or the biochemistry graduate who bailed out and moved to California and thus pays no UK tax at all? Or that anyone taking a career break for whatever reason - VSO, having children, working abroad for a period - inherently pays less than those who stay plugging away?

    There needs to be an element of minimum/maximum even if there's a large variable element. Or is it simply that earning more means you should always pay more - and why not charge 40% taxpayers more for bread and petrol as well just because they "have the money"?


  17. SkinnyFish

    Isn't this a double tax?

    I thought I already paid tax relative to how much I earn.

  18. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Studied once, taxed twice.

    I saw this guy being interviewed on BBC1 this morning. One remark he made was that graduates on average, over their working lives earn about £100k more than non-graduates. So since this 100k will be from taxable income, grads are already paying at least £20k in extra tax - and even more when NICs (employees and employers, which has no upper limit) are taken into account. If they get any sort of decent job probably far more when they hit the higher tax band.

    Now, it seems that on top of all this tax, he expects graduates who work hardest to get the best jobs to pay even more for the privilege than those who choose their course unwisely or go into further education and decide not to work afterwards. How do you spell "perverse incentive"?

    Maybe the best ploy is for the brightest and best is to get their degrees and then go to work in another country - one where they won't have to pay UK income tax. That way they get the benefits but avoid the punishments - as well as contributing to the wealth of the country they move to, rather than the one that educated them. .

    Alternatively, spend 2 or 3 years goofing around, complete the course but don't take the exams. That way you get the education, but not the degree certificate that will penalise your earnings.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      How much?!?

      > graduates, on average, over their working lives, earn about £100k more than non-graduates.

      So that's about £2-3k per year. Wow, Vince, you've sure found a goldmine to tax there then.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Thinking failure

    Me thinks something is a bit adrift here.

    Have a grant, graduate, get "graduate" taxed - understandable

    Pay all costs, graduate, get "graduate" taxed - eh? wot?

    Fail for the obvious reason - failing to think!

  20. oopsie

    Student Loans?

    If a specific graduate tax is introduced, will student loans be annulled? I can see people being upset at paying both simultaniously!

  21. Anonymous Coward


    I have graduated, and am in the position where I have approximately £24k worth of debt (although, admittedly 8k of that is to Barclays for my Masters degree). Will I get burdened with the tax AND have to pay my loan(s) off?

    Sounds like a bum deal to me...

  22. Graham Bartlett

    "Like a poll tax"

    And in this case, it makes sense.

    Yes, arts graduates don't generally have a definite job at the end of it. Which is why if you've got any kind of brains in your head you'd think long and hard about whether an arts degree is going to help you in your post-uni career - or at least, whether it's going to help you to the tune of however much tuition fees cost.

    The biggest problem are courses like forensic science or music technology. In theory these look like there *will* be jobs at the end of it - after all, the police need forensic scientists and studios need sound engineers. The problem is that the police and studios have 99% of the people they need already, and the number of new jobs is hardly hitting double digits in the whole country. There are plenty of other examples of this too - journalism, for instance.

    What Vince fails to acknowledge is that whilst there were barely two dozen unis in 1960, there were hundreds of colleges offering vocational courses and hundreds of employers offering on-the-job training in skilled jobs. In other words, skilled manual work was seen as an integral part of education's purpose in providing a skilled workforce to build the economy. But this was comprehensively depthcharged, first by Maggie when UK manufacturing was blown away, and then by New Labour when all polys were changed into unis and all apprenticeships and training courses were dropped in the cack and left to drown.

    There's a reason all brickies in the UK are Polish. Money certainly helps - but the fact that there's damn few Brits going into it in the first place is a lot more significant. Meantime, good luck finding anyone in a skilled trade (plumber, chippie, brickie, plasterer) who's under 40. Most (at least the good ones) are in their 50s, and there's no buggers coming down the line to replace them.

    1. PirateSlayer


      Again you fail.

      'Polys' did not offer FE college training. FE colleges have always offered courses like plumbing, catering etc. 'Polys' always offered degrees in subjects like engineering and the sciences...always! The only change was the power to AWARD the degree.

