Graduate Tax – A better alternative to tuition fees?

The National Union of Students (NUS) has published a blueprint that suggests setting up a People’s Trust for Higher Education.  It is, they say, “A fund built mainly on contributions by former undergraduate students and their employers, and the employers of current students”.

NUS Blueprint

Rather than ramp up fees, lift caps and get universities charging different fees, the NUS blueprint asks for a form of graduate tax that would be paid over a fixed period of 20 years, based on your earnings.  The more you earn, the more you pay back.  This has been suggested as a reasonable alternative to implementing higher and variable fees.  In fact, it’s designed to abolish fees completely.

This blueprint has been written to stimulate public debate, rather than answer every question, rather than prove a solution to every problem, rather than explain a perfect system.

That said, it is still a clear set of proposals aimed at creating a fair system for all and encouraging widening participation.

The NUS state:

“Our proposals would end the very notion of a course fee or price, and shut the door on a market in fees. Graduates should contribute to the future costs of higher education according to their actual future earnings, so that those who benefit the most from university by earning more will contribute more, in order to give future students access to higher education.”

However, Nick Taylor brings up a valid point that the NUS suggestions could be “Funding Our Failures”.  He asks us on his blog to “think of an alternative that doesn’t persecute successful students and reward idiots”.

Taylor’s blog post asks a reasonable question, especially as the NUS blueprint specifically states, “Those who leave higher education and, for whatever reason, have only a very low income for the rest of their working lives, may pay nothing at all, and will have relatively little debt compared to today.”

Problem areas like this do need to be addressed, otherwise the system is open to abuse.  It is, therefore, up to us to contribute further to help introduce a system that works for all.  The NUS brings us closer to a way of funding HE using methods other than charging sky-high fees.  So now we have a more detailed, greater supported and generally talked about platform to work from and mould into shape.

Although an open statement, the NUS blueprint also starts to talk about the future of HE given the likely boost in revenue that’s been calculated.  They call for the funding to:

“be conditional on new measures to monitor and improve the quality of the student experience and the impact of higher expenditure in the higher education sector. We believe this should be focused on the outcomes of higher education and the extent to which it actually changes people’s lives.”

If widening participation is truly being taken seriously by the government, it should be made clear to all that HE can change people’s lives for the better and that it’s worth being a part of.  There will always be the ‘Wasters’ that Nick Taylor refers to, but I believe more can be done to persuade these individuals that they can achieve more to the benefit of themselves and others.  It won’t work for everyone, but this new blueprint should go beyond the debate of graduate tax versus student fees and look to the way in which individuals can be encouraged to make the most of their time within HE.  University looks like a laugh because it really can be a laugh.  That doesn’t stop it from being a positive and rewarding move in life at the same time.

Finally, the blueprint opens the way for better support of lifelong learning (which is something I’m all for).  The graduate tax would be related to the number of credits that people have studied.  That allows people to move in and out of HE in different ways and benefit without being hit with huge fees, just for trying to gain more education.  A graduate tax would still need to be paid, but in such a way to allow greater access and better participation.

I am pleased to see today’s blueprint and hope for a wider debate within HE because of it.  While we may not have all the answers right now, we’re certainly a lot closer to finding an effective and fair system of funding higher education.  Now it’s up to us to get working on filling in the cracks and building a system that works for as many people as possible.

The more of us who get involved, the easier that should be.  Let’s do it!

Related Links:
The Guardian – Wes Streeting (President, NUS) on the blueprint

The Guardian’s own take on the graduate tax

BBC News


Compass Online


Times Online

University and College Union (UCU) response to the blueprint

Million+ response to the blueprint

The Guardian has put up a voting and commenting page about “Graduate Tax vs Tuition Fees“.  Be sure to watch the comments both for and against!

EduLinks – Bad Habits, Problem Solving, Social Media…Oh, and an Election

Time for another dose of EduLinks.  Happy weekend reading.


