My views on Higher Education Funding

As a student at the University of Leeds, I was one of the last generation not to have to pay tuition fees. I campaigned for the retention of Free Education as a student, then as a member of the executive of Leeds University Union. My belief in education as a social good which benefits us all is undiminished, and I will continue to campaign for a return to free education.


We have reached a point where the higher education system in this country is unsustainable, and is letting down students, staff and the institutions themselves. The Coalition Government has produced this situation. Although students will accrue debt due to fees, the Government will still need to borrow to cover the Universities budget each year. Labour’s plan will reduce fees for students from £9000 to £6000. It will also reduce that borrowing by £10 billion in the next Parliament. The plan is fully funded, so Labour will increase the teaching grant universities receive by the same amount that their fee income from English students falls – around £2.7 billion. Students need to cover living costs now which is why Labour will help students from lower and middle-income families by increasing student grants by £400, so that the full grant goes up from around £3,400 to around £3,800. This grant would be the most generous grant offer of any political party at this General Election (although some other parties are not proposing means testing the grant).

That’s Labour’s plan, and I welcome it. But it's still not enough. Ed Miliband when he announced this policy said the aspiration was still to introduce a Graduate Tax. Ed has long supported a Graduate Tax – he writes about it in 2010 here - . A graduate tax would abolish fees but ask graduates to pay between 0.25% and 2% of their income over a 20-year period. This could raise substantially more for universities than the current system. It also has another advantage. It would be easy to transition from a graduate tax to free universal higher education funded from general taxation – which is my own long-term aim.

Germany has just reintroduced free education. If we can invest in our industry and create a more sustainable economy like Germany then we too can return to free higher education.

Labour has made the first step on this journey and taken the first step away from what has been a march to the full marketization of higher education. That is hugely important. I’m firmly set on that direction of travel. I committed myself to free higher education – to free education - before I joined the Labour Party.  I’m still firm in that commitment.

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@alexsobel tweeted this page. 2015-03-22 08:18:00 +0000
Alex Sobel: I'm committed to free Higher Education and I'll go on campaigning for it
Alex Sobel posted about Alex on tuition fees on Alex Sobel's Facebook page 2015-03-22 08:18:00 +0000
Alex Sobel: I'm committed to free Higher Education and I'll go on campaigning for it

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