      FE colleges have been systematically underminded by nob ends like Gordon Brown (everyone must get a degree). Nobody gave a shit.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Hold on Vince...

    "Graduates with medical degrees for instance can expect a higher lifetime income than male arts graduates."

    And medical degrees cost more in the first place, which lumps these graduates with MORE debt than those who studying a degree which benefits society far less. There's a reason we have the NHS and not some sort of National Arts Service.

    Maybe we should be taxing the arts graduates more, as a disincentive to doing pointless degrees, then we might reverse the trend we have for universities to shut down science departments, for example:

    As a bonus, we might end up with more than a trickle of technically literate graduates, as opposed to those who can't even grasp the most basic rules of grammar and scientific methodology.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I like it

    Transparent and easy to understand, when someone graduates stick a G on the end of their NI card or similar and apply the higher rate.

    I should also like to see them bring in a 4th term during the Summer and knock out a degree in two years, which Buckingham manages to do.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I suppose it would encourage "mobility in Europe"

    Get your degree in the UK; then move abroad so you don't have to pay for it.

    Or get your degree abroad and move here. Or would Vince Cable make immigrants with degrees acquired in other countries pay more tax in this country?

    What with this stupid proposal and Cameron expressing his speak-your-branes personal opinion on whether Raoul Moat deserves "sympathy" I'm beginning to think this government is just as moronic as the last one.

  26. Alastair 7

    I don't understand

    Doesn't income tax already tax you according to how much you earn?

    I'm not sure I'd even recommend anyone goes to university these days. New Labour's stupid target of getting 50% of people to go to university can only have resulted in one of two things- either the population magically gets more intelligent, or you lower standards.

    I was told in secondary school that going to university was my path to a successful life. When I graduated I realised that everyone had done the same thing, and we were all back to a level playing field. A lot of people went on to do a Masters, simply to differentiate themselves from the pack. It's a shame that crippling debt also comes along with that.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Open University?

    Graduates from OU pay their own way. Would they get taxed more? That hardly makes an incentive does it?

  28. DanX
    Thumb Down

    Hang on...

    Tax businesses that hire graduates...

    Tax businesses to pay for education in general.

    Tax high earning graduates.

    Tax high earners?

    Tax everyone?

    2 peopled aged about 45, both working in IT, one with a Degree in Music the other with no degree, having instead worked in Macdonalds for 3 years. Both now do simalar work and earn £40,000, their degree doesn't help them.

    Why should they have to contribue a greater ammount than the tax on a minimum wage job + their education costs to society? If I get that right the current costs for education and tax loss is less than £30,000 per student. Which over 40 years at 5% is.... £145 per month. Ouch.

  29. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    OK but then I only do work for gradutes.

    I think it's a great idea. I will make sure that only graduates can benefit from my work too. Not a graduate, then no satellite TV, no internet, no mobile telephone. Modern maps and GPS need spacecraft too, so no maps or sat-nav either.

    I believe that there are lots of graduates that work in medicine. Not providing medical care to all the non-graduates will save the country a fortune.

    I'm pretty certain that you can't develop a car engine that meets all the new regulations without graduates. New cars are now only for gradutes, and can only be sold to graduates thereafter. The non-grads can fight over the few Capris that are still runnning.

  30. deshepherd

    not graduating for tax reasons

    Not sure about how it works at other Universities but at Oxford you do not graduate and get your degreee until you attended (in person or in absentia) a degree ceremony. So they probably need to draft the law carefully to avoid the situation of people saying "my finals resutls from Oxford would give me a first but I've decided not to officially graduate for tax reasons" !

  31. Neil Charles

    That's Cable's reputation out the window then

    "Graduates with medical degrees for instance can expect a higher lifetime income than male arts graduates."

    Too bl**dy right they can, they've spent a long time learning a skill that society places a high value on. That's how incentives work. This policy just dramatically increases the incentive to either study abroad, or work abroad once you graduate.

