Union warns Cable against graduate tax 'rebranding exercise'
Ahead of a key speech by the business secretary, Vince Cable, on 15 July, UCU warned the government that a graduate tax had to be more than just a rebranding exercise that increased the financial burden on students.
UCU said the government had to look at all the options on how to fund universities and warned against simply increasing the financial burden on the individual. Graduates currently pay back their university debt through the tax system. The union said it would judge any new plans on whether they increase the overall cost of getting an education or reduce it and added that what the government decides to call the plans were less important than what they do.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'All the polls show that the general public will not stomach a rise in university fees. If the government thinks it can get the public to swallow higher fees as some sort of graduate tax it is living in a dream world. We need a proper debate on how to fund our universities, not an exercise in rebranding. We will judge the plans on what they actually do and whether or not students will be forced to pay more, not how the government markets them.'
The union also said the government had to step back from any plans to force through two-year degrees, which it warned would damage the reputation of UK higher education and lead to education being delivered on the cheap. Members at UCU's annual congress in May voted overwhelmingly against two-year degrees saying they would massively increase the workload of staff and reduce the amount of time they could spend carrying out research.
Speaking about two-year degrees Sally Hunt said: 'Two-year degrees may sound great on paper but are in effect education on the cheap. They would be incredibly teacher-intensive and would stop staff from carrying out vital research and pastoral duties. Our universities are places of learning, not academic sweatshops, and we need to get away from the idea that more can be delivered for less.'
UCU has called for business to pay its fair share towards higher education by raising Corporation Tax to just the G7 average. Full details of the plans can be found at www.ucu.org.uk/bet