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Published on February 17th, 2012 | by Annie Tippell
Image © Stop me if you’ve heard this one: student walks into a bar in 2011. Student owes government roughly £24k after taking out full tuition and maintenance loans. Student walks into bar in 2015. Student owes around £27k in tuition alone, and about £45k with maintenance. Myriad accounts of the tuition fee changes are floating around the interwebs, and you’d have to have spent the last few years on Mars not to know that from this September, universities will be allowed to charge up to £9000 a year for their courses. I don’t want to re-hash the same old arguments and counter arguments. We’re all aware that one side (Conservatives, redbrick universities, the Student Loans Company) sees the changes as a pretty sweet deal. There are three clear principles to the new system:

  1. students will not have to pay back their loans until they’re earning £21k
  2. payments will be made at a rate of 9%
  3. after 30 years, loan will be written off
Just go with me on this for a minute. If you are a student whose course commences in 2012 under the new £9k fee boundary, and end up earning the national average wage, over your working life you’ll pay back around £33000 and the remaining sum will be written off. Clear? Crystal. Here’s where my conviction starts to waver. In this instance, we’re basing the repayment on the value of the pound and the levels of inflation in 2011. So the £27000 in tuition fees is subject to a top-up of £6000 in real interest, which accumulates once the student hits the earning threshold. But if the same student enters a profession like, say, teaching, over the course of their employment they will have paid back £36000 over the course of 23 years (7 still to go – they’re only 43 years old at this point). Have a look at the BBC’s calculator for some massively flawed sums and incomplete information. David Cameron himself has suggested that students simply ‘do not understand’ the altered system. Let’s not play silly buggers, DC. When did not agreeing become synonymous with not understanding? As per usual, the PM leaves us stuck between a rock and a crazy place. The bottom line, and the massive counter argument to the Coalition’s education reforms, is that it is not as though the course that once cost £3000 in 2008 has undergone any radical alterations. Your ethics class isn’t suddenly going to be taught by the re-animated corpse of Ghandi. Thomas Pynchon hasn’t been hired to teach Creative Writing. Steven Hawking hasn’t yet discovered how to harness a worm hole and jump between all the physics departments in Britain without losing any sleep (why am I now thinking about Quantum Leap..?). On a hilarious side note, the New College of the Humanities, the warped brainchild of A.C. Grayling, attempted to draw in students clamouring to be taught by the modern media darlings (read: attention whores) of the Arts. Unfortunately, Grayling was busted for pilfering the syllabi of Royal Holloway, University of London. RHUL’s Principal was less than amused. Funnily enough, the powers that be are not suggesting that you get what you pay for. Fees have been raised to subsidise the crippling cuts to education across the board, and graduates have been told by David Willetts (so-called Skills Minister) that they ‘need to make a contribution’. This, from a man to whom expenses calculations are things done by other people, in a country that spends £900m on about two weeks of sport. But I’m still going by the old adage that if a dog can do it, it’s not a real sport. So far, so mind-numbingly ridiculous. On Thursday, Downing Street announced that it would abandon the LibDem initiative that would levy a 5% charge against any early repayments. When you’re down, you stay down. If you are in debt, you stay in debt. It’s also unclear whether universities are planning to penalise any students circumventing the loan scheme entirely. Students from well-off households that can afford to pay the fees upfront can happily slip into the 2012 UCAS stream while application numbers fall. On that note, let’s hear it for Callum Hurley and Katy Moore, the 17 year old students who took the government to the high court with the claim that the rise in fees constitutes a breech of the human rights act for the aforementioned reasons. Unfortunately they lost their case, but ‘they are pleased with the recognition that the government failed in its duties to properly think through the equality implications of its decision’. The entire fiasco has been rephrased, recycled and regurgitated for well over a year, and any final, optimistic rallying cry from me will sound largely redundant. But take Callum and Katy’s tenacity as the standard against which all those sitting at home, looking at the computer and grumbling about fees and living costs and unfairness and depravity, should measure themselves. Two students make a stand. The only joke is our apathy, should we fail to follow their lead.  

8

Two students walk into the high court…

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: student walks into a bar in 2011. Student owes government roughly £24k after taking out full tuition and maintenance loans. Student walks into bar in 2015. Student owes around £27k in tuition alone, and about £45k with maintenance.

Myriad accounts of the tuition fee changes are floating around the interwebs, and you’d have to have spent the last few years on Mars not to know that from this September, universities will be allowed to charge up to £9000 a year for their courses.

I don’t want to re-hash the same old arguments and counter arguments. We’re all aware that one side (Conservatives, redbrick universities, the Student Loans Company) sees the changes as a pretty sweet deal. There are three clear principles to the new system:

  1. students will not have to pay back their loans until they’re earning £21k
  2. payments will be made at a rate of 9%
  3. after 30 years, loan will be written off

Just go with me on this for a minute. If you are a student whose course commences in 2012 under the new £9k fee boundary, and end up earning the national average wage, over your working life you’ll pay back around £33000 and the remaining sum will be written off. Clear? Crystal.

