Despite protests from students against fees and rising economic pressures, the National Union of Students is proposing a tax on graduates.
Having already abandoned the call for abolition of tuition fees for higher education as 'unfeasible', the National Union of Students (NUS) has now suggested a 'tax' on graduates to 'generate income'. The proposed tax marks a shift from decades of opposition to charging for higher education.
NUS president Wes Streeting paid lip-service to the anti-fees lobby, while asserting that income would be generated further down the line by taxing graduates. With regards the NUS's proposed 'graduate tax', Streeting, said:
"Students from across the country will be telling MPs why we need to abolish the disastrous top-up fees system. We are putting forward a radical proposal for an alternative system that is fairer for students, but still generates the kind of income the sector so badly needs.
This week, a BBC survey of UK university vice-chancellors revealed many favour pushing for higher fees, with some suggesting an annual fee on up to £20,000, and more than half looking to impose a minimum annual fee of £5000.
In February, students marched in London in defiance at NUS's abandonment of the 'no fees' demand. While the introduction of fees hasn't caused a drop in student numbers, it has changed the landscape of higher education. More and more students are pursuing flexible or part-time degrees, and because many students can't afford to go through university subsisting solely on loans, record numbers now supplement this with part-time work. Part-time work has been shown to affect the classification of degree that undergraduate students leave university with - those who work 15hrs per week or more are one-third less-likely to get a 2:1 degree or better.
The February marches, despite the NUS position that 'no fees' demands are 'unfeasible', were supported by the student unions of over 20 universities, including Goldsmiths, Bradford, and Cambridge. Many students feel the introduction of fees, and attempts to increase them by universities result in an increase in exclusivity in higher education, growing economic stress on students, and a greater marketisation of education generally.