The morality of the mob


                 As I arrived early  at work this morning the contractors were busy putting out sandbags and reorganising the crowd barriers around Parliament Square. They are expecting a fourth day of peaceful protest doubtless laced with extreme behaviour. Last week almost 3000 policemen and women had to be taken off normal duties to deal with the minority of protesters who thought violence the right approach to influence how we pay for higher education in future.

                  All of this response to the protests costs the state more money. That’s more money taxpayers have to provide, or the country  has to borrow. The irony is   these  students will have to help  repay it all once they have jobs and taxable  incomes. It means less money to spend on the kind of items the students would like to see the government  pay for.

                   We need to ask how they propose the government  would pay for every student to go to university with no student contribution to the costs. They seem to have two models. One is to tax the rich more. The other is to borrow more. They probably would end up as the same policy.  If we raise tax rates on the rich to higher levels today, we will probably end up with less revenue, as we have often argued on this site. So both policies in practice  mean the state would have to take out a bigger loan from someone.

                      The price of fewer student loans is a bigger state loan. The difference between a state loan and a set of student loans is limited. The same people, the graduates from this student generation, will have to repay a  bit more of  the debt if they borrow it themselves as student loans , or they will have help from people on lower incomes if the state borrows it.

                      In the meantime, the UK will need to borrow more in world financial markets. The Chinese lowly paid worker could have the pleasure, under the rioter’s model, of making and delivering us our goods, and at the same time lending us the money to pay for them. It is, apparently, moral for the UK student to borrow in this way. The UK person can enjoy three years of university, get a well paid job  and then with the help of people who haven’t had that privilege get around to paying some of the money back to the Chinese workers.

                    The huge imbalances in the world between the hard working and low paid east, and the high borrowing and protesting west, are not sustainable. The west is going through a painful process of getting nearer to living within its means. Violent protests make that task more difficult. The more we spend on law and order, the less we have to spend on education.

                        Meanwhile Dr Cable’s scheme still leaves the state needing to borrow large sums in its early years. Taxpayers will have to pay more tax to pay for the 18,000 students who will have their fees paid for, and to write off the loans of all those graduates who over the following years do not earn enough to repay in full. The Cable scheme is a fully state backed scheme, which means it too adds to public borrowing.


  1. lifelogic
    December 14, 2010

    The cable scheme is full of problems:

    The EU students – who can take a loan but are quite unlikely to repay for reasons of enforcement or low income – we need to take security or deter somehow.

    It is still in effect a free grant for people who will only take low paid work in low paid areas and jobs. There will be a range from £21K to say £45K where it will not be worth them earning more. They will loose nearly all of it in tax, loan payment and reduced benefits if they do so. They will be best advised to take it easy and just earn less than £21K and have more time for the family, do DIY or “cash in hand” jobs. This will apply particularly where higher paid jobs might need commuting/child care which is expensive and not tax allowable (unless you are an MP or similar of course).

    There are still to many daft pointless or even worse courses being studied, even at the best universities, let alone the rest. There should not really be loans for such “hobby” courses his plans help by making student think but not enough. Some know they are unlikely to repay anyway. Most of these courses should close down so the lecturers can do something useful instead.

    What is needed rather more urgently is good job available. We need banks that actually lend, less regulation, easy hire and fire and a state sector of about half the current size but Cameron Cable and Clegg clearly cannot see this. The fact that they cannot give this uplifting vision is a huge part of the problem as sensible business people can see it all ending soon in another socialist disaster in both the UK and the EU.

    So the investment and the best people all go somewhere else.

    1. sammymehaffey
      December 14, 2010

      Surely the most obvious answer to the cost of funding universities is to reduce the number of places by half; return the Unipolys to technical colleges mainly teaching IT subjects; abandon the crazy courses and thereby stop conning the kids who think that by going to university and gaining a degree in early Byzantine knitting is going to get them a highly paid job.

      1. Simon
        December 14, 2010

        Sammy ,

        Why would you want to teach them I.T. ?

        According to university graduates computer science graduates experience the highest rate of unemployment , almost twice the average for all graduates .

        There is a surplus of software development skills in the UK but no jobs for British Nationals .

        Instead companies are encouraged to bring cheap software developers from India to work on British Soil under ICT (intra-company-transfer) visas .

        There is no requirement to even advertise the posts in the UK !

        Last month the Govt drove the final nail into the coffin by relaxing ICT entry requirements even further in preparation for the EU India free trade agreement . They gave no indication that they would stop turning a blind eye to the abuses of ICT’s .

        The rates of pay of an experienced software developer are already lower than the starting package of a police constable .

        The quality of software developers has dropped in the last 20 years worldwide . In that time I’ve only actually met 3 people who understood the fundamentals of data . Regretably employers seem to think knowledge of specific tools , software packages , programming languages is more important than discrete maths and logic .

        No wonder so many projects fail .

  2. Robert K
    December 14, 2010

    Absolutely spot on. The minimum wage in China is approximately a tenth of the level here. An adult working flat out in China can expect to earn less in a month than an English school-leaver on the dole. It’s a national sport here to bemoan the imbalances between rich and poor, but we happily forget that the seeming prosperity of the past 20 years has been based on importing cheap goods from China and cheap labour from eastern Europe, and on outsourcing to lowly-paid call centre workers in India. With more than a trillion of private secctor debt and more than that in the public sector, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. If someone believes it is in their best interest to go to university then they should pick up the tab.