    The solution to the university funding problem starts with a dramatic redution in the number of places and courses available, not some kind of double income tax where you get an extra penalty for daring to get a 2:1 in an employable subject.

    The NUS should be on the street screaming blue murder by the weekend, but they won't be. It's a policy that helps them to stay large and the NUS has turned into a trade union fixated on maintaining its own over-inflated size. Everything else is secondary.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Dr. Mouse

    "Add to this the student load system, which "taxes" (IIRC) you at 9% on earnings above a threshold (16k ish?) until the loan is repaid, and you already have a fair system."

    Problem with the loan is it is not a tax as such but a repayment - the interest rate is extremely low and repayment is conditional on earning enough cash. Effectively the taxpayer still funds a large amount of this one way of another.

    "The second point was bringing in 2-year degrees. I think this is a mistake too. There are only 2 options with this: Teach less or teach quicker. Teach less and you devalue, even further, the degree. Teaching quicker is, IMHO, nigh on impossible."

    I don't really agree. When I was at Uni (early 90's) we did a 3 year degree over 3 ten week terms per year. The 3rd term in each year was only about 6-7 weeks before exams kicked in.

    Hours per week varied from 6 (psychology) to 33 (Chem Eng / EEE, EECS type courses), with Computer Science being 16 hours lectures, 4 hours labs and probably about 5 hours self-study type time.

    So, we have a total of between 80 and 90 weeks of study, with, lets be generous, 30 hours per week of time required. Currently over 3 years.

    Over two years this would equate to needing between about 35 and 45 weeks per year at between 30 and 35 hours per week, depending on how you interpret the figures.

    Compare this to working for a living where you get 4 weeks holiday and something like 2 weeks statuatory time off, with say 2 weeks training (and I am being generous here) = 44 weeks per year. Even factoring in some sickies and "team building" time it is still 40+ weeks per year at 35-40 hours per week.

    So it is completely feasible than many degrees could be obtained perfectly easily in 2 years, probably at a better standard than the current 3 year skive (more intensive teaching, less inclination to skive and less time to forget things).

    University now days is more about the experience - living away from home, doing your own cooking - drinking too much cider, unrestricted sex opportunities etc. Now, I can see the benefits of that to some extent, but I ain't too happy about sacrificing NHS care, pensions, front-line public sector jobs etc. to fund it.

    1. DavCrav

      You've forgotten someone

      The lecturer. More intensive teaching means someone has to do the teaching. Which means hiring more lecturers, which means more cost, and we are back to square one.

      (And don't say that lecturers can work more hours. I work in a university and haven't seen any lecturer that doesn't already pull a 50-hour week, every week. Contact time means nothing. For example, even on the terms where they are doing no teaching at all they are still working full time.)

    2. IanPotter

      Teach less/teach quicker

      Of the two I'd say teach less. Why is it necessary for every student to do an Honours course? Make a undergraduate degree a more general thing and then cherry pick only the best 5-10% of students to go on to a more academic graduate degree to service the needs of research. The English education system has always seemed to be over specialised too early to me, we seem to be drifting that way in Scotland too and I'm far from convinced it is for the best.

  33. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Poll tax?

    It's really not like a poll tax. The poll tax was an arbitrary fixed tax. Whereas a student loan is supposed to have actually paid for your education, it just happens to cost about the same to take 4 years of "artsy fartsy" and 4 years of law.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Bring back the Student Grant...

    ... and pay for education out of general taxation liek they used to in the past.

    If it was good enough for Blair, Brown and Cable, then it's good enough for all of us!

  35. Lou Gosselin

    Is the UK different??

    "He said that whatever future system was chosen it was all but inevitable that students would pay more."

    Don't know about the UK, but in the US students have already been shouldering the the costs of higher education.

    Staggering right?

  36. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Student grant

    Long long ago, when I were a student, if you were good enough to do a degree you got the costs covered and money to live on. The simple argument was that the UK benefited so much from your eduction (not least your higher life's worth of tax revenue) that it made sense. Degrees offered were by and large aimed at what the country needed.

