Thursday, February 3, 2011

It's certainly part of the story...

Further Education funding and tuition fees is rapidly taking over from health provision as not only the Devolution Experiment's biggest inequity, but also one almighty cock-up.

I received this yesterday from the Campaign for an English Parliament:

The massive hike in tuition fees (rising to as much as £9000 per year) facing students from England is not about reducing the current deficit – on the contrary, in the short term the coalition’s proposals will actually cost more money.

These proposals are all about forcing English students into perpetual debt bondage.

Perpetual, because students will not be allowed to pay off the loans early and because the repayments on the loans are deliberately kept low in order to maximise the length of time it takes the the debt to be paid off (and thus the amount of interest paid).

And bondage because they are being forced to work for the benefit of others.

This is because the scheme is designed to be “self-financing”. This means that those who pay must repay not only their own debts but also the debts incurred by people who don’t pay.

People such as those students from the rest of the European Union who are also eligible to have their fees paid by this scheme but who can then avoid the repayments by simply returning to their own countries.

Eastern European wages in particular are considerably lower than the threshold that triggers repayments, but even if they weren’t it is highly unlikely that the Inland Revenue would either know the tax affairs of foreign students or indeed be able to send bailiffs around to recover any repayments due in any case. We know this because there is very little in the way of repayments made by EU students under the current system and there will be even less incentive to repay the greater sums involved in the Coalition’s proposals.
OK, there's a couple of points, admittedly peripheral to their main argument, but ones still which should be addressed here.

Firstly, a look at the most recent "league table" of EU countries which send their students to the UK shows only one east European country amongst the top 10. East Europeans simply don't come to the UK to study mainly for the reason the CEP indirectly highlight, our living costs  are simply too high- to put it into perspective, the nine grand mentioned is equivalent to the gross annual salary of a middle grade white collar worker in Hungary.

The top three countries in the table therefore are, not unexpectedly, the Republic, France and Germany and whilst its true that the UK is unlikely to send bailiffs after miscreants there, it's also true ( and I confirm this personally...ruefully) most of the EU has very close tax cooperation with the UK and also "at source" transmission agreements, when required, to the Inland Revenue. Of course there are exceptions, it'll be a very lucky tax-man indeed that pulls anything but a shrug of a shoulder or an IOU from their counterparts in Greece or Italy, but I am pretty confident that the risk of ultimate non-payment from students is as great, if not greater, from those born or settled closer to home.

The second point is that EU students from outside the UK have to pay to study in England, they don't in Scotland:
The SNP abolished tuition fees for Scottish and EU students shortly after taking power in 2007, but Mr Russell has so far failed to act on warnings universities are facing a funding crisis.
...the number of applicants from the Continent has increased 20 per cent as their tuition fees are paid by Scottish taxpayers under the system set up by Mr Salmond’s SNP administration.
A total of 15,935 non UK EU students costing annually (to us, the UK's tax-paying mugs) 75 million.

But that will be compensated by punishing English, N.Irish and Welsh students for being, well, English, N.Irish and Welsh:
...ministers have suggested the amount paid by English, Welsh and Northern Irish students could increase from £1,820 to £6,500 per year.
Er, hold on a minute:
Universities Scotland, which represents the country’s higher education institutes, said a 15 per cent fall in English applicants this year showed such a strategy would leave its members financially “vulnerable”.
Ha, ha and a big fat, bloody ha.
Whose fault is that then? The Devolution Experiment Strikes Again.
So...yes, the CEP most certainly has a point.
It's just by concentrating on that one point, they've ignored the cause of that point which is the pure unworkability of the joke we've ultimately been left with by Blair's constitutional vandalism of the late 90s.


Anonymous said...

Another take on this is that it is highly unpopular policy the effects of which have been mitigated by the devolved administrations, thus increasing pressure on the Westminister government to revisit its policy.

Ricardo said...

"the pure unworkability of the joke we've ultimately been left with by Blair's constitutional vandalism of the late 90s."

Lets not forget what went before was hardly nirvana.

Civil servants at the NIO and Scottish Office with wide-ranging powers and little or no accountability?

Go back to that?

No thanks.

O'Neill said...


But if that attempted "mitigation" or pressure takes the form of discriminatory practises does that make it morally justifiable?


Speaking as someone from NI, suffering under what is surely the most dysfunctional administration in the whole of Europe (with the poss. exception of Bosnia-H), the answer is "yes" I would go back to unelected civil servants rather than the present bunch- governance was better.