  3. CDR
    December 14, 2010

    I don’t consider it feasible to have free tuition in our current climate, but the rise from £3000 to £9000 per annum max was pretty steep; and quite frankly, if I’d been a student, I’d have been protesting about the steep rise and the inequality of fees between the English, Scots and Welsh; rather than protesting about fees themselves. Surely it could have been “phased in” a little better than that?
    As for jobs, well it would help if we could encourage employers to give a little more thought to home-grown talent, rather than constantly favouring immigrants because they are “cheaper”. Or, as often happens, shipping the work or the entire business abroad (e.g IT, electronics), leaving skilled young Brits with no option other than to emigrate or retrain. With both government and employers seeming to do battle against the English, what hope have they got? And one wonders why they are angry?

    1. electro-kevin
      December 14, 2010

      Hear hear !

    2. a-tracy
      December 14, 2010

      I agree.

      So if the Welsh state is subsidising tuition what other taxes on their general public are they rising? Or will the subsidy be completely made up by English university students studying in Wales as their assembly member interviewed by Wales online indicated?

      1. a-tracy
        December 14, 2010


        “It is bold. Labour education minister Leighton Andrews hasn’t just pulled a rabbit out of his hat – it’s more of a live-and-kicking kangaroo.

        If it works, it could be one of the great success stories of the Assembly, and he is convinced the sums add up. Wales has 40,000 home-grown students, and the scheme is calculated to cost £140m for the first two years.

        So the Assembly Government won’t go bust, but what about the universities? The university budget is being cut by 35% but institutions will still get to charge fees of between £6,000 and £9,000. And don’t forget about the 25,000 English students who study in Wales who will be paying the full whack – more than ever we need their cash.

        Read More

        If the Welsh can afford tuition for their teenagers why can’t England? What are we spending English taxes on instead, what have our majority conservative English MPs voted to spend our money instead? Unlike the Welsh we don’t get free prescriptions I have friends that live just over the border who get free prescriptions whilst being treated in an English GP surgery and by an English NHS dentist.

    3. Liz
      December 14, 2010

      This hits the nail on the head – the unfairness to the English is huge. Also giving students from poor homes some free tuition will give them a head start in the jobs race as although similarly qualified they will not start work with a huge debt to repay as their colleagues from middle income English homes..

  4. electro-kevin
    December 14, 2010

    I think it right that I subsidise another’s education where it is to the betterment of the country. But this should only apply to a small and gifted elite, as was pre NuLabour.

    I think it wrong that I subsidise another’s ‘education’ to the benefit of politicians – so that they can tell us that we have lower unemployment and that our education system has ‘improved.’ Some may say that left-wing politicians enjoy keeping graduates in hock to the government for years on end.

    1. Andy
      December 14, 2010


  5. Javelin
    December 14, 2010

    Reajustments are painful. But that is what is happening. In the Global economy we must work harder and jettison luxuries. It was always going to be that way.

    House prices are not sustainable at this level. In a market the number of students will find a natural level – but with so many with £30k debts then house prices must fall £30k too. We will all pay for education directly or indirectly through our house prices.

  6. Mick Anderson
    December 14, 2010

    It’s the same old nonsense about equality. A degree in media studies is not as useful to the Country as a degree in engineering or medicine, and an arbitary target of 50% of the population going to university is simply crass. Many careers are better served by an apprenticeship.

    The state should fund useful degrees through scholarships, and only for those with the talent and work ethic to make the most of them. The only difficult bit is defining what is useful. Anyone can have the opportunity to take a degree in the career of David Beckham, but only if they are prepared to fund such folly. If they are not prepared to pay the market rate, it’s obviously not important enough to them.

    As for the proposed loan system, I don’t understand why they are effectively being forced on the students with an early redemption clause. To say that all mortgages have this clause is nonsense (mine didn’t), and that’s not a good reason anyway. If parents or a student have saved to put someone through higher education, let them pay when the bill is due without penalty. If rich people can afford to do that too, what’s the problem? I don’t care if the rich can afford to pay more; the point is that the cost of doing the course is covered. It is not (yet) a crime simply to have money. Student loans are meant to be there to help people better themselves, not to be a form of social engineering. We were meant to have left that sort of politically correct junk behind when Labour left office.

  7. Man in a Shed
    December 14, 2010

    Logically those protesting students should have been protesting about the unfairness of the national debt Labour ran up – it will cost them far more.

  8. Gary
    December 14, 2010

    The bonuses marked to be paid to bankers this year = +-£7Bn

    The Student loans for this year = +- 3Bn

    The bankers, without taxpayer bailouts, would not have even a basic salary because they would not have a job.

    In a fair “Fair Society” a case can be made for students to pay for student loans. This is perceived as an unfair society. That is the real problem.

    1. Mr Ecks
      December 14, 2010

      That idiot Brown should have guaranteed the deposits and let the banks fail, like any other business that has got itself in trouble. As you rightly say the bankers would now be on the dole and not available to be hate figures for the left and taxpayers would be far better off.

  9. a-tracy
    December 14, 2010

    Is it true that the UK provides the same subsidised tuition fee and maintenance loans to EU students studying in the UK? If yes, why? and how do we know how much they are earning each year and how do we get a deduction of 9% from their salary each year? Are the student loans we have been making to EU students being paid regularly at the moment? Can we stop these loans from next year?

    Irish companies pay lower corporation tax don’t they? Do they pay 12.8% employers national insurance (13.8% from April 2011)? If they have a beneficial tax environment why can’t they raise their own finance to pay their own loans? They support a NMW of 8.65 euros per hour, reduced to 7.65 in the austerity measures (£6.50 ph) with a tax free allowance of £15,000 (£13,000 after austerity measures), 45% of Irish earners don’t pay income tax I read – so why are we borrowing them money whilst they aren’t raising enough of their own taxation – whilst telling our residents we’ve got to pay more tax (VAT, NI), we’ve got to wait later for our pensions, and our students have to pay for their own tuition, we’ve got to cut our cloth all over the place whilst supporting others largesse?

