Thursday, June 10, 2010

David Willetts says students are “a burden on the taxpayer” - Free Education Campaign response

David Willetts has claimed that students studying in higher education are “a burden on the taxpayer that has to be tackled.”

Willetts further remarked that whilst he was not “assuming that fees should rise”, he did suggest that university fees should be viewed as more of “an obligation to pay higher income tax” than debt.

The NUS President-Elect, Aaron Porter, has made a welcome statement criticising Willetts’ attempt to “rebrand” student debt as tax, stating that the government should focus on reducing student debt, in line with the expectations of voters. Aaron Porter also attacked Willetts’ claim that students are a burden on the taxpayer as “dangerously undervaluing the benefit of higher education to society.”

Kanja Sesay, NUS Black Students’ Officer-Elect, said:

“Willetts’ suggestion that university students are a burden on the tax payer is completely absurd. The government’s own figures show that the £23bn currently being spent on higher education each year produces an economic return of £60bn. The facts speak for themselves – students are making a massive contribution towards simulating and reviving our economy.

The current system of higher education funding is a disaster – because of the burden it places on students. Students face soaring debts of £23,000 which takes decades to pay back.

The government’s figures confirm that the whole of society benefits from a highly educated workforce. Therefore the government should increase state investment in higher education, in order to end student debt and fund an expansion of the sector which will ensure Britain that has the highly skilled workforce we need to revive our economy and be internationally competitive into the future.”

Commenting on whether tuition fees should be increased, Kanja said:

“Students should not be burdened with more debt, whether that is higher tuition fees or any other methods of charging students more including NUS’ proposed graduate tax. We should be discussing how to create a free system of higher education, including the scrapping of tuition fees.”

David Willetts also said “the NUS have called consistently for a graduate tax. My argument is that if you really look at the current system it is closer to a graduate tax, a 9% tax, which is capped when you have paid off the costs of university education.” We do not need a debate discussing how much or by what methods students should pay for their education. Instead we should we discussing how to abolish student debt.

The Free Education Campaign will be putting forward the arguments on how government investment in higher education contributes to increased growth and productivity and exploring ways in which the widest possible access to education can be attained.

To contact the Free Education Campaign please email:

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