    Fast forward to a world where 50%, and not 5%, are getting a 'degree' and you see the costs are much higher and the benefit per student far, far, less. Universities are now business drive, and so offer the cheapest and most popular degrees for school leaver. Great idea that?

    Along the way we lost the apprenticeship schemes and HNC/HND qualifications that were useful and worth having for a large proportion of the population. Another dumb move by politicians and poly/FE leaders.

    Finally, for those who complain about the problems of non-degree holders being unable to string a sentence together, you might want to ask why school is not enough? At one time decent highers / A-levels were enough to get a decent non-specialist job. Why are they now looking for 'graduates' instead?

    Why force universities to take poorly performing students because they cane from a poor school (a Labour hobby-horse) rather than FIXING THE DAMN SCHOOL SYSTEM?

    Rant over, at least I don't teach any more.

  37. Eddy Ito

    Obvious, no?

    As far as reducing the number of universities, ok, what's wrong with that? If the number is reduced, it would naturally become more difficult to enter. This pushes the crowd that is only going to school to avoid going to work toward the workforce. Yes, some with talent and desire will be left behind to become plumbers or politicians but is that really bad?

  38. Etienne
    Black Helicopters

    Just softening us up ... surly

    Its such an obviously absurd idea ... surly it must just be softening us up for raising higher education fees.

  39. Clarissa


    ...charge up front or afterwards but for the cost of the course only. Granted neither is a great option but at least it would only be for the cost of the course and not an unlimited liability dependent on how much you earn over the course of your working life.

  40. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    Tax the parents.

    Instead of *paying* people to do something almost every bloody multicellular organism on the planet can do, start *charging* them instead.

    Bringing a new human being into the world is easy. Raising it, on the other hand, is *hard*. And expensive. Tax accordingly and many of the problems of Western society—including that popular Daily Fail staple, the "single parent family on benefit"—will disappear within a generation.

    It won't stop *all* people having children, but it will make them directly responsible for paying for their upbringing and reducing the burden on the public at large. (And no: childish superstitions about invisible friends who live in the sky do not give you a get-out clause: You still have the "abstinence" option, after all.)

    Children don't ask to be born. They don't have any say in whether their parents should conceive. They should not be penalised for the actions of their parents. Tax the parents, not the child.

    This also has the advantage that you can use interest rates to bulk out the national education kitty as the parents will be paying for education in advance.

    For university-level courses, students should pay fees. All of them. The government should cover the basics of your education, but once you've reached this level, it's time to find some work and pay your own way. The OU proves that many people are willing to do this already. It's also the norm in the US. Scholarships and the like should help with the edge cases.

    1. phoenix


      Clever. Though flawed unless of course you want the whole country populated solely by the children of well-off families. Do you have any children? I only ask as this perception by non parents that somehow children get a shed load of money from the tax man and somehow this is a burden non-parents carry.

  41. James Dunmore

    Tax is a bad idea

    Without going over too many things already said above....

    - as a graduate, you usually pay more tax

    - the tax could be applied for such a long time - the loan is a finite amount - although it'll usually be paid for at least 15-20years. Perhaps maybe charge a little interest on it?

    - If graduates get taxed, they'll either move abroad, or we'll get a country of freelancers taking divedens out of a company, rather than paying above the tax threshold

    - Stop with the talk of "wishy washy degrees". Okay, to be fair, some degrees are better than others, but university learning is a mind set, you employ a graduate because they are able to think by themselves, research and learn for 3 years. Just because it's an arts degree doesn't mean it's any easier than a astro-physics degree - Difficulty is only relevant to the person applying themselves... I can write great code, can't draw for sh*t. Remember diversity is what makes the world go around

    - 2 year degrees... right, at uni, you do need some "thinking time" and some time off. Lecturers need time off to do their research projects, etc. However, 1 month at Christmas and easter, 3 months in the summer.... Considering most students have to pay rent over the summer months, and struggle to find summer jobs - a 2 year degree does make sense....maybe a 1.5 year with a 6 month relevant work placement, followed by the final year. That would work really well.....

