Tax high earners, not students

17th December 2010 at 00:00

I don't get it. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg maintains: "All graduates will pay less than they do at the moment . all part-time students will be free of up-front fees. The poorer graduates, one in four, will pay less than they do at the moment; (and) the majority of graduates will never have to pay off the full value of their loan at all."

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, meanwhile, repeats the well-worn Coalition mantra that the cause of the tuition fees rises is the dire state of Britain's finances inherited from the Labour government, even though the present UK Government - or taxpayers - will continue to provide the wherewithal to Student Finance England to issue the student loans to pay for tuition fees south of the border.

So where is the actual saving? At best, it will be a few years before some graduates start repaying their loans and, if Nick Clegg is to be believed, most loans will never be repaid.

Meanwhile, the costs of administering the loan system will continue to escalate, adding to overall government debt, while former graduates, particularly those in their 40s and above, pay nothing regardless of the size of their pay packets. Nor do those on above average salaries who never experienced higher education themselves, but nevertheless benefit from the contribution to the economy of those who have spent time in further study.

Let's hope that the Scottish Government can come up with a better alternative to this overly complex and costly muddle. How about a ring- fenced higher education fund - not a graduate tax - of a couple of pence in the pound, payable by all earning above a defined threshold, like an insurance policy for the knowledge economy? Is it too much to hope that today's higher earners would recognise it as an investment in the future and wouldn't take flight to some tax haven at the idea of digging a little deeper into their pockets?

Diana Daly, Milltimber, Aberdeen.

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