    Do you know how much money Irish students get in the form of grants whilst studying in the UK, or how much do Irish students pay in Ireland for their university tuition?

    We need to pay lots more tax to support a public sector pension bill (an ex public sector works pensions like those that used to be local council workers but aren’t and still have access to the pension scheme) that won’t be dealt with because the people that are supposed to be fair are on the same pension system. Our children will eventually wise up to the fact that they’ve got to pay more graduate workers tax to support people to retire at 55-60 years of age whilst having that rug pulled from under them too.

  10. norman
    December 14, 2010

    You can’t blame the students for rioting, or a better choice of words would be that one can see why they are doing it. The coalitions approach so far to the ‘cuts’ has been very scatter gun, there’s no logical cohesion to the plans, no underpinning philosophy, and things that have been planned for the axe one day have been reprieved the next, as opinion polls and focus groups tell the Prime Minister how he should be governing.

    So far the impression one has from the coalition is that they do actually believe the Labour rhetoric that Gordon Brown was doing a fantastic job until events outwith his control imposed the crisis on the country. The attitude seems to be ‘if we can get things back to 2008 levels then all will be fine again, government can continue to grow and provide all that people need’.

    The danger with this approach (i.e. no real ideological difference between then and now) is that it leaves the door wide open for Labour to win the next election.

    1. Simon
      December 14, 2010

      Norman , as you say there is no real ideological difference between NuLabour , NuConservative or the Lib Dems .

      It seems to me all this disaffection is actually intended to make Westminster look like the bad guys and drive the British voter into the open arms of the EU .

  11. Rob Hay
    December 14, 2010

    Whether you agree that students should pay more or not (and I do) we are still left in the situation of completely unfair distribution of the extra costs. Why will one student pay up to £9k a year when the student sitting next to them be paying nothing simply because they come from Glasgow? Then when they start work be expected to pay for their Glaswegian classmates degree through taxation in England being transferred to Scottish coffers. As long as English taxpayers subsidize the excessive spending north of the border this unfairness will exist. I am amazed to have heard no discussion or protest about it.

  12. Iain Gill
    December 14, 2010

    Not sure you have hit the right mood there

    Democracy and parliament need protecting sure, but democracy depends on MPs acting and voting broadly within some parameters that they discussed with their electorate during the election. At the moment many MPs are acting and voting for stuff which is very divergent to what they promised their electors they stood for. Many MPs are refusing to engage in normal discussions with their electorate other than direct quotes from the party leadership. This is not a kind of democracy which will last. Democracy for the English is also substandard in view of the Scottish MPs voting on English matters and so on.

    Where was the great public spending debate? When did the population at large agree to spend large sums on international “aid” when their own children’s education is being cut back? When did the population at large agree to fund the state school places of the children of work visa holders while their own children’s education was being cut back? When did the population at large agree to large tax dispensations for non-EC nationals working in this country? When did the population at large agree to pump money into Ireland? People know we need to readjust our spending but they have had no involvement in, and feel no buy-in into the decisions being made.

    The critics of obvious big business tax evasion measures are also fair comment. “Top Shop” maybe a poor example and hardly fair on that business, there are much better examples, but never the less there is some very fair comment there. There is no reason the government could not put in place an anti tax evasion task force to tackle the abuse of the rich and powerful as much as they are going to have to squeeze the middle and the bottom.

    As for the Chinese their balance of payments with the West would not look so rosy for them if
    1 they were paying for the intellectual property they were using, the unlicensed software on their computers and so on
    2 they were not choosing the cheapest and most polluting means of production in every case – of course the West cannot compete with the least polluting most expensive means of production!
    3 and so on… the West really needs to wake up and start looking at the commercial battles with China and India in a more sophisticated way, and start fighting our own corner.

    The police have not been squeaky clean, their foot soldiers are on the whole outstanding with some exceptions who should be sorted out, but their leadership layers are significantly substandard – and we should urgently look at how we have messed around with promotion mechanisms etc because they sure produce a good political cloud but practical police leadership is seriously wanting.

    Mobs should not rule. But the people do need a representative democracy.

  13. English Pensioner
    December 14, 2010

    If I were in government, I’d put up the student fees to pay for the costs of their riots. And if anyone suggests that this would penalize the innocent, I would point out
    a. This used to happen at school in my days, if someone did something wrong and the teacher couldn’t find out who was responsible, the whole class got detention, This taught you group responsibility, no claiming that you were there but didn’t take part in the trouble. It also gave you incentive to keep the trouble makers under control, in this case for the majority of students to keep the militants running their “Union” in order.
    b. Under the present system, innocent taxpayers have to pay for the cost of their riots.

    1. Deborah
      December 14, 2010

      If I were in government I’d
      a) think twice about introducing incentives for our brightest and best graduates to emigrate
      b) stop cynically throwing money at the pensioner vote.

      The least productive will be left to foot the bill that the elderly bequesth them.

    2. Simon
      December 14, 2010

      English Pensioner ,

      In your day I suspect :-
      – big businesses would not have contemplated behaving so recklessly as it can today safely in the knowledge that any losses would be socialised .

      – politicians would act in the interests of the British people and not continually commit high treason .

      – the majority of people could look forward to employment and even a pension

      – companies were not given tacit approval to bring in cheap labour from abroad by the bucket load

      And so on .

      The country is falling half a billion pounds further into debt every day so the cost of policing the rioting in amongst the legitimate protesting is perhaps 45 seconds worth of deficit .

