DEBATE: ­­Is there an economic case for scrapping university tuition fees?

Students Demonstrate In Favour Of Free Education
Source: Getty

Is there an economic case for doing scrapping university tuition fees?

Matteo Bergamini, founder and director of Shout Out UK, says YES.

The developed world is moving away from unskilled labour, and as such we have to ensure we have a workforce that will be ready for the jobs of tomorrow. Education is not only a right for individuals, but also a must for our economy, as jobs will increasingly require more skill and education.

Free higher education is a small price to pay for a better informed workforce. All of the most successful corporations in the world invest huge amounts of money in staff training – the benefit can be seen by their success. University is by no means the only option to upskill our workforce, but it is the major one, and therefore should not be closed to those unable to pay or unwilling to riddle themselves with huge debt.

Barring some of the brightest minds from going to university due to their bank balance is not just infringing on their right to have higher education, but also hurts our economy. In the long run, we may not have the skilled labour we need.

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Alex Wild, research director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, says NO.

Jeremy Corbyn justifies his crusade against tuition fees on the grounds that it disincentives disadvantaged students applying for university. He is either ignorant, dishonest, or a combination of the two. He should look at Scotland where the lack of tuition fees necessitates a cap on places, and children from the poorest areas are four times less likely to go to university than children from the richest parts. In England, by contrast, they’re only 2.4 times less likely.

The current tuition fees system is highly redistributive, with higher earners paying back far more over their careers than lower earners, and debt being forgiven after 30 years. Labour is usually in favour of redistribution, but is now effectively campaigning for tax cuts for higher earners.

Abolishing tuition fees would cut university funding by £11bn. The income could be replaced with central government grants but large tax increases would be required: the equivalent of 3p on the basic rate of income tax. Those who do not go to university would end up subsidising those who do.

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City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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