Saturday, August 21, 2010

Graduate Tax: Stop the bullshit

I see that Nick Clegg has pre-empted the review into University funding this morning by coming out strongly in favour of an entirely unfair graduate tax. Sometimes, actually a lot of the time, I cannot believe the bile and utter nonsense that spews forth from the mouths of politicians, and the idea of a specific graduate tax is one such idea.

Let's be clear about something first of all. We already have a graduate tax, it's called the student loans system. You borrow money to pay for your course, books, drugs, drink, bed and board and then only start paying it back when your earnings go above a threshold. There is no need to waste money shifting that system.

Secondly, the idea of shifting it to a system whereby those who go to University and then leave and get a good job have to pay more than those who go to University and get a not so good job is simply replicating the tiered income tax system anyway (something they'll have to pay as well) and also negates the quality of the course that was taken.

Let me put it this way, currently there is a cap on fees so a course at Oxford or Cambridge costs approximately the same as a course at Woolwich Polytechnic, sorry, I mean the University of Greenwich. With no disrespect meant to the lecturers at Greenwich, the fact is that the quality of the course and study at Oxford or Cambridge is going to be better but still cost the same flat price.

Now let's say a graduate from Greenwich doing say Politics, goes on to work in IT and finds themselves well within the 40% tax rate. Meanwhile the PPE graduate from Balliol goes on to be a bag-carrier in a political party earning just over £25,000. The former, in the "Graduate Tax" world will be expected to pay more for their irrelevant and lesser course at the lesser institution than the latter who went to one of the best universities in the world and went into politics.

Tell me. Someone? How exactly is that "progressive"? What we have is a proposal for a system that falsely assumes that earnings are always linked to University education. The fact is though, the vast majority of graduates in this country do not go on to work in an area relevant to their degree with the exception of perhaps law and medicine.

I personally know of someone with a degree in PE, sorry "Sports Science" who now works in the City earning huge amounts of cash. They went to a non-red brick ex-poly, spent three years getting drunk or high, and then buggered off into banking. The fact they went to University is irrelevant to their earnings.

There is, amongst the political class, this rather quaint view that a University degree automatically means that you will earn more, but it's absolute bullshit for the vast majority of graduates that don't come out of Ivy League equivalent red brick institutions. What's more many graduates end up doing things that are so far removed from their degree courses that when they do earn good money, the University education is merely a "three year gap year".

One other quick example for you, I know a guy that works in the InfoSec field and earns 40% tax band money. His degree? Zoology. Need I say more?

The fact is, when you actually look at the graduate tax proposal it's clear who will really gain from it. The Political Class.

It will be the bag carrier greasy pole types, the policy wonks, the NUS presidents and the assortment of other "never done a proper job" politicos on crap money with great quality degrees who'll be subsidised by the graduates from crappy ex-polys with a Desmond, who then work their balls off to earn as much as they can in an area with no relevance to their education.

If you want to fix University funding it's quite simple. Stop the bullshit that assumes that your earnings are necessarily linked to your degree, and instead allow Universities to charge fees that accurately reflect the quality of the institution in terms of teaching, intensity of study and the degree you end up with. This idea of a cap and flat fee on a degree across the board panders to the lowest common denominator principle that infects the secondary and comprehensive education tier.

When will there be a politician brave enough to say that a BSc in Culinary Arts Management from Thames Valley University does not and should not be considered to have the same flat cost price as a MEng in Engineering from Cambridge? What's more, when will there be a politician brave enough to call bullshit on the idea that money earned after University is by necessity linked to the education received at University.

It isn't. Capisce?

P.S. That course from Thames Valley University is real in case anyone was wondering.

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