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NUS launches roadmap for free education

Monday 17-11-2014 - 11:16

Report argues that a system of free education could be funded by progressive taxation, from increased business revenue and by taxing the richest in society.

NUS has launched its proposals on how to provide public funding for higher education.

The report, A roadmap for free education, outlines the routes that could be taken to start the debate on this issue and help politicians and vice chancellors make the right decisions on higher education reform.

The report argues that higher education could be funded by collective public investment through progressive taxation, with an increase on tax of the richest in society.

The union is also serious about increasing business investment in higher education, and believe that a modest increase in revenue from businesses could then be channelled into higher education which would remove the cost burden from students, the government and the taxpayer.

This is the beginning of a coordinated campaign that will see activity across the UK to ensure free education across further and higher education. This is a document designed to help students and students unions win the argument on free education, not just with those in power but with people in their communities.

NUS has continuously warned that forcing debt onto students as a way of funding universities was a failed experiment, and that public trust in higher education funding now urgently needs to be rebuilt. In the run up to the general election, NUS is asking the government to phase out tuition fees and restore public funding to universities as part of its General Election manifesto.

The Government’s own estimates indicate the size of outstanding student debt will increase to more than £330bn by 2044.

The proportion of graduates failing to pay back student loans is increasing at such a rate that the Treasury is approaching the point at which it will get zero financial reward from the government's policy of tripling tuition fees to £9,000 a year. The threshold at which experts calculate that the government will lose more money than it would have saved by keeping the old £3,000 tuition fee system is 48.6%.Official forecasts suggested that the write-off costs for student loans had reached 45 per cent of the £10bn in student loans made each year.

Megan Dunn, NUS Vice President (Higher Education), said:

“Not only is a publicly funded education system achievable, it’s also necessary in the current economic and political climate. Our roadmap seriously challenges those who want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that the current broken system can be fixed with tweaks and tinkering. The clear fact is that the current system we have is completely unsustainable.

“The Government’s own figures show that the prospect of a huge black hole looming over the budget is very real. It’s time the government started taking this issue seriously and committed to a new deal for students.

“We are told that we can’t tax the rich because they are the “wealth creators” but we know that the real wealth creators of our society are the teachers and lecturers who are “building up the knowledge and the skills of our country. We should be investing in them rather than protecting those who have driven the economy to its knees.

“Forcing debt onto students as a way of funding universities is an experiment that has failed not just students, but our country. Politicians need to recognise that we will only achieve a sustainable higher education funding system if we abandon the discredited regime of sky-high fees and debts altogether.”

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