NUS today welcomed Business Secretary, Vince Cable's backing for a graduate tax to replace student top-up fees but warned any proposed alternative must be genuinely fair and progressive to win the support of students.
The union warned that any proposals for a graduate tax would have to be judged on their fairness by students, and that the public would refuse to be conned by rebranding or marketing exercises. NUS has proposed, costed and advocated proposals for a progressive graduate contribution to replace the current system of top-up fees.
Speaking after the announcement, Aaron Porter, NUS President, said:
“Vince Cable's support for the principle of a graduate tax is to be welcomed as is his recognition that those who earn most after university should contribute more back as and when they do so. He is right to ask why, under the current unpopular and regressive top-up fee system, a care worker or teacher is expected to pay as much as a corporate lawyer or banker."
"The fair solution is to abolish tuition fees and ensure that graduate contributions are based on actual earnings in the real world, rather than sticker prices in prospectuses, which are based on guesswork.”
Commenting on whether the proposals would be fair, Aaron Porter added:
"Further detail of this plan is crucial to ensure that the system truly is a progressive alternative and not simply tuition fees by another name. Students and their families are not fools and will not be conned by rebranding exercises or marketing drives. We look forward to engaging with Dr Cable and the Government to ensure he truly delivers on his stated priority of making the funding system fair for students.”
“The Business Secretary's support for a graduate tax is a milestone in a lengthy campaign by students to ensure a fairer university funding system but we will only celebrate when he has made good on his word and the unfair and regressive system of student fees has been consigned to history and replaced with a genuinely progressive alternative.”
On the prospect of further cuts to funding and student places, Aaron Porter said:
“It is quite wrong to suggest a fairer higher education funding system requires either short-sighted cuts to student places or self-defeating cuts to university funding. At a time when other countries like the United States and France are investing in their students and universities, such moves would be both unfair and wrong-headed.”
Click here for more details of NUS' Blueprint for an alternative higher education system.