Retro Grad Tax – petition


The idea of retrospective graduate tax, applicable to everyone in the UK who holds a degree from a UK university, seems to have caught on. It has been covered, and supported, in The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph, and on many blogs. I have been asked by many people how this idea can be taken forward, so I have set up an online petition – which can be found here:

http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41437.html

If you support this idea then please sign, and spread the word.

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About Prof. Colin Talbot

Professor of Government (Emeritus). Universities of Cambridge and Manchester, England.
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14 Responses to Retro Grad Tax – petition

  1. Lisa says:

    applied to all those who pay income tax and graduated from University

    Do you really mean ‘all’? I support the idea that people who benefited from a free university education should now be asked to pay something back into the system, butat 25 I already pay 9% of income over £15,000 back on my student loan and have the same issues as today’s students with high house prices/deposits, rising cost of living and a difficult jobs market; I don’t particularly want to sign the petition as currently formulated and let myself in for paying back twice.

  2. Colin Talbot says:

    very good point Lisa – the intention is to try to establish a principle here, not a detailed policy and administrative system. There are a whole host of issues that would need to be resolved – like the one you raise. In your case there are several possible solutions – all involving recognising any payments already made under tuition fee loans.

    There are other big issues – most notably the position of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But the issues are no greater than that with the loans system, which is already producing ludicrous results – e.g. English students being charged tuition fees at Welsh Universities, while EU students don’t! Where’s the sense in that?

    So I hope you will understand this is about establishing a principle, not the details.

  3. Stephen Wilkinson says:

    As this could only work using means testing and would be relative to the graduates’ wages and oh yes, hmmm, so are taxes and as graduates tend to earn more, they pay more taxes anyway.

    This is basically an idea to make people pay twice for the same thing.

  4. Colin Talbot says:

    Sorry Stephen but you have obviously misunderstood. First, this would be a simple adjustment to the tax code for all graduates – so everyone who is working who ever graduated would make a small contribution, spreading the burden considerably. There is no need for means testing.

    If you are arguing that everyone who pays taxes now is already paying for higher education then you are of course right – but some of those people do not benefit personally from it and are therefore paying for something they don’t get. I believe a balance therefore needs to be struck between societal gain (paid for through general taxes) and personal gain (paid for through a small additional payment through the tax system).

  5. Stephen Wilkinson says:

    Colin, you are obviously not getting the fact that graduates in the most part earn far more than non graduates so are ALREADY paying MORE in tax than non graduates.

    So on top of paying more in tax anyway, you want us to pay even more.

    Society gains from graduates increasing the value of the economy so I don’t buy into what you’re saying there either.

    Before adding extra taxes on to graduates, perhaps we ought to stop the English having to pay for free university education for the Welsh and the Scottish?

  6. Geoff Hodge says:

    So, I have a degree from an English University. I had to pay for this (I was one of the first to have to pay a fee). I wasn’t eligible for a grant and had to work right through just to pay for this. Now you want me to pay an additional tax (even if disguised as tax code change – still less money for me) even though this wasn’t agreed at the time and I paid for my education.

    This is akin to a supermarket ringing you up, out of the blue and saying “we have decided to raise the price of bread by £2 and back date this two years. According to your loyality card, you have bought two loaves of bread per week. Please pay £208 by return”.

    Where is the petition against this?

  7. Colin Talbot says:

    Geoff, I understand your concern but of course exemptions would be made for people who have already paid. The debate about principle here are actually very simple:

    1) do you think the cost of HE should be shared between general taxation and a specific payment by those who benefit?

    2) if you do, should this payment be in the form of a loan and repayment or a tax?

    My personal preference would have been that the answer to (1) should have remained “no”, and we should have stuck to paying for HE out of general taxation. But I’m realistic enough to accept we are past that. So we are forced to choose between a gradaute tax or a loan and repayment system. The latter is purely being pursued in order to force Universities to compete on price, which I personally oppose. Higher education is already competitive enough, on quality, without introducing financial competition too, which is bound to be regressive.

    I would still like to adjust the balance between the two – this governments reckless and unnecessary 80% reduction in teaching grant to Universities has tilted the balance towards student contributions way to much. If, for example, the balance was struck somewhere in the middle between paying for HE teaching costs from general taxation and a graduate tax applied to everyone (except people in your position) then the graduate tax would only be about 1p on the basic tax rate.

    My real point with this idea – and the petition – was to allow people like myself who benefitted from a “free” University education in the past should pay a bit more back than straight taxation does. I am willing to do that, rather than see a new generation of working class kids get put off going to University altogether. As someone who left school at 16 and came from a relatively poor working class background, I know I would not have gone to University if it had meant accruing the sort of debt now being contemplated.

  8. Stephen Wilkinson says:

    I went to university from a poor working class background, infact I was the first of my family to go. I was “lucky” in that I recieved part grant and part loan – not as lucky as if I’d gone to university at 18 instead of 27 as I’d have received all grant like my peers though.

    If you wish to put something back into HE, why not do something via your alumni association and pay towards a bursery?

  9. G says:

    I graduated 11 years ago. I didn’t have fees to pay, but got no grant, and was fortunate that I was able to live at home whilst working at a part time job when not attending lectures.

    Now it’s being suggested that, having worked hard throughout school and university to find a good job, where I have also worked hard and progressed well (the main motivation being that I could earn more than I would had I not gone through all of that), that I should pay additional tax to pay back for my HE?

    Apart from not being what I signed up for when I left school, and the impact on my earnings where would it end? Would I be taxed on my salary and pension until death? Or only until the value of my own HE had been convered? How would that be determined and balanced against inflation?

  10. Chris Gillie says:

    Are you people completely mad!

    I am already having my income savings and expenditure raped by the treasury, I recieved no support for my education and now you want to tax me again

    Baloney!

  11. IngridK says:

    How would this work for foreign graduates like me? I paid (and received a subsidy) in the US system, but live, work and pay taxes in the UK. I’m a great deal – the US paid for my education and the UK reaps the benefits. I would leave if I were taxed for being a graduate and I would take my UK-educated husband with me.

  12. Colin Talbot says:

    As this is to pay for UK higher education it would hardly be fair to tax graduates from other systems, would it? The aim, I repeat, is to allow those of us who benefitted from ‘free’ UK HE in the past to contribute to paying for HE now and in the future, creating some intergenerational equity.

  13. G says:

    I think to say this will “allow” us to contribute to paying for HE seems misleading – it suggests this contribution isn’t mandatory…if you’re saying there would be the opportunity to opt out, then I’m all for it for those that wish it, but would opt out immediately.

    We understand what the “aim” is, and it doesn’t sound popular…many of us already pay higher taxes as the result of higher earnings received as the result of slogging through HE. Some of us have opted to work in the public sector where pay is traditonally less than for equivalent roles in the private, and given pay freezes and the rising cost of of living, and attempt to tax us further FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES! would go down like a lead balloon.

    I’d like to echo the call for a petition against this.

  14. christinapd says:

    I have just come across this blog post having read some of your other posts which I thought were quite sensible. I find it difficult to believe that anyone could consider such a move. The whole issue about HE funding needs to be reviewed starting with a blank sheet of paper. My daughter paid £3000 per year for her course that was her choice. In her first year her university broke up for Christmas the second week in December – she didn’t return until February. If universities condensed their full time courses and ran them like a business that would cut down costs instead of penalising past graduates who didn’t sign up on that basis. If courses are out of the reach of most ordinary people then they need to review the way they deliver them

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