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Cable’s tax is yet another burden on graduates

Vince Cable, the minister responsible for universities in England, has proposed the replacement of the student loans system with a graduate tax.

The basic concept is that a progressive tax would be imposed upon all graduates. The NUS proposes that the top 20% of earners would pay a 2.5% tax whereas the lowest-earning graduates would pay practically nothing.

This tax would be imposed for a fixed period — NUS have suggested 20 years. The details of the scheme may vary under Mr Cable’s plans, but the substance will doubtless remain.

My issue with this scheme is that graduates already pay tax to compensate for their higher earnings. It’s called income tax.

Another objection I have to this scheme is that it allows students to go to university, study degrees which do not increase their potential earnings and pay nothing for the privilege.

In Northern Ireland, control over universities is devolved to the Department for Employment and Learning. The department has recently received its own report on higher education funding.

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However, this report hasn’t been published and the department’s intentions are unknown.

If the department is waiting to see what Westminster introduces before it publishes its own plans, I would advise them to forget it.

The solution to higher education funding isn’t another tax on already overburdened graduates. The solution lies in critically analysing the number of people going to university and the courses they are studying.


Former deputy president, NUS Northern Ireland