President-Elect Obama:

I hear there’s been an election in the US.  That was kept quiet…

Justin Wise writes at Brazen Careerist that Obama “mobilized younger voters to actually show up at the polls”.  Now Obama is in, a lot of young adults are very hopeful of what’s to come.  As the Chronicle shows, online social media continues to give a hearty shout out of support to Obama.  Here’s to the future!

Joongel – Internet Search Portal

This is one of the better search collaboration sites I’ve come across.  It’s not perfect, but as a basic research tool, it goes miles further than Google alone.  I stress the word ‘basic’ though, because it’s not an academic search portal.  Good for most stuff, though.  It goes through a wealth of sites, with the following categories:

Images; Music; Videos; Shopping; Social; Q&A; Health; Torrents; Gossip; Cooking; Analytics; Local; Finance; Jobs; Property; Dictionary; Reference; News; Family; Movies; Blogs; Tech; General

Bear in mind that Joongel is currently focused on the US, so some categories won’t be much use in the UK (such as Jobs, Local, Shopping, etc.).  Joongel say that they are working on collaborations around the world, so it may not be long before a UK version crops up.  Fingers crossed.

Zen Habits – The 7 Keys to Turning Bad Habits Into Good Habits

We usually know when we’ve got a bad habit.  The problem is getting away from them.  There may come a time when you want to try snapping out of unhelpful habitual routines.  When that time comes along, let Zen Habits help ease you into a much happier way of life.

Leo explains, even if you slip up once, then twice, then seven time…don’t give up!  He speaks from experience too.

Bangor TV @ University of Bangor

It may not be interactive, but Bangor TV is a growing set of videos to whet the appetite of prospective students to the university.  I hope the output also boosts the engagement of current students and perhaps even allow them to give honest accounts of life at Bangor.

No university can offer 100% delight and it’s great for prospective students to hear from like-minded people already living a uni lifestyle, so I hope the UK can one day see their own version of Unigo, which is proving successful in the US.

Litemind – Einstein’s Secret to Amazing Problem Solving (and 10 Specific Ways You Can Use It)

If you can clearly define the problem, the solution is in easy reach.  The key to solving a problem seems to be to enjoy the problem.  Luciano has done a great job in highlighting ten problem-solving techniques that we’d all be wise to keep in mind when trying to figure out what’s going on.

Converstations – Social Media Success Plan for Beginners: 6 Hours for 6 Weeks

It doesn’t take long to move beyond Facebook and add a whole new dimension to your online being.  Mike at Converstations urges you to spend six hours for six weeks, building up a blogging, reading, twittering, social media machine.  It’s definitely worth it.  And I suggest you read the comments too.  For instance, Mike adds that a person who is bright-eyed and open-minded about social media should start on blogging, but a closed-minded and doubtful person should begin their quest with RSS feed reading.

Twitter How-to Links:

I use Twitter a bit.  On and off.  Not as much as I probably should.  Nevertheless, Twitter is a great tool and it’s growing in popularity.  If you’ve heard of it, but haven’t got as far as jumping in and joining the 140-character message bandwagon, these links make the process as simple as possible.  You can follow me at and see if I get any better at posting!

TheUniversityBlog a year ago: October 2007

Welcome to October.  Hopefully most of you are happily settling in to the new academic year.  You lucky things!

October last year was a busy month on TheUniversityBlog.  I covered homesickness, conversation, employment, and money, among other things.  Here’s my pick of the highlights:

Help for the Hopelessly Homesick

Moving away from home is already a big move.  That’s before you consider the amount of change you’ll encounter in your first few months at uni.  Inevitably, homesickness happens.  This huge post covers all sorts of advice.

Turning Smalltalk into Bigtalk: 7 ways to find things to talk about

Striking up a conversation is difficult enough, but getting into a flow of ideas to chat about can be boggling.  With a few pointers, you can boggle no more.

Pushing Toward Employment Nirvana Series

Who says you have to wait for the end of your degree before seriously considering your future employment?  As an increasing number of students need to work part-time, the CV isn’t unheard of.  So why not make it as good as you can from the outset?

Your Money Series

The world’s economy may be looking scary, but you can do your bit to look after your own pennies…