Support 100 years of independent journalism.

28 January 2010

The left-wing case for tuition fees

Why should the poor pay for the wealthier?

By James Macintyre

 

There is a mini-fuss raging today over fresh figures showing that, in the words of the Daily Mail, the “middle classes” are being “put off” university by the prospect of higher fees of up to £3,000 per year.

From the Mail:

The most recent figures from the Higher Education Funding Council for England showed applications for university places among students in wealthier areas are rising more slowly than in lower-income groups.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

In 2005/06, as the higher fees approached, attendance at university rose 2 to 3 per cent for middle- and higher-income groups but 4 per cent among the most disadvantaged.

Well, forgive me, but I am glad that applications from lower-income groups are, to turn the formula on its head, rising more quickly than those from less well-off ones.

When I went to university, we were required to pay upfront. Now that the fees are to be paid later on and at a rate that depends on what the graduate is earning, the system is much less intimidating.

More importantly, there is a very strong moral case for tuition fees and top-up fees: after all, there is nothing social democratic about making those people who would never consider sending their offspring to university pay through the tax system for those who do.