St Andrews students call for ‘progressive graduate tax’
NEW funding solutions that would lead to a radical overhaul of Scotland’s Universities have been proposed this week.
Universities Scotland has called for short term funding to the university sector to be maintained and advocated introducing a graduate contribution in the longer term.
And the St Andrews University Students Association has voted in favour of backing the NUS Scotland campaign to lobby the Scottish Parliament for a progressive graduate tax to be introduced.
A recent report estimated that St Andrews University was responsible for almost 60 per cent of the town’s jobs and generated over £180 million for the local economy.
Universities Scotland, who represent all of the country’s 20 higher education institutions, say their proposals are a response to a call for a “Scottish Solution” to the problem of remaining competitive during the current financial downturn.
Speaking at a conference last week, director Alastair Sim outlined the group’s plans for the future but also warned there are immediate problems to be faced as well.
He set out a series of principles that could be used to set up a system to calculate fair Scottish graduate contributions.
”There is a serious risk that the wrong decisions now will cause lasting damage to a key Scottish asset – and the loss of opportunity for many Scots - before any ‘solutions’ can be implemented,” he warned.
“We need urgently to work to build a political consensus about a fair model of graduate contribution for Scotland that can be consistent with Scottish political values.
“University education for Scottish students studying in Scotland should be free at the point of entry and throughout their study. A contribution sought from graduates must be set at a level that does not discourage participation; and students from all backgrounds must be able to study any course at any institution.
“Academic potential, and not the ability to pay, must be the determining factor.”
He said universities and government should come together urgently to work on a fair system for contributions stressing that those who benefit most from a university education should make a proportionate contribution.
The Students’ Representative Council at St Andrews have voted 16-2 in favour of supporting NUS Scotland who are pushing for a progressive graduate tax to be adopted as a model for funding higher education in Scotland.
This system would see students pay only when they began to see a “genuine private financial benefit” from their education. The rates would not be fixed but would instead be linked to earnings and ability to pay.
“We believe that this is the fairest and most pragmatic model of funding for Scotland,” said association president Owen Wilton.
“We also back the NUS in their attempts to dispel the myth that education is currently ‘free’ in Scotland: it isn’t. As the NUS have shown in their report, Still in the Red, living and accommodation costs are steep and rising, and students are unable to access the funds they need to support themselves through their degrees.
“We join them in calling for a more generous and intelligent system that gives more support to the students who need it most.”
It was confirmed this week that students in universities in England will now face tuition fees of up to £9,000 per year from 2012 following the funding review carried out by Lord Browne.
A spokesman for St Andrews University said: “More than ever in Scotland we need an enlightened solution to the issue of higher education funding. It is important there is a wide public debate on all possible options.”
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