October 26, 2012 by Nash Riggins
No one should feign surprise that the Coalition’s move to raise tuition fees has completely backfired – least of all, Nick Clegg. After delivering a campaign promise to ensure that university fees would never rise, Mr Clegg’s backbone completely imploded – allowing for David Cameron to give universities a smile and a wink in the form of an ‘optional’ cap increase of up to £9,000 per year. The naivety of this move was blatant to say the least.
Indeed, it’s hard to know exactly what the dynamic duo were thinking on the day, but it appears as if the Prime Minister was able to convince Mr Clegg that – for some strange reason – most UK universities would choose not to raise fees by such a substantial amount; consequently, both men then seemed genuinely shocked when the country’s universities predictably chose to observe this monstrous cap in the same way that busy commuters observe the speed limit.
The idea itself was simple enough – remove the majority of these individualistic tax burdens from the state, and subsequently ask students to contribute towards their own education later in life after attaining a certain salary threshold. Meanwhile, universities would enjoy the immediate benefit of an increase in revenue that could then be reinvested in allowing for the teaching of even more students. It should have saved UK taxpayers £1.3b per year, simultaneously creating a very large – and very privatised – perpetual cash-cow. What it is creating, however, is £1b of debt.
A study from the Higher Education Policy Institute revealed yesterday that the figures upon which the Coalition built their tuition legislature were embarrassingly inaccurate, and actually will save taxpayers around £1b less than originally planned – whilst continuing to detrimentally impact students. What went wrong?
Apparently, the hike in fees centred upon the assumption that the average net fee being charged by universities post-cap would hover at around £7,500; however, analysts have now confirmed that the figure is actually much closer to £8,300 per year, and rising. In essence, this means that students will be borrowing more money that they may never be able to pay back, creating a loan shortfall of around 32%.
Moreover, the Coalition also apparently built this decision upon the trivial presumption that the average male graduate would be earning an annual salary of £75,000 after thirty years. Yet this estimate was recklessly over-confident; after all, what kind of careers does the Prime Minister think that UK students are working towards? Afterall, one of the most popular degrees last year was nursing – under which profession an experienced practitioner can expect to earn between £17,660 and £21,325. Impossible as it may seem, the average salary for a journalist is even more cringe-worthy.
In short, Nick and Dave must have raised student fees under the assumption that we were all training to be doctors and lawyers – whilst philosophy students are now left to spend the rest of their days pondering the ideological meaning of a forty-year fixed interest rate. In hindsight, to base legislature upon this conjecture looks flimsy at best; however, the figures now prove that this legislature is nothing more than a misguided cluster fuck. In fact, the government will now effectively fail to recover a third of all its debts, adding 0.2% onto the Consumer Price Index. This will trigger higher benefit and pension payments, whilst rendering less profit – or more candidly, it will hurt absolutely everyone in absolutely every way possible.
It takes some kind of stupid to establish legislature that drastically raises fees for something that is in high demand, and then somehow emerge £1b in debt – but Nick Clegg and David Cameron have apparently done the impossible. Bravo. Now stay tuned for an impending brain drain, accompanied by an exodus of talented individuals.