Browse > Home / UK Politics / Vince kills the graduate tax

| Subcribe via RSS

Vince kills the graduate tax

October 9th, 2010 Posted in UK Politics by

Vince Cable’s politics are becoming like one of those fairground gopher games where he pops up randomly from time to time to say something newsworthy only no one is sure from which part of the political field he will crop up next. Last month he was the hero of anti-capitalism, tomorrow the NUS will be calling him a Tory.

Today’s welcome announcement is that the Coalition will reject the Miliband-backed NUS campaign for a pure graduate tax, and instead be looking at something different. Likely still progressive, likely still motivated mostly by the politics of the Liberal Democrats tribal anti-fees positioning, but not as punitive as Red Ed’s hope to charge successful entrepreneurs hundreds of thousands of pounds for a history degree.

The key arguments deployed against the Miliband tax, mirroring some of those made by Liberal Vision, are laid out as follows:

“Since a graduate tax is open-ended, some graduates would unfairly find themselves paying many times the cost of their course. This is not fair.”

“Foreign students could end up paying less than some UK graduates, because taxes cannot be collected from people living in other countries. This is not fair either.”

“A graduate tax would do nothing to reduce the deficit over the next five years. Indeed, it would add many billions to public spending, meaning that further cuts would be needed in other areas of government spending.”

It remains to be seen how much better than this proposal the Government’s preferred option proves to be, however in making this statement important signals have been sent that shift the Liberal Democrat’s language away from equating fairness purely with income distribution, and university education with universal public services.

Successful graduates for example can already pay many times the cost of their secondary and primary education in tax and this will increase with the introduction of the pupil premium targeted at children who statistically are the least likely to qualify for university. The party regards this as fair and desirable.

In explicitly stating though that the same logic does not apply to tertiary education a central plank of the anti-fees argument, one based on painting further education as a universal public service funded by the general tax base, has been rejected.

Vince hasn’t quite followed that logic through to a proper market for university education, but given where the party is starting it’s still a very welcome shift.

4 Responses to “Vince kills the graduate tax”

  1. EcoJon Says:

    Liberal Vision seems to have developed myopia over Vince Cable having to toe the Tory Party line over university funding.

    Way back in July the Tories furiously leaked that poor old Vince’s plan was dead in the water. The latest media leaks seem to point towards the funding gap being met by increased fees.

    To be fair to the Tories – and I seldom am lol – I think they were trying to avoid just increasing the fees as this would be hard to sell to the electorate never mind the Lib Dems.

    I really have to laugh at the graduate tax being slated by Liberal Vision as the Milliband Tax when Cable as a Coalition Minister proposed it months before Milliband was even elected leader of his party – a poor attempt to smear IMHO.

    Out of interest I disagree with your ‘take’ on the key elements against a graduate tax.

    1) It needn’t be open-ended as a figure could be set to cover actual tuition costs plus an agreed premium towards future expansion of the university involved. One paid by the graduate the tax liability expires.

    2) Legally it would either be impossible to collect a graduate tax from foreign students or prohibitively expensive. This administrative cost is the real death-knell for this solution and Vince should have sussed this before going down this route.

    3) A graduate tax/fee increase or whatever shouldn’t primarily be about about reducing the economic deficit but more about putting good universities or courses on a sound financial footing which could, of course, help reduce the level of public funding. But this area is a minefield and not one well-served by the coalition rush for change as Vince already realises.

    Initial leaks say LibDem MPs will be allowed to vote against increased fees and LibDem ninisters will be able to abstain – presumably to retain the already crumbling facade of a coalition built on sand.

    If this comes to pass then the electorate won’t forget. It might be OK for the LibDems to pass the parcel in opposition but it’s another matter when they are the government – Abstaining against increased fees effectively supports the increase and displays either cowardice or the desire to cling-on to power and the financial and/or egotistical rewards it can bring.

    Didn’t LibDem MPs sign a personal pledge opposing increased tuition fees – yea it’s easy to promise the world in opposition but much harder to deliver when in power and I think this is going to be the first of many hard-knocks to be faced by a Liberal Party which will tear itself asunder over the next five years.

    Ah I forgot, good old boy Vincy says whatever is decided will be progressive – well that’s a relief lol.

    I note Liberal Vision states: ‘important signals have been sent that shift the Liberal Democrat’s language away from equating fairness purely with income distribution, and university education with universal public services.’

    Yea I heard those signals from Cameron at his party conference – I find that people, including those in work, really do equate fairness with income distribution especially when survival is about counting the pennies and most of the working class do have this outmoded idea that those able to hack a university education should be able to get one as a right not based solely on ability to pay for it.

  2. Tim Baxter Says:

    Surely by now you all know that “old uncle Vince” is the embarrasing old fart uncle that sits at the back of the room trumping like the incontinent pet dog that every family has. No-one likes to admit that he’s alive but he dribbles in the corner anyway. Bad wind is the price we pay for medical science! Like Social Democracy tbh!

  3. Ecojon Says:

    Any Mayer stated:

    “Foreign students could end up paying less than some UK graduates, because taxes cannot be collected from people living in other countries. This is not fair either.”

    Maybe not, but what about Cameron speaking to Chinese students and telling them that the increase in UK tuition fees would make it cheaper for foreigners to study at UK universities. Do the LibDems know what their Master is up to and no I don’t think it’s fair to change the old system that foreign students traditionally paid higher fees for the simple reason that they didn’t go on to pay UK tax.

  4. prace alpinistyczne Warszawa Says:

    I hardly comment, but i did some searching and wound up here Liberal Vision » Blog Archive » Vince kills the graduate tax. And I actually do have 2 questions for you if it’s allright. Could it be just me or does it appear like a few of the comments look as if they are written by brain dead people? 😛 And, if you are posting at additional online sites, I’d like to follow everything fresh you have to post. Would you make a list of all of your public sites like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?