'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Graduate taxes, Freedom of Information Requests and lifelong learning. All in one post.

I wrote a piece the other day pondering why we hadn't just called the new student fee system a graduate tax. Paid for by the student, over time, according to income, taken from salary. Sounds like a tax to me.

And I still think that. But two responses to my post have given me food for thought.

The first was a suggestion from Duncan Stott that the Treasury may have prevented ministers from referring to the new system as a graduate tax. This would be fascinating if true. So I have bunged in a Freedom of Information request to the DBIS asking what advice Ministers were given on this. If/when I get a reply, I'll be blogging.....

The second was a note from Tim Holyoake. He's woken me up to the fact that Open University students studying for an equivalent or lower level degree to one they already hold will have to pay their fees up front from next year. While current students are exempt from the new system, new students are not. With annual fees of £5000, many potential students will be priced out of the system. There's an excellent piece describing the issue in the TES.

Now, I suspect this is to do with prioritisation. Where there is money, we have chosen as a party to direct it towards the youngest in society, through initiatives like the pupil premium and free nursery places, where we believe tight funds can get the best results and have the most profound impact. I agree with this approach.

But I cannot pretend that the knock on effect of this sits easily with me. As Liberals we are philosophically wedded to the notion of giving every individual the opportunity to make more of their lives - and the best chance of delivering that must come through life long learning. A quick Google search indicates we have had very little to say on this subject since May last year - which is surprising.

It's an example of where we've had to make a tough choice due to the state of the economy.

But it's one we should re examine at the earliest opportunity.


  1. Absolutely agree.

    With patterns of work becoming more disjointed over a lifetime.

    With the rise of the contract worker and many people perhaps working for a large company for a period then choosing or needing to change direction in part or completely the need for workers in the economy to be adaptable is very high.

    Patterns of work are changing - and large companies don't do social welfare - look at pensions. Nor do they provide a paternalistic culture to train and nurture a worker throughout life any more.

    Workers need to develop themselves and build new skills and knowledge to match a changing economy and changing technology - and each of us is responsible for our own development.

    All this means that in building a modern adaptable knowledge economy a coherent policy to adult learning is as important as education for the young.

    Some of the young will need it too if they struggle to get careers off the ground in their early 20s in the current environment!

    Key topic this - thanks for posting it Richard.