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23rd July 2011

Rector calls for graduate tax over tuition fees

Exeter College’s Rector, Frances Cairncross CBE, has written an article for The Scotsman arguing that the Scottish Parliament should avoid making the mistakes of Westminster by creating a graduate tax.

In the article the Rector suggests that the Scottish Parliament’s decision to provide free university study for Scottish and EU students comes at the detriment of university education provision in Scotland. Government grants for universities are being slashed across the UK. The Rector argues that without new funding mechanisms in Scotland, there will be a shortfall that will affect the quality of teaching and facilities and, ultimately, harm the ability of Scottish universities to compete with universities in other countries, including England.

Nevertheless the Rector does not advocate a deferred tuition fee system, as the Westminster Government has decreed for English students. Instead she proposes that the Scottish Parliament make up the shortfall in funding using a voucher scheme, the value of which might vary from university to university and even from course to course, and then recoup the cost of that scheme by introducing a capped graduate tax from 2015 onwards.

Frances Cairncross is a member of the council of economic advisers for the Scottish Government and was previously on the staff of The Economist for 20 years, most recently as management editor. Her full article, which is the first of a four-part series on higher education from the David Hume Institute, is available to read on the Scotsman website.

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