Student Fees and Fairness Please

I remember with affection my student days at university – discovering, reflecting and experiencing ideas and life. We left university thinking we could do almost anything – we’d been equipped with a love of knowledge and learning. I received a full grant – all fees paid and all my rent, food and travel expenses too. I had grown up in a thrifty environment and felt I had more than enough.

I used to have enough money left over from my grant to have wonderful summer holidays. One summer I travelled as far as India, another to Afghanistan and another to Sudan. This was during the 1970’s. In many ways the travel was the best education of all: learning two key truths –
1) There are many different ways of living
2) Almost all people in every place are decent and want peace

I remember with particular affection the boat journey across lake Aswan with drumming and singing through the night; a game of volley ball in Afghanistan played with some young men one sunny morning; and a couple of nights sojurn in Amritsar’s Golden Temple, with food and room given freely. There were many other moments of kindness and fun; the only danger in over 8 months of combined travel came from a few tummy bugs.

So it is with some dismay and shame that I learn that my sons and daughters are likely to incur large debts if they go to university. One daughter, who is 16, already has a job; she feels she has to. I used to do voluntary work when I was a student, but my daughter feels she can’t afford to do that.

What seems so unfair is that my generation of students are now politicians and they are insisting that a university education gives enough of an advantage to justify a special tax. So why not tax all graduates who earn over £21,000? Not only future graduates, but past graduates too – especially those who had their fees paid. Won’t this help our education system with more funding? Why don’t this generation of politicians put their money where their mouths are? This is an acknowledgement, not a punishment, so sovereign parliament can simply pass the legislation. And why not have a graduated graduate tax, adding 1% to every £50,000 earned. That will surely help to preserve our universities.  As Adam Smith said, each government has a duty to ensure its people are not stupid.

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