    3. Andy
      December 14, 2010

      I think we are all probably glad you are not in government when you express thoughtless tripe like this.

  14. sm
    December 14, 2010

    I suspect the problem is the ‘guys at the top’ are not sharing the pain, the world is upside down with the bankrupts being baled out and why are a lots of people paid more than average earnings in benefits?

    Also the size of the state overhead and examples set by some in Westminster at the top. (Never mind BBC and others)

    Why do we have so many tiers of government? Many unwanted the EU,Central,local,regional? Why do we have EU increased funding? The EU bureaucracy should have been gutted, the alternative is to gut Westminster and below. I suspect an EU putsch, those that are in the lifeboat at Westminster may find they get thrown overboard by the EU captain but hopefully it will be the next guy.

    Why do we have to bailout Ireland and other countries banks and bondholders?

    If banks are healthy enough to pay bonuses they should not have state support, solvency or liquidity. This requires retrospective legislation particularly as we have been captured.

    Where are the equivalent cuts to MP headcount and the above, (Hopefully not yourself). (Never mind reform of the salary,so called expenses, pensions). What do they add and is it worth it versus other savings.

    Why are House of Lords daily allowances tax free? Why do we need so many? Why do we have so many MP’s from below voted in to HofL. Seems like a very cosy club.

    Why do we have NI ( a tax)?
    Why do we have the concept of domicile in todays society?
    Shouldn’t large retail company be taxed on their UK activities and real profits?

    How can we justify immigration at any sizeable level until we can provide the basic opportunities to those who already reside here.

    As we are an island we should not worry too much about small amounts of extra subsidy per head going to Scotland,Wales etc but this should not lead to direct discrimination of the English born residents of England for example tutition fees.

    Why does our democracy and voting feel meaningless and disconnected from the electorate? How about recall provisions on MP’s?

    Regarding economic disparities , we need to ensure as far as possible that similar legal health standards, work standards,enviromental standards apply to all products both in the UK and abroad. With outright cessation of the business or imports into the UK. Perhaps a carbon tax should be applied to all goods imported or not?

    Where is the plan to reduce imports of energy, food etc and to become self sustainable?

    Your are right global imbalances are huge so what are the real solutions? If proper plans are not put in place i suspect the value of paper money will count for nothing and liabilites become meaningless.

    I much appreciate your thoughts, the readers thoughts and hope we find our way through this madness. I would still encourage students to go to university as long term decisions shouldn’t be effected by short term politics.

    1. BobE
      December 14, 2010

      The House of Lords is a benifit system for the upper classes.

  15. RP
    December 14, 2010

    “Mobs should not rule. But the people do need a representative democracy.”

    I think you are confusing direct democracy with representative democracy…

    1. Iain Gill
      December 14, 2010

      we need to evolve a better democracy which is closer to the decent, honest people of the country

      definitions of “direct democracy” and “representative democracy” belong in history textbooks and neither describe where we need to go to solve our current issues

  16. wab
    December 14, 2010

    We could tax the rich more, in particular City bonuses (funnily enough, the people who contributed most to the financial mess in the first place are the one group of people who have not suffered in the fallout). On the other hand, it is not unreasonable that students contribute something to their education, and the real question is what amount. The 3k was arbitrary and the new regime is also arbitrary. (And it is unfair that the English taxpayer has to subsidise Welsh and Scottish students, who get a much better deal.)

    The real worry here is that what the government has proposed will leave us in a lose-lose-lose situation. Students will obviously be worse off financially. And after all the government posturing, universities will probably also be worse off. (It is probably not entirely a coincidence that some universities, e.g. Imperial, are already laying staff off.) And as a result, the country will probably eventually also be worse off.

  17. Mark
    December 14, 2010

    The canard is the assumption that student numbers are immutable. If the tuition fees fail to dissuade large numbers from studying for a “degree”, then taxpayers will be picking up the largest slice of the bill in any event. Official estimates appear to show that only 25% of graduates will pay off their loans: such estimates could well prove optimistic if high fees and taxes drive graduates into a brain drain. Even at the current lower fees, 70% of EU students are not paying them off at all – because there is no mechanism to collect them from those who go abroad.

    David Davis seems to have been almost alone among politicians in being prepared to recognise publicly that student numbers need to be cut. Only by rationing degrees on the basis of ability will graduate salaries generate the taxes that will pay for their cost. Any other scheme will simply result in taxpayers paying for education that will only be of real benefit to a minority of students. We need to provide education that is appropriate to the skills of the student and which gives them a route to a career, rather than a route to a life on the dole. I do not think that Deloitte will be alone in choosing to educate its own school leavers rather than trying to fish in the uncertain pool of graduates – but that is an option that only the largest companies can afford.

    Now, how do you think the rioters would respond to fees paid by government as an investment in able students, with a promise of less than 50% tax rates if they are successful, but say a halving of university places? That used to work quite well. Now the promise is: be even modestly successful (earn say £45,000), and pay tax at over 50% if you wish to be so foolish as to pursue a career in the UK and have no tax credits for your children – so you better not have (m)any. The government is seeking to cleanse the country of its able youth, unless they are so rich as not to care, or poor enough to get the government’s shilling. Are you surprised they object to that?

  18. Stuart Fairney
    December 14, 2010

    Am I correct in saying that typical fees for a mid rank University will more likley be a mximum of £6K a year and only the elite Universities like Oxford will charge up to £9K?