  42. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @Don't they pay more if they earn more?

    The 100K figure is very suspect. It's based on people currently at the end of their careers, so who went to uni in the 60s when 10% of the population went.

    It's really an indication that some jobs that pay lots (doctor, lawyer etc) require degrees.

    It doesn't mean that somebody who gets a degree and then an average office job will earn 100K more than somebody who started in the same office job with A levels.

    ps. Of course what this means is that the best thing to do after your degree is immediately leave the country. Anyone know any other countries that speak English and pay people twice as much and have a big shortage of technical graduates ?

    1. KayKay

      yes, Australia

      Big shortage of doctors and anyone to do anything scientific.

      Same story -- too many toy degrees, too much loans to pay off when you start earning over a certain amount.

      Re shorter courses -- all that time off is necessary for students to be able to WORK to support themselves, as the loans only cover the tuition. There is a Government benefit called AusStudy, but the "living away from home" component covers about half the price of a shared room in a share house, the rest isn't enough to keep body and soul together. Students have to work to survive, so they can't do 50 hours a week courses.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Plumber's education?

    'Phwwwwwww, it'll cost yer gov' - a couple of days max to learn that and they're set to go.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    According to HESA:

    there were 2306105 students in HE in 2007/8

    So, at £3000 per year, reducing the courses by one year would save: £6,918,315,000

    OK, I know these figures don't take into consideration many other factors, but even if we ignore dropouts / failures and assume only half teh above costs, then 3.5 Billion quid is a lot of lecturers. Even if you paid them 100,000 per year you could employ an additional 35000 lecturers. Over the less than 200 universities that would be 174 additional lecturers each. (or one per 65 students which seems reasonable as some lectures will be to 200+, some to only 30 or so and some student time is not lecturer led anyhow).

    Not to mention the region of 1-1.5 billion you'd recover in taxes from the additional salaries.

    Everyone wins. (and yes I am aware you won't have an empty year without students but as this money needs paying back afterwards you get more people paying less money earlier).

    I dispute your 50+ hours a week lecturers, though. It may be one or two but unless your university has a full timetable of lectures from 8am to 7pm every day then I call shenanigans.

    1. DavCrav

      Not contact time

      "I dispute your 50+ hours a week lecturers, though. It may be one or two but unless your university has a full timetable of lectures from 8am to 7pm every day then I call shenanigans."

      This is the problem with people who don't work in a particular field thinking they know that particular job. Lecturers aren't teachers: the more you make the job like that, the more people will leave, and either take an industry job or go to another country where they are treated better. (Academics are an incredibly mobile workforce.) Very few lecturers signed up to the job for the lecturing: it's not mentally stimulating, it's hard work and you get very little credit for it.

      The main reason why people are in academia is for research. For example, I don't do any teaching at all at the moment, and I still do 70-80 hour weeks easily, working seven days a week. Research also bring in the big cash for the sciency departments that allows them to subsidize teaching so it costs the low low figure of £3000/year, whereas the reality is much higher.

      On to your figures: I'm confused. The £3000/year saved, that's the tuition fees, right? These are lent to people who then have to give them back to the government. Hence the real saving is (once you get paid back) the difference between the government borrowing £3000 and the rate of interest it charges. (Note that at no point is £3000 lost by the government, it only borrows it and in turn lent it to the student.) This could easily be solved by making the interest on student loans equal to the rate the government pays on debt, which means that the government neither makes money nor spends money on tuition fees. This is done in Sweden, for example.

      As for people having to teach more, I screwed up, but not for the reason you stated. If the same amount is taught in compressed hours then (after a year or two transition) the workload on the stff is identical, because *if you assume no increase in student numbers* the number of course-hours remains the same. Students take on more work, but there are fewer of them around at any one point.

      Of course, what will actually happen is that the government will say "now that students are only there for two years, you only need two-thirds of your staff", and cut the budget massively (again).

