The cost of a university degree would rocket under Business Secretary Vince Cable's proposals to tax university graduates, according to figures released today (9 August) by the University and College Union (UCU).
UCU, which represents academic and teaching staff, has analysed different models to make graduates pay for their university education based on future earnings.
They say that teachers, nurses, doctors and social workers would pay considerably more back than under the current system. Under a model where graduates pay a tax of five per cent over 25 years, teachers would pay back £46,046.
This is vastly more than graduates are required to pay back under the current system. At present, the government loans students the money for their tuition fees of £3,025 per year, which they start to pay back once they are earning at least £15,000 per year. The government is awaiting a report from the Browne Review into student funding, which is widely expected to recommend a fee increase.
Today's findings will make particularly embarrassing reading for the Business Secretary after he said that teachers and social workers would benefit under his plans.
The analysis prompted fears that introducing a graduate tax without protecting those on lower incomes or in key professions such as teaching and social work, could lead to shortages in these areas and a brain drain as graduates move abroad to avoid higher costs.
“Students will judge proposed changes to student finance on whether they make university more expensive or not,” said the UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt.
She added, “Whatever scheme is proposed to replace fees, the government must ensure that studying for key professions remains attractive and that the prospect of prohibitive costs over a lifetime will not put off the next generation of innovators and public servants”.
Cable's suggestion of a form of graduate tax to replace the current fee system has been seen as an attempt to find a form of university funding to which both parties in the coalition government can agree. Prior to the general election, all Liberal Democrat candidates signed a pledge to vote against any increase in tuition fees, but Tories would be far more likely to back such a rise.
But the UCU has described the graduate tax proposal as a “rebrand” of tuition fees.
“We urge Vince Cable to look again at the idea of taxing big business for the substantial benefit it gains from a plentiful supply of graduates, rather than merely looking to penalise students further,” added Sally Hunt today.