    Frankly, if you don’t think it’s worth £27K to get an Oxford degree you probably would not be invited to take one. Also if you do a worthwhile degree at a former poly, you would probably make back the £18K in no time. `

    1. Mark
      December 14, 2010

      The numbers really don’t support that. In 2007-8, you were in the top 10% of earners at £44,900, and the top 5% at £61,500 (still not enough to pay off an Oxbridge degree debt in 30 years on the RPI+3% terms, although many Oxbridge graduates would hope to make the top 1%). The 25% point was £29,500, and the 50% point was just £18,500.

    2. BobE
      December 14, 2010

      So 27k in fees plus 24k in living costs gives a debt of 51k. This will rise at the rate of inflation currently 3.5%. It is not an interest free loan. As long as you are not repaying it it will continue to grow.

      1. Simon
        December 14, 2010

        Isn’t RPI + 3.5% the rate of growth at which pensions contributions which are notionally invested under the SCAPE scheme grow ?

        Are these loans to be used to fund teachers pensions or is the RPI + 3.5% a coincidence ?

      2. alan jutson
        December 15, 2010

        Bob E

        You cannot count living costs as part of the cost of University education, as you would need to eat and have somewhere to live no matter what you were doing, even if you were on the dole.

        The whole system of higher education needs to be looked at. It seems absolutely crazy that for just 5-8 hours tuition a week, for 36 weeks of the year, you need to rent accomodation away from home, and pay up to £9,000 per year.

        The idea that 50% of people should go to University is also past Government fantasy. Anyone would think that UK have never in history produced enough Engineers, Designers, Scientists, Doctors and the like ever before. In the last 10 years, it would seem that the absolute opposite is true we seem to have a shortage of all of these talents.
        Back in the 1930’s -1070’s we had hundreds of thousands of skilled people being trained every year, none of whom went to University, but instead chose to study either at Night School or through Employer funded schemes and apprenticeships.

        Once again the Politicians have Cocked it up by interfereing and trying to socially engineer people into University, many of whom should never be there in the first place, because there was at the time a much better and less expensive means to develop skills and gain Certificates.

  19. EJT
    December 14, 2010

    Not that I agree with the student case ( I believe that we should have a much smaller number of student – the result of setting standards at all stages of the education process that some will fail – and then fully fund the academic elite ). But ref. the costs

    We could not give aid to India and China, who have a huge trade surplus, nuclear weapons, space programmes etc.

    We could stop incurring AGW costs ( just boosted again by the Cancun commitment )

    We could pay less to the EU

    We could axe a shed load more quangos

    We could …

  20. EJT
    December 14, 2010

    In a nutshell, what about the morality of the way we are being governed ?

  21. Jose
    December 14, 2010

    There is nothing wrong in charging more for those people fortunate enough to go to university; it’s a priviledge not a right (Ronald Reagan). We shouldn’t expect anything different from the students particularly given that many of those interviewed don’t seem to understand the ‘new’ system! The government should just ‘get on with it’ and start on yet more reforms.
    Britain is indeed a pandered society when compared with China but we are where we are and do we really want to be like China? The most important things are how do we compete in a world market (Germany seems to cope alright), how do we improve our own society and how on earth do we GET OUT OF THE EU?

  22. Freeborn John
    December 14, 2010

    I certainly won’t condone the violence, but the cause the protesters fight for is a moral one. People deserve an equal start in life, irrespective of the wealth of the family they have been born into, and that requires state funding of the education system. Furthermore, education to the age of 16 or 18 no longer constitutes a decent start. All studies show that graduates earn substantially more throughout their lives than those who do not go to university, and a degree being a minimum requirement for entry into most professions. If a young person freely decides not to go to University that is their choice, but if economic circumstances prevent it, then this leads towards class-based society where repeated generations from one social strata are handicapped, and generations from another social strata are given unimpeded access to the start line in the race of life. There is nothing moral about that.

    The Coalition is arguing that because economic times are tough, we cannot afford to give rich and poor equal access to higher education. That is the immoral position. The cuts should come from within the state bureaucracy and not at the expense of the denial of life chances to the already disadvantaged.

  23. Martin
    December 14, 2010

    So is anyone surprised students have taken to the streets? High debts and the present government continuing Nu-Labour’s tabloid rubbish regarding students of “No one likes them we don’t care” The same nonsense sees all pensioners regarded as saints. (Some of today’s pensioners were to quote Mrs Thatcher “strikers and shirkers” of years gone by.)

    Why does a retired governor of the Bank of England get a fat public sector inflation proofed pension, free TV licence and a free bus while students get debt?

    P.S. some sort of dodgy good news for student debtors – the debasement of Sterling continues as inflation rampages upwards.

  24. Winston's Black Dog
    December 14, 2010

    £2.9 billion saved by tripling tuition fees £3 billion committed at the weekend in Cancun to fund the man made climate change scam.

    Either we need to save the money or we don’t. If we do then invest in our own young people than an elaborate fraud.

    I regard “are there too many students” as a separate debate since we are not saving money we are simply redirecting it from England to foreigners at a time we ourselves are strapped for cash.

    Whatever happened to charity begins at home?

  25. Mark
    December 14, 2010

    There is a very simple principle that should be applied to higher education and much else besides: it is what is a sensible investment? Buying degrees for nearly half our school leavers is not a sensible investment. Nor was trying to rebuild every school in the country in little more than a decade, or trying to replace coal fired power stations with heavily subsidised windmills that don’t even produce any electricity when we have a winter high pressure freeze. Every bad investment the country makes is money that has to be made up elsewhere. It makes the prospect of being able to eliminate the deficit more remote. It increases the risk that the country will suffer a terminal decline. It is therefore gravely disappointing that our MPs are unwilling to step up to the plate and deal with these problems. I now fear that Cancun will be turned into more expensive windmillery (and as Lord Lawson remarked we seem to be the only country in the world to have legislated to destroy its own economy so comprehensively in consequence) – because there is no backbone in Parliament to take decisions in the national interest as shown by tuition fees.

