Thursday, 30 May 2013

Time to scrap this scandalous tax on education

There are so many things I should be blogging about in Barnet, but I witnessed a conversation between my daughter and some friends recently on the subject of University fees which brought home to me what a scandalous, unjust and stupid tax this really is. Now as a rule I don't talk about my kids on my blog. It really is not something I want to share, but I couldn't help listen with rising despair to the conversation. She was chatting with several friends about the subject of going to University. She is a very bright girl and I'd say the same is true of her friends. Two, five or ten years ago, they'd all be planning to go to Uni. Now the conversation was all about "Why should I when it will leave me with debts of £30-50,000. They are not stupid. They've done the maths. If these punitive fees are having this effect on our brightest youngsters, what will this do to our economy in 10, 20 or 50 years. Great Britain is a hot house of ingenuity and invention, yet this government of intellectual muppets seems hell bent on forcing us back into the dark ages.

The simple truth is a University education makes you better able to get a job and contribute to the economy. You will more than pay back the taxes with the higher wages you earn. As ever this government wants your slice of the cake as well as theirs. Before the last general election I quit the Labour Party and joined the Lib Dems precisely because every candidate signed a pledge saying they would resist rises in tuition fees. When they got elected, every one of them renaged on that promise and I tore up my party membership. Now I have all the proof I need that the policy is even more damaging than I feared.

The time has come for an urgent rethink. This government rules by stealth tax. They never look beyond the end of their nose.


Mrs Angry said...

Absolutely agree: there is a definite impact on university applications - my daughter's year, just leaving school now, has many pupils unsure of their futures, reluctant to commit to such a burden of debt. My son's contemporaries on his degree course are largely wealthy overseas students. This idiotic policy is going to have terrible consequences, and all created by affluent Tory and Libdem ministers who paid no university fees, and whose children will have their debts paid off by family trust funds.

Scotch Hopper said...

Oh, it's much, much worse than you think! They are funding an anachronistic, lazy profession.

Both my daughter and I am very unhappy about the university experience of the last year, so much so that she is changing universities, thus incurring a further cost of over £9,000 in tuition fees alone! The reasons are as follows:

• Her summer academic term finished a month before the end of the accommodation term leading to unnecessary rent for an empty room. The academic side and the accommodation side don’t join up

• There is no breakdown of cost and product information. I would like to know exactly how much each lecture and tutorial is costing. Perhaps students should be paying by contact hour.

• There was no information about the number contact hours.

• The course sold to her has not been the one delivered.

• And a ‘year’ in university language is in fact only 7 months with breaks. This should be made clear!

• She has received very poor and abusive service from ancillary staff.

• I (mother) have tried to complain directly to the university but didn’t get anywhere as they will only discus complaints with the (inexperience) student.

• As parents we don’t receive child benefit or tax credits for them any more, while for 5 months of the year they are home using household heating, food etc., thus putting an increased financial burden on low income families.

• Parents do not have a voice and yet are still key in supporting students in the university process.

• There is a total lack of clarity and transparency of the whole system.

• Very poor value for money.

• No easily accessible complaints procedure. Universities should be inviting complaints so that they know how to adapt to their new fee paying customers.

• If any other business gave such poor service and lack of clarity in products they would not be trading now.

• Should our 19 year olds be responsible for funding the academic status of the country? I think not! Academic research should be funded by the government; students should pay for tuition and upkeep.

• There is not another situation where one would part with £40,000 and not know exactly what you were getting for your money. You would seek the services of a lawyer to guard you against miss-selling.

• I would like there to be a facility whereby students can be reimbursed for poor quality just as you would if you got a substandard product from the supermarket – Trading Standards should apply!

Mrs Angry said...

Introducing the market into university level education is a huge mistake: the accommodation rip off is scandalous,and the quality and amount of tuition that a student receives for the enormous amount of money they are being charged is completely inadequate.

Duncan Macdonald said...


I agree that it would be better not have tuition fees and Lib Dem PPCs should never have signed up to a pledge that they had little chance of keeping. But it should be remembered that as a junior partner in a coalition we were never going to get all out manifesto implemented. The fact we have got as much as we have is something that I think will be looked at in the future as far more of an achievement than anyone is giving us credit for now. It is well worth looking at the guide on this link as it deals with some of the myths about tuition fees and may help your daughter.

Rog T said...


The Lib Dems got it wrong on this. They should have made this a dealbreaker in the coalition agreement. If they had stuck to their guns, they would not have alienated a generation of young people. I have the utmost respect for what the local party has done in Barnet over the last 30 years, but I could not be more disillusioned with the national leadership. I believe they swapped principles for ministerial limos.

On a personal level, I would not critise the local party as they turned out in force to support my bid for council in 2010 and I at least owe people the respect for doing that. I sincelerely hope you do well in High Barnet in 2014 as you were a fine councillor.

Duncan Macdonald said...

I would dearly like us to have been able to deliver the removal of tuition fees but remember that both Labour (who introduced tuition fees in the first place) and the Tories were and are in favour of tuition fees. Given that we did not win the election we had to get the best deal we could. Refusing to form a coalition would have led to another election which I think the Tories would have won and that would be much worse as no-one would be putting the breaks on their spending cuts. Labour have been claimed to be against cuts since the election but have produced no policies that explain what they would do instead. It is easy to oppose but sometimes pragmatic decisions have to be made. Going back to tuition fees I would add that no-one has to pay the fees up front and you only start repaying fees when you earn over £21k. A person earning £25k would pay back £30 per month. I don't think that is unreasonable. There is also a new national scholarship scheme that provides £150 million to support students with living costs and fee waivers.

My daughter is 17 so we are starting the university process very soon. She will have to take a student loan to pay for university as we don't have the resources to pay for her. It's really important that young people understand the system, and realise that the loan is actually far more like a graduate tax than a burden of debt. Indeed many will never need to repay the whole loan.

I was hugely disappointed that you were not elected as a Councillor for Mill Hill as you would have done a terrific job. However I think that this blog (and others) actually do a far better job representing Mill Hill and Barnet in general than you ever could do as a Cllr.