Here’s where my conviction starts to waver. In this instance, we’re basing the repayment on the value of the pound and the levels of inflation in 2011. So the £27000 in tuition fees is subject to a top-up of £6000 in real interest, which accumulates once the student hits the earning threshold. But if the same student enters a profession like, say, teaching, over the course of their employment they will have paid back £36000 over the course of 23 years (7 still to go – they’re only 43 years old at this point). Have a look at the BBC’s calculator for some massively flawed sums and incomplete information.

David Cameron himself has suggested that students simply ‘do not understand’ the altered system. Let’s not play silly buggers, DC. When did not agreeing become synonymous with not understanding? As per usual, the PM leaves us stuck between a rock and a crazy place.

The bottom line, and the massive counter argument to the Coalition’s education reforms, is that it is not as though the course that once cost £3000 in 2008 has undergone any radical alterations. Your ethics class isn’t suddenly going to be taught by the re-animated corpse of Ghandi. Thomas Pynchon hasn’t been hired to teach Creative Writing. Steven Hawking hasn’t yet discovered how to harness a worm hole and jump between all the physics departments in Britain without losing any sleep (why am I now thinking about Quantum Leap..?).

On a hilarious side note, the New College of the Humanities, the warped brainchild of A.C. Grayling, attempted to draw in students clamouring to be taught by the modern media darlings (read: attention whores) of the Arts. Unfortunately, Grayling was busted for pilfering the syllabi of Royal Holloway, University of London. RHUL’s Principal was less than amused.

Funnily enough, the powers that be are not suggesting that you get what you pay for. Fees have been raised to subsidise the crippling cuts to education across the board, and graduates have been told by David Willetts (so-called Skills Minister) that they ‘need to make a contribution’. This, from a man to whom expenses calculations are things done by other people, in a country that spends £900m on about two weeks of sport. But I’m still going by the old adage that if a dog can do it, it’s not a real sport.

So far, so mind-numbingly ridiculous. On Thursday, Downing Street announced that it would abandon the LibDem initiative that would levy a 5% charge against any early repayments. When you’re down, you stay down. If you are in debt, you stay in debt. It’s also unclear whether universities are planning to penalise any students circumventing the loan scheme entirely. Students from well-off households that can afford to pay the fees upfront can happily slip into the 2012 UCAS stream while application numbers fall.

On that note, let’s hear it for Callum Hurley and Katy Moore, the 17 year old students who took the government to the high court with the claim that the rise in fees constitutes a breech of the human rights act for the aforementioned reasons. Unfortunately they lost their case, but ‘they are pleased with the recognition that the government failed in its duties to properly think through the equality implications of its decision’.

The entire fiasco has been rephrased, recycled and regurgitated for well over a year, and any final, optimistic rallying cry from me will sound largely redundant. But take Callum and Katy’s tenacity as the standard against which all those sitting at home, looking at the computer and grumbling about fees and living costs and unfairness and depravity, should measure themselves. Two students make a stand. The only joke is our apathy, should we fail to follow their lead.

 

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  • Helen

    'David Cameron himself has suggested that students simply ‘do not understand’ the altered system. Let’s not play silly buggers, DC. When did not agreeing become synonymous with not understanding? As per usual, the PM leaves us stuck between a rock and a crazy place.' – This is hideously accurate.

  • Haha Annie you make me laugh – ‘your ethics class isn’t suddenly going to be taught by the re-animated corpse of Ghandi’. Is that a reference to me?! I tried to work the tuition fees calculator thing on the BBC link, but it gives skewed results (as you point out)! Why doesn’t it show the full 30 year repayment for every profession?

    Jay

  • ‘Hideously accurate’. Storing that for future use, thanks Helen.

    Jay – 1. No comment! 2. I know, I found it intensely frustrating, I don’t think it’s accurate at all. At best, it’s intentionally misleading. State media, man.

  • Pingback: Two students walk into the high court… « blunt crayon()

  • Written well, for the most part, but don’t you feel as if the issue is more complex than that?

    • anniedemer

      Hi Angela, sorry for not replying sooner, I've only just spotted your comment (a couple also seem to have disappeared…most confusing!).

      It's certainly a complicated situation – but in this piece I've tried to pare down the available information online to give as simple a summary as I can. Think of it as a springboard – dive into the links I've provided if you'd like to see my sources & follow anything up. I'm sure that when the time comes (actually, this September!), we'll surpass the realm of theory and hypothesis, and see how the new system works in practice. 'Time will tell', as they say (ugh, how cliche!).

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