    1. alan jutson
      December 15, 2010


      Agree with the points you have made.

  26. Iain Gill
    December 14, 2010

    thoughts on the inflation news john?

    Reply: as forecast here

    1. Iain Gill
      December 14, 2010

      yea by me 🙂

    2. Geoff not Hoon
      December 14, 2010

      That ‘other’ brilliant John (Maynard Keynes) said “by a continuing process of inflation, government csn confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens”. Whether by design or not it is what is happening and despite King telling us for almost a year or more that inflation will fall “soon” it is, with zero real saving rates, ruining the people least responsible for the mess the country is in economically. As I have suggested here before his cost is one we can well do without. Let David Lees (Chairman) do the job instead.

  27. Frank H Little
    December 14, 2010

    Mark wrote David Davis seems to have been almost alone among politicians in being prepared to recognise publicly that student numbers need to be cut

    Several – David Heath comes to mind – have openly stated that the only viable alternative to the student loans regime is a reduction in state-funded places.

  28. Steve Cox
    December 14, 2010

    And yet again inflation accelerates.

    Is the Coalition in any way serious about controlling it? If so, what are they doing to bring it down? Why are interest rates still effectively at zero? Why is the Coalition continuing the Labour policy of beggaring savers and pensioners?

    I couldn’t care less about student fees, they have their whole earning lives ahead of them and they can and should make their own judgements about whether university is a worthwhile investment accordingly.

    We retired folk have no such options. We assumed (stupidly and naively it seems) that most governments worldwide had come to realise after the 1970’s and 1980’s that inflation is a genie best left in its box as, once out, it is almost impossible to tame again. Where are we now? Mervyn King and George Osborne seem to have forgotten or overlooked this completely.

    Please do tell us why the Coalition is hurting and alienating so many of its core elderly supporters with nary a word of regret, while all attention is on young thugs who have their whole lives ahead of them and seem unlikely ever to bother voting anyway?

    1. ken from glos
      December 14, 2010

      Inflation reduces Government debt. It also means that we all get poorer.You can look forward to years of this.Yes, it is deliberate.

  29. Tom
    December 14, 2010

    If businesses/companies want graduates to work for them why can’t they be encouraged to award bursaries to students who have to work for them for a set number of years when they graduate or pay back the bursary? The businesses/companies could set the costs against tax.

    1. alan jutson
      December 15, 2010


      The armed forces operate such a scheme in exchange for a few years guaranteed service after qualification.

      Many employers operated such schemes many years ago, they were called apprenticeships (Proper Apprenticeships I mean, which were Indentured and lasted 5 years) with day release (sandwich courses) and night school at the local Polytechnics, you worked for 4 days for the Employer went to Poly for a day and a night a week, you got paid a low wage and the tuition was free.
      Study was usually up to HND standard. with City and Guilds Qualifications for the more practical.

      None of this 6 week course and NVQ for almost anyone nonesense.

      Heard an interesting interview on the radio last night. It would seem that the very top Accountants Companies are now seeking good “A” level results students for direct recruitment, rather than University degree students.

      Training then completed for their industry, at no cost to the employee.

      Result: Good quality “A” level students can get exactly the same traing as post University students without any debt, with work experience, earn a wage and be qualified at an earlier age. Sounded just like an apprenticeship scheme (outlined above) of 50 years ago.

      How history repeats itself.

      1. Simon
        December 16, 2010

        Alan ,

        Those were proper companies offering 5 years indentured apprenticeships .

        The service sector companies that replaced them are working on much shorter timescales and are being assisted by the government to bring in cheap labour from abroad rather than invest in British Citizens .

        I wish history would repeat itself and come full circle but I fear that the change Britain has undergone is absolutely irreversible .

        The only sensible course of action for someone young , healthy and able is to emigrate .

  30. edgeplate
    December 14, 2010

    We are where we are, not where it makes sense to be. Universities were over-expanded under Nu Labour, but the Major government made the polytechnics into universities. A lot of the students have been fooled into thinking that a degree of some sort was a near guarantee of higher earnings. Vocational training has been sidelined. There are inequities between English students and others. Those in the universities now have had these extra charges sprung on them. The problems of ITCs and GATS have been explored before.

    It’s time for a rethink of higher education (not just degrees) and its wider setting, including ITCs, together with a plan for getting to a more sane position. Inevitably this would involve shutting down or changing the purpose of many universities, whether by market forces or government action. Once again this throws up some of the problems of being in the EU and the lopsided devolutionary settlement within the UK. Being in the EU is fundamental to many problems which are, on the surface, unrelated. The devolutionary settlement Nu Labour created is another underlying problem which can be plastered over, but the cracks will continue to appear, as the structure beneath is faulty.

    I’m not surprised that the new arrangements are causing anger, as they represent abrupt change and are considered unfair. There’s also the LibDems electioneering promises fueling the anger.

    The argument that these rioting students are doing damage which they will have to pay for is a little specious when viewed against the backdrop of wasteful spending running up huge debt and foolish policies governments have entered into, much of which has been highlighted on this blog.

  31. Henry North
    December 14, 2010

    And I suppose chucking an Gold Bar( £100000) at the EU every 100 seconds is justified? Why not chuck it at the Universities instead and have an intelligent, cultured population? Who won’t riot….because at the moment their money is going to fund the EU instead of being ploughed back into this generation to have the skills to be able to outperform the Chinese?

    If you dont invest in the people here and prefer to shore up the EU then Parliament Square reaps its own actions.