      Of course, the ideal situation is that we have some universities doing 3- and 4-year degrees, and some doing 2-year half-degrees, with more of a focus on teaching. The courses could be structured towards more vocational triaining rather than academic skills. Since they'd behave differently to 'standard' universities, we should call them something different. Polytechnics, maybe?

      1. PirateSlayer


        "Lecturers aren't teachers: the more you make the job like that, the more people will leave"

        I hate to shatter your bubble but lecturers...are lecturers. They lecture. They are not employed by universities primarily for research, funnily enough they are employed by universities to LECTURE. Research councils do supply money for lecturers and students to research stuff, but guess where universities get the majority of their money! That's right...undergraduates. No undergraduates, no money, no university.

        "The courses could be structured towards more vocational triaining rather than academic skills. Since they'd behave differently to 'standard' universities, we should call them something different. Polytechnics, maybe?"

        Explain the difference between "academic" and "vocational" skills. Please tell me you are not someone who thinks that Polytechnics trained mechanics and catering staff. This is already the case (by default) at a lot of former Polytechnics. Courses are structured towards learning outcomes which provide skills directly to employers. Ironically it is the Russel Group universities and the larger research institutions which are now focussing on getting their often very over privalidged students into jobs and teaching skills for work. I remember a colleague of mine telling a student who asked about the quality of the teaching at a Russel Group university to go down the road to the 'other' university if they wanted to be taught. It seemed that a lot of (older) Profs and lecturers had the same ideas about their main source of income as you do (i.e. fuck 'em).

        The main income for a university is its undergraduates...this won't change. You want to do R+D exclusively? Go and work for a multinational.

        1. DavCrav


          "I hate to shatter your bubble but lecturers...are lecturers."

          Well, if by lecturer you mean teaches one course a year, then sure. But the vast majority of my time is spent doing things other than lectures.

          "Explain the difference between "academic" and "vocational" skills."

          English, History, are academic. Engineering, law, business, are vocational. Theoretical physics is academic, practical physics is vocational. Not so hard.

          "Ironically it is the Russel Group universities and the larger research institutions which are now focussing on getting their often very over privalidged students into jobs and teaching skills for work."

          They are, because their students demand it. I never said that universities shouldn't be practical. I'm also saying that lecturers aren't exactly the best people to do this. Lecturers at Russell Group universities do research as their primary job, not teaching. This is fact, and I don't understand why people seem to disagree with me. The second- and lower-tier universities are teaching universities, yes, fundamentally different in their make-up from "more traditional" universities. So why don't we just call them something different?

          "The main income for a university is its undergraduates"

          No. Certainly not at my university. For a start, we have as many postgraduates as undergraduates. Secondly, undergrads are resource-intensive and postgraduates aren't. Thirdly, research income from science departments SUBSIDIZES the teaching of undergraduates, not only in science departments but in the arts and humanities as well.

          "It seemed that a lot of (older) Profs and lecturers had the same ideas about their main source of income as you do (i.e. fuck 'em)."

          You're putting words in my mouth re: the bracketed statement. I don't feel the need to rebut this because this isn't an argument I made. I simply said that we (meaning my university in particular) get more intensive income from research than undergrads, in the sense that we lose money on undergrads and gain it in research. More undergrads = more loss. So in some sense we get negative money from undergrads. Of course, the best thing for us (from a financial point of view) would be to stop taking *EU* undergraduates, and focus on getting in more international students.

          I am not saying that undergrads are unnecessary: of course they are, as this one of the fundamental objectives of university: however, in Oxbridge (for example) undergrads are a sideline in the main aim, which is research.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    I'm starting uni in september

    If i take a student loan NOW, I do not expect to later also be taxed because i have a degree, especially if I don't choose to use that degree (yes, I hear the outcry of wasted taxpayers money). In reality i probably will, but I have not chosen a degree course that is likely to ever put me on a rediculously high salary (I may eventually climb to a position where i am paid 50k if im lucky, but by then of course 50k wont buy you a sniff of a sausage [if you find innuendo here... well, please just DON'T].)

