Andy Burnham pledges to replace tuition fees with graduate tax

Labour leadership hopeful would also extend student finance to apprentices

August 6, 2015

Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham has promised to replace tuition fees with a graduate tax if he leads the party into government.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme today, Mr Burnham says he would “lift the millstone of debt” from students.

Mr Burnham’s team has said it will form a commission to establish how the shortfall of the money needed by universities in the short term should be covered.

The move would be shift from Labour’s current policy of lowering tuition fees in England to £6,000 a year by reducing tax relief enjoyed by those earning above £150,000.

Labour’s previous leader, Ed Miliband, pledged to introduce a graduate tax while contesting the party’s leadership in 2010.

The £6,000 a year policy was to be part of a longer-term shift to a graduate tax, the party’s shadow universities minister Liam Byrne has said.

Of the other Labour leadership contenders, Yvette Cooper also backs a graduate tax, Jeremy Corbyn wants to bring back maintenance grants and Liz Kendall would focus on early years education. 

 “No young person should have to start their career weighed down by a millstone of debt. Labour will lift it off them,” said Mr Burnham in his manifesto, which he launched today.

Mr Burnham also pledges to extend student finance to those taking apprenticeships and create a “national Ucas-style system for apprenticeships”.

That would be part of what he describes as a “fundamental shift in professional and technical education in this country, so it is a route of equal prestige, and equally supported, as that of university”.

“We must undo the legacy of the Conservative government of the 1980s which dismantled our apprenticeship system, as part of a wider attack on industry,” he said.

Mr Burnham said he had set up an expert panel, to be led by MP Pat Glass, to advise him on “how we can make parity between academic and technical education a reality”.

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