Andy Burnham says he'll get rid of them—but does that make sense?by Prospect Team / August 6, 2015 / Leave a comment
The meteoric rise of Jeremy Corbyn over the last fortnight has ignited the Labour leadership contest, and policy measures are now storming in from all candidates. Today, Andy Burnham revived the issue of tuition fees, promising to scrap them in favour of a graduate tax. Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Burnham vowed he would “lift the millstone of debt” from students. His plans are an extension of Labour’s election pledge to reduce the cap on tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 a year. By invoking this emotive issue, Burnham presumably hopes to win over some of those drawn towards Corbyn.
But beyond the political, is there any justification in abolishing tuition fees?
Desperation, not good policy
Sam Bowman—Deputy Director of the Adam Smith Institute
There is little reason to scrap tuition fees. The Independent Commission on Fees found that they have “not put off students from disadvantaged backgrounds from applying to university,” and application rates are higher now than ever. Those people who predicted that tuition fees would put people off applying were wrong.
Nor is it distributionally progressive to scrap fees: the earnings repayment floor means that people only pay on annual earnings above £21,000, and most graduates will have a substantial portion of their fees written-of…