People undergoing any sort of post-16 education should pay something towards it, according to a new survey of student representatives. But there should be no move to introduce top-up fees of the sort envisaged by some vice chancellors.
The survey, published this week by New Solutions, a group of student union officers, shows that 56 per cent of respondents agreed that "individuals who experience post-16 education" should contribute towards the cost. Just over a third (35 per cent) disagreed.
The survey of around 1,000 students from around the country, showed that 53 per cent were in favour of the taxpayer footing the bill for tuition costs but 56 per cent thought it wrong that they cover all maintenance costs. A resounding 62 per cent said that business and employers should contribute something.
The survey is published in a document entitled Investing in Our Future which comes out firmly in favour of a graduate tax to cover maintenance, which would be income related and repayable through National Insurance or income tax over a longer period than the current five years for student loans. It is envisaged that this would cover only maintenance costs while tuition would be covered by the state through a progressive income tax system and by employers through a business education tax.
New Solutions was formed last autumn by student union officers disgruntled with NUS policy.
Ghassan Karian, president of the University of London Union, said: "The grant and student loans system should be replaced so that all students have access to some form of maintenance. Top-up fees are totally out as they would restrict access."
NUS president Jim Murphy said: "We are always interested to hear views of individual students and we are conducting our own surveys."
Barry Jackson, head of public relations for the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, said: "We would welcome any support in seeking a solution to the long-term funding of higher education. However, as long as any top-up fee loan repayment system is fair and equitable then it should not really be a difficult exercise."
CBI educational quality adviser Peter Clark said: "I think a business education tax would be unpopular among members."
New Solutions asked:
Current NUS policy on education funding would mean the need to raise an extra Pounds 11 billion in tax revenue. Is it realistic to assume that any political party is going to implement such an increase? YES - per cent, NO - 71 per cent, n/a 2 per cent.
Should the taxpayer be fully responsible for 100 per cent of the funding of tuition costs? YES - 53 per cent, NO - 46 per cent, n/a - 2 per cent.
Should the taxpayer be fully responsible for 100 per cent of the funding of maintenance costs? YES - 41 per cent, NO - 56 per cent, n/a - 3 per cent.
Should individuals who experience post-16 education contribute an element of the costs of provision? YES - 56 per cent, NO - 35 per cent, n/a - 9 per cent.
Should business and employers contribute to the costs of funding post-16 education? YES - 62 per cent, NO - 17 per cent, n/a - 21 per cent.