Students condemn graduate tax, two year degrees and higher tuition fees

Graduates, existing students and those who hope to attend university in the future are largely against the proposed graduate tax, higher tuition fees and two-year degrees, a new survey has revealed.

People with Voices polled 20 graduates, existing students and those hoping to start a degree course in the future, and asked them whether they were either in favour of or against graduate tax, higher tuition fees and two year degrees.

Our survey revealed:

  • 100 per cent of those questioned were against the proposed graduate tax
  • 100 per cent of those questioned were against higher tuition fees
  • 75 per cent of those questioned were against two year degrees

Graduate Tax was recently proposed by business secretary Vince Cable as a “fairer” way of students paying for higher education than the current loans system. Under graduate tax, repayments will be set according to earnings levels.

But despite the proposal being welcomed by NUS president Aaron Porter; our own survey, although a small sample, suggests that the wider student body is not in agreement. The main concern is that students will pay back much more than the cost of tuition fees over a longer time period, through the tax system.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the Universities and College Union (UCU), has said that the introduction of graduate tax is just another way of the government getting around the issue of increasing fees to avoid investing more money in higher education:

“If the government thinks it can get the public to swallow higher fees as some sort of graduate tax it is living in a dream world. We need a proper debate on how to fund our universities, not an exercise in rebranding.”

Ever since the last government announced a review of higher education, the threat of higher tuition fees has been ever present – and many of the top universities are pressing for the current cap to be removed.

Today the Telegraph revealed that international students are already facing fee increases of 5.6 per cent next year and will pay an average of £10,643 in tuition fees. Fees at the top Russell Group of Universities will be £12,672.

British students however, will still face a rise of 16 per cent on postgraduate courses which will now cost £5,214.

College student Myia Scott, from North London, who plans to attend university next year, is concerned about how much debt she will get into. She told People with Voices:

“I plan to study Interior design…but with all the talks on uni fees and paying back loads of interest on loans, I’m a bit scared of how much debt I will have and whether I can even pay it all back.”

She said that even working part-time would not generate enough income to cover her courses fees:

“They should just let poor students study for free or reduce the fee back down.”

The business secretary also proposed two year degrees as a way of reducing costs. The idea has been greeted with caution by universities. Earlier this month, Professor Steve Smith, president of Universities UK said:

“There have been a number of attempts to pilot two-year degrees in recent years. There have been issues relating to the comparability of such degrees within Europe and also about the level of demand for such degrees. At present, such a high pressure qualification would only be suitable for very particular kinds of student.”

However, the UCU general secretary was far more scathing, referring to two year degrees as “great on paper but …in effect education on the cheap.”

Some students are concerned that condensing a degree into two years will reduce its value.

Neeta Patel, a recent graduate from Leicester University told People with Voices:

“I don’t think two year degrees are a good idea because they will decrease the importance of a degree and it will soon become the norm to do two year degrees which are quick and easy.”