  32. Henry North
    December 14, 2010

    @ Jose This quisling parliament repeals the 1972 european communities act. It takes us out of Europe immediately and cuts off 1/4 of their funding. Yes we would be better off because we wouldn’t haemorrhage 42 million pounds every day. Thats right every 24 hours. £42000000 Pays for a heck of a lot of tuition fees and thats only one days worth . Imagine what one months worth of shoring up the EU could do to cash strapped university departments.

  33. A.Sedgwick
    December 14, 2010

    Politicians en masse are not good as recognising when the game is up. The University structure, recruitment and financing is another example. The pre existing mess has been heightened by the recent fiasco, which is deserving of peaceful protest. It is surprising that there is only one private university in the country. Oxford and Cambridge are good candidates for privatisation, the governing masters would ensure through bursaries and scholarships that standards were upheld. It is ridiculous that there are no tuition fees in Wales and Scotland(goodness knows what the rules are in N.Ireland) and now £9000 fees are possible in England and frequently for indifferent and occasional tuition. Most degree courses could be completed in a year less working on a four term calendar year basis. UCAS is another quango in need of the chop and local government should be kept out of the process. Interest being charged on student loans is unacceptable and to think Brown and Cameron were/are in favour of selling the loan book. Core subjects should not incur fees, Mickey Mouse subjects deserve whatever the market will bear.
    There are many further savings available in government expenditure that will cover sensible and controlled university education without burdening the next generations with high personal debt on top of government debt they already will be saddled with.

  34. Eoin Clarke
    December 14, 2010

    I have to say I disagree with much of the comments and also John’s words. Education is the most powerful transformative tool ever conceived. For those who oppose the big state, for those who oppose the re-distriubtion of wealth, I presume would still say that they want to live in a fair society. Nothing can be fairer than providing for the opportunity for every child in the country to pursue their educational potential to the fullest, irrespective of their wealth.
    In 1997, before Tony Blair took power, blues had an education system that provided for 31% of the nation’s children to proceed to third level, with no liability for fees. Having grown up in a town [Newry] where 1/3 of the adult males where unemployed, everyone strived to avail of this opportunity. My class had 100% pass rate of the 11+ [I’d aruge through sheer effort and good teaching] We collectively proceeded to university [Most of us QUB], and today contribute to the nation’s coffers much more than any of our parents. Blues blind sight themselves, when they ignore the tax take off students in later life. I’ve paid for my education, many times over.

    1. edgeplate
      December 14, 2010

      “Education is the most powerful transformative tool ever conceived. ”

      Yes, and so bogus education became an irresistible political manoeuvre for a thoroughly dishonest (or maybe just deluded) government, leaving one problem among others for a following weak government.

      It maybe a powerful transformative tool, but part of that is that it’s a sorting out process. It can’t involve prizes for all, and it does involve work and aptitude to succeed. It certainly isn’t perfect, although with a following economic wind, that pretence can be kept up for a time.

      I pretty well agree with the rest of your post, apart from pointing out that the destruction of the grammar schools, started by airhead lefties in the 60s, has had much to do with the loss of social mobility which they now so bemoan.

  35. adam
    December 14, 2010

    well prisoners get everything free
    bankers get huge bailouts
    Liars encouraged all these students to go to university, but now they are told there is no money

  36. JimF
    December 14, 2010

    Your thinking here is at odds with most of your contributors. You seem to be of the mindset that “students” are without exception are a dubious investment for the state, rather like it paying for some kind of breast enhancement (female I mean), where the returns are perhaps pleasurable but uncertain and rarely economically justifiable.
    Your contributors, however, suggest that educating the right people in the right way is definitely an investment, and one that should be taken on by the Government. This does seem a more plausible argument, but one that isn’t taken on board by the Government or political class. In another world, they would have us all train at the Man United Soccer academy, however lousy we were at football, and make it fashionable for us to borrow money to do so.
    Please understand that if the average graduate earns £100K more than the average non-graduate in his/her career, he will pay £50K more NI/PAYE.
    The more intriguing question concerns the bright spark who graduates from Oxbridge, starts a Company paying himself mainly in dividends, and never actually pays the extra 9% which I assume isn’t chargeable on investment income. Smart. That’s my boy!

    Reply: No, that is not my mindset. I too value a good education, and have argued the case for more scholarships and bursaries for the able and hard working to pay the fees for them. The point of the article was to show that as the country is lving well beyond its means the only issue is do students borrow the money themselves or collectively? It’s all going to be borrowed.

    1. Mark
      December 16, 2010

      The issue should be how many students should we fund from the UK, and how many from elsewhere in the EU? My first guess is no more than 15-20% of the population from the UK, and none from the EU (they can buy from us like other foreign students). Some of the savings can be used to fund Polys and some for remedial education for those unable to read and write after 15 years in the state school system etc.

  37. Henry North
    December 14, 2010

    Indeed I went to medical school, my parents financed me. There were no tuition fees at the time. I remember one poor student from Malaysia whose parents were in hock up to their necks and who had to study like crazy to make sure that she graduated and paid back the money and was incidentally in the top five for the whole of the course. Sixteen years later I have paid more tax than I care to mention. Its certainly over £100000 ( Im sure it has to be) Which is reasonable. I graduated without any debt thanks to my parents and my innate obsession with not going into the red. I managed on £200 a month and £40 of that was petrol.

    I can’t do that now Its frankly impossible. The pound is worth 80pence now of what it used to be in 2007

    One guy incidentally from Northern Ireland graduated with back then £13500 of debt ( but then the pound was worth five of what it is now)

    He probably got a government grant along with his student loan, Hes paid it back aswell.