    So, I agree we need to fund our future but how about tax payers only funding courses that we require more people to do related jobs in. For example heavily subsidising chemistry as we have a shortage of chemists but not subsidising training for lawyers as successful ones will make the money back and those that do not succeed will not have wasted taxes. its a nice mix of liberalism and socialism. Perhaps also those who leave the country without working in a sector relivant to their degree for long enougth to have contributed the cost of their degree back in taxes should also have to pay back some of the subsidies they have taken for their course if they then use that degree elsewhere? All this sounds more sensible to me, but then im not a politician.

  46. Neoc

    Wrong end of the stick

    "Payments should be variable and tied to earnings". No. Nononono (BTW, I'm an Aussie so this UK problem doesn't affect me).

    "Payments should be variable and tied to the cost of the course". Fixed it for you..

    In Oz, you have two types of Universities - privately run Universities and public Universities. Private Unies get you to pay the full fees up front, so they're out of the discussion.

    A (long) while ago, FedGov introduced the concept of "HECS" (Higher Education Contribution Scheme) for public Universities (but eventually someone pointed out it sounded like "hex" and they changed the name to HELP. Morons) - the cost of your course (art, physics, IT, medical, whatever) was assessed and you ended up getting charged a percentage of it - either up front (at a discount) or as a fee taken out of your wages until you had repaid the government. So (for example) if your course was assessed at AUD3,000 a semester you could either pay (if memory serves) AUD2,500 up front or have AUD3,000 added to your HECS/HELP debt.

    Eventually, you graduate and earn enough pass a threshold amount and "HECS/HELP" fees (based on earning bracket) get added to your Tax bill. If you're smart, you had your employer deduct said fees from your pay automatically and you've paid enough "taxes + fees" by the time you get to do your paperwork. Eventually, *you* *pay* *off* *your* *HECS/HELP* *debt* and that's it. Finito.

    Me, I repaid mine a *long* time ago but still tick the "withhold HECS/HELP from my pay" box whenever I change employers. It means I pay ~AUD100 per weeks more on taxes, but I then get a nice refund at tax time every year (call it enforced saving; pays for my IT hardware addiction ^_^ )

    YMMV, of course.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ....have you ever worked with non graduates?

    Yes, and I've worked with some graduates too. I remember when I was younger that we had a "manager" who was a graduate in some advanced subject (and I don't mean medya studies). And that walking and chewing gum in parallel would most probably have been a problem for said ex-Uni manager.

    Going to Uni does not make the recipient of a degree any better than others who didn't waste 3-4 years of their life.

    I like the idea that people who benefit most from an education should be expected to pay more to support the system that gave them their riches. After all, these individuals will TEND to be those who won't end up paying any more tax anyway - they will just award themselves an extra pay rise or something.

    However the very real danger is that if Labour ever get their hands on the tax system again then those ex-Uni people could find themselves deeply out of pocket, retrospectively. It's all about fairness you see, and it can't be fair that those who failed to get their medya studies degree should pay tax can it?

  48. Anonymous Coward

    I have a bright idea

    Ok, we've just put lots of money into educating people who might benefit the UK.

    Let's put extra tax on those who have just got new qualifications, who lack commitments, who are highly mobile and who are looking around for somewhere to live.

    What could go wrong?

    And now onto something less popular. Tax is there to force people to pay for things which everyone thinks is a good idea but doesn't want to pay for. That means the tiny town in Wales gets street-lighting even though hardly anyone uses it. Just because you don't use that village's street-lighting, doesn't mean that you don't have to contribute.

    If you pay for what you receive, you may as well just let the market sort it out and not bother with government-provided education? Maybe we should extend the principle to healthcare? Ah, maybe not.

    Time to stop whining and suck it up. No it isn't fair, but it is the right thing to do.

  49. Mips
    Jobs Horns

    If you were a student... would get your qualification then bugger off overseas to avoid paying the tax. That's what I would do.

  50. Bob 18

    Just Get a Loan

    If you're planning on going into a high-income occupation, the rational response to this proposal is to go to get a loan and go to a private university. You'll pay less in loan re-payments than in a degree tax.

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