Well what a surprise that isn’t.
The National Union of Students’ much-heralded proposals for a ‘graduate tax’ – recently backed by Vince Cable, David Willetts, and seemingly every odd and sod running for the Labour leadership – turns out to be a bad deal for students.
The lecturers’ trade union, the UCU, has published research showing that under a variety of graduate tax models, students will pay far more for degrees than they do at present once they graduate.
Under a graduate tax, nurses with a degree on average earnings could end up paying two or three times more for their degrees than at present.
As the Telegraph reports:
Under a five per cent graduate tax on all earnings over 25 years, a secondary school teacher on average wages would pay £46,046, a social worker £37,550, a research scientist £46,418 and a doctor £70,526.
According to UCU figures, if the rate was set at three per cent over 25 years, the same teacher would be charged £27,628, the social worker £22,530, the scientist £27,851 and the doctor £63,338.
Paying off a £9,440 tuition fee loan under the present system of funding for higher education costs the teacher £10,025, the social worker £10,272, the scientist £10,017 and the doctor £9,696.
The NUS’ submission to the Browne review recommended a 5 percent tax on graduates’ income over £15k for 25 years – although an NUS spokesman didn’t know whether this meant a graduate earning over £15k would pay tax on their entire income, or just their income above £15k.
This may be news to the uninitiated, who assumed the NUS would actually defend students’ interests.
However, it will be of no surprise to those who been following the graduate tax as it has developed over the last couple of years.
Just last year, the student newspaper London Student revealed that under the NUS’ original graduate tax plans, the average student would end up paying more for their degree than at present.
Graeme Wise, the NUS official who came up with the numbers, admitted to London Student at the time that they had deliberately gone for a model that would be more expensive for most students for fear of being taken “much less seriously” if they hadn’t.
Well, they’re being taken seriously now. And the students of tomorrow will pay the price.
There is a wider point here. Many on the centre-Left have been far too quick to support the graduate tax, simply because the NUS backed it. Ignoring the actual figures proposed by the NUS, and assuming this body to actually represent students, they concluded this must be an idea that was, in some way, ‘pro-student’.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Today’s NUS represents itself, no-one else. Comprised mainly of Labour frontbench wannabes with a gift for platitudes and little else, the NUS leadership is elected by about a thousand conference delegates, themselves elected by no more than 15 percent of their respective student bodies – and in many cases, fewer than one percent.
Ludicrously factional, conference delegates now nod through a raft of bad policy with little understanding or interest in the implications. Far more interesting to most such hacks is the annual election of the leadership – a reliable fast-track up the Labour Party career ladder.
The details of the NUS’ graduate tax proposals were cooked up by officers and managers – it’s unlikely more than a handful of student union officers ever saw them before they were sent off to Lord Browne.
And so we have the absurd situation where the National Union of Students – the National Union of Students – has managed to persuade both government and opposition to back a policy that the lecturers’ union has shown will leave students far worse off than at present.
Yes, there will need to be a broad alliance against the cuts. But it’s hard to see what positive role the NUS could possibly play in it.