    If you deny education and free education for people to excel then you are going to have a riot on your hands and that is exactly what you have got. Well done you.

    You don’t see any Welsh or Scottish Students outside the Scottish Parliament or outside the Welsh assembly do you? I certainly havent

  38. Ken
    December 14, 2010

    While the students rioted in Paris in the 1960s the majority of the French continued to support De Gaulle.

    I don’t think we should forget that the vast majority of students were not demonstrating but were down the pub or watching the telly or they may even have been in a lecture!

    As far as funding is concerned I favour far more input by those who employ graduates so that funding can more closely match supply of given courses. This should be done by individual scholarships and by pool funds where future employers can stipulate which type of courses they want their funding to go towards. Of course there should be matching funding from government. Of course it should be capped.

  39. norman
    December 15, 2010

    I’m very loath to link to articles but I read an excellent analysis of this problem today, so here it is:

    I’ll summarise a couple of points as I know it’s tedious reading linked articles.

    One point that struck me is the one the author makes about the government continuing to pay the fees for the children of the least well off parents. If the student only has to pay back the loan after they start earning £21k what is the rationale behind this move if it is not that fees will put people who don’t have all the cash available up front? Another kick in the teeth for the so-called ‘middle classes’ – those that try and earn their own way in life with minimal assistance from the state.

    Another good point the author makes is that the 50 odd Lib Dem MP’s (it is far less if you consider the payroll) are winning concessions left, right, and centre – OK, maybe not so much centre and right, more like left, left and left. What concessions have the far more numerous right wing Tories won for us conservatives (who loyally support the Party) so far? It seems none, no doubt as they don’t want to be seen as spoilers of the coaltion, or bad sports.

    Do we deserve nothing, just lie back and think of England while the Lib Dems give us a good seeing to?

    It’s time the right of the Party did something, at least David Davis tried, where are the rest of you? Surely to goodness we can’t be looking ‘forward’ to 5 years of the tail wagging the dog?

    Reply: David Davis criticised the tuition fee proposals because he thought they damaged social mobility. This was more in line with Lib dem criticisms. Philip Davies, in contrast, criticised them because he thinks fewer young people should go to university. The site you refer to does not seem to understand the different stances of Conservative critics of the tuition fee scheme, nor to grasp that the main issue the Conservative backbenchers are seeking to alter is the approach to the EU where you see much bigger Conservative rebellions.

  40. Andrew Johnson
    December 15, 2010

    Are most of the contributors looking at the broader picture. Britain is broke. LAB/LIB/CON share the same policies, but use different methods to achieve those policy aims. The political classes will not give us a referendum on the EU. The financial, immigration, social welfare, defence, education,housing, farming, fishing, pensions, manufacturing, transport, green policies are those of the madhouse, the cowardly, the inept and the downright treacherous.
    Fellow Redwood Readers, the West is in terminal decline. It is not a falling off the cliff decline, but a a steady decline as we see our infrastructure fall apart, suffer a real fall in our standard of living and our national identity and all that means begins to disappear.
    (Gloomy predictions of civil breakdown left out -ed)
    of I have resolved that I will never again, vote for any of the three main parties in my lifetime. Together they have robbed me, my children and my grandchildren of what is rightfully ours and continue to squander all that has made us proud and grateful to be British.
    I thank you Mr Redwood for this forum, and for your pereceptive analyses, but the fact that you and others who hold your views are not in this “Coalition” government says it all really doesn’t it?

  41. Bazman
    December 15, 2010

    Students are at Uni for themselves not the greater good whatever they say. A large number of of them are never going to earn enough to pay the grants back and the fact that a lot of them are there as they cannot get a job in the first place anyway. The riots should be directed at that fact. Students are not very sympathetic towards the circumstances of minimum wage employees. How ironic considering they expect them to pay for their courses. They are going to get an education they do not want and be paid for it when they enter the employment market. Except Tarquin/Beatrice who will get their Fathers chum to employee them making tea for 30k a year at least until a pointless job at a bank comes along or she gets married. Many of the students should also realise that like many other training their courses they exist to support other peoples business like universities, collages and the people who work there, and to subsidise the cost of training to other businesses who should be paying for specialised courses themselves not the often possible employee or the state.
    Takeaway/beer sales and rent is set to plummet.

  42. JoolsB
    December 16, 2010

    The biggest injustice is that these fees will only apply to English students. We all pay the same taxes in the UK so we should all get the same benefits, either everyone pays or no-one pays. What I don’t understand is we never hear one MP with an English seat stand up and demand an end to this blatant discrimination. In fact they all seem afraid to even mention the word England because they will have to admit there is a problem. The Conservatives were put there by the English, no one else. The other countries of the UK have their own Parliament/Assembly to look after their interests and yet it would seem the Conservatives are not looking afterEngland’s interests, if anything they are putting them last. When will one of them demand an end to the skewed Barnett formula? When will one of them stand up and ask what right MPs with non-English seats have to vote on English matters? Isn’t this how England only got tuition fees in the first place? Whilst the coalition is courting the devolved nations by even allowing them to defer their cuts, England is taking a beating. They should be ashamed of themselves.

  43. rose
    December 19, 2010

    I would also like to ask how it is responsible for schools and colleges to allow young people, and in many cases to encourage them, to go to these violent displays of mob rule. They are in loco parento and should prevent them from being endangered or manipulated by nasty older people.

  44. Neil Craig
    December 20, 2010

    Growth in the developed countries is sustainable. Hostorically it is easier to grow when you are already wealthy. It takes real effort (banning cheap power, banning GM foods, banning space industrialisation, making sure the cost of any building project is 93% paper shuffling etc etc.) to prevent us producing far more wealth.

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