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The proposed tuition fees changes will cost the state more

December 9, 2010

Execution of HE in UKNick Clegg and co. are quick to make the point that ‘somebody has to pay’ when confronted by the media, students of academics about the cuts to HE, the EMA and the tuition fees hike. But either they haven’t done their homework or – could it be – they are lying when they suggest the proposed system will save the tax-payer money.

As the government’s own Office for Budget Responsibility has set out, the new plans will increase government debt by billions and increase the interest the country is paying on that borrowing. So how can the new plan reduce the deficit? Answer – unlike government borrowing, which is an objective fact, the size of the deficit is subject to arbitrary decisions by ministers over what to include or exclude. In this case, they have chosen to exclude the borrowing to finance tuition fees. The independent Higher Education Policy Institute has described this as “smoke and mirrors“. In the end, repayment of the tuition fee debt relies on taxation of workers. If Britain were to reach the situation of an Ireland or Iceland, it would be because the government’s ability to raise funds from this source had been exhausted. So if push were ever to come to shove, there is no real difference between this debt and the debt ministers have chosen to include in the deficit.

The above argument comes from yesterday’s facts on fees – the facts.

The issue is straightforward – the tuition fees changes are not about saving tax-payers any money, they are about an ideological position. An ideological position that Nick Clegg, David Willets, Vince Cable, David Cameron and partners have all clearly agreed upon, constructed and sought to sell to parliament and the country by misrepresenting the cost to the tax-payer. Vice-Chancellors, including our own Michael Arthur, have put themselves behind that fundamental ideological change, at the cost of the general taxed worker, and generations of future students (and the millions who will no longer become students if today’s historic proposals are waived through by parliament).

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