Increased Student Fees Constitute a Socially Progressive Graduate Tax in all But Name

5 Jan

Below is a recent addition to Mute magazine’s series ‘Frequently Asserted Fallacies of the Crisis and How to Quash Them‘,  Danny Hayward explains how working class exclusion and ‘fairness’ go hand in hand

FAF #6: Increased Student Fees Constitute a Socially Progressive Graduate Tax in all But Name
Danny Hayward

The raising of the fee-cap from £3,290 to £9,000 per year constitutes a risk-free programme of social exclusion, in which the middle- and upper-classes are charged a ‘fair’ rate for an education that will allow them to reap the economic benefits of employment in a newly desaturated graduate jobs market. The excluded working classes will be generously relieved of the tax burden of supporting their high-born compatriots, while that second group’s greater access to education resources will relieve them of the need to compete with or live in the same areas as their one-time beneficiaries. Working class people will not pay for what they will be structurally encouraged not to ‘get’, unless of course they belong to the category of the meritoriously obedient with the ‘desired mind-set’; and the ‘diversity’ that the Browne Report ceaselessly enjoins will essentially be the reinforced diversity of class positions in a system of ever more differential access to social goods.


Opponents of the centre-left proposal for a graduate tax claim that such a measure faces insuperable ‘technical’ difficulties. First among these is that it will ‘arbitrarily’ tax the richest graduates on some of their later income. Due to their reasonable refusal to countenance a £40,000 debt (liable to be auctioned off at some future date to profit-seeking financial institutions), most impoverished teenagers will be unable to become graduates, but this alas does not qualify as a ‘technical’ difficulty and so remains perfectly tolerable. Meanwhile the Adam Smith Institute tactfully advocates that ‘tuition fees’ be renamed ‘graduate income repayments’ as a means of diminishing popular discontent which, with quintessential superciliousness, it believes to be directed merely towards concepts and phrases.


As the UK economy is helped to ‘grow its way out of recession’, and to flatten in the process all those reliant on state support, the UK Higher Education (HE) sector will shrink to fit the plans of a political class who now recognise that ‘massified’ HE need not be too massified and ought at any rate to resemble a factory more than an agora. Those left in e.g. non-elite English departments will spend their time managing newly prioritised ‘student demand’ for the Siamese twins of transferable skills training and culture industry pulp, no doubt striving in their ‘free time’ to demonstrate that their research will issue in new marketable concepts in ‘homeland security’. Thus Lord Browne’s beautiful image of a ‘sustainable’ and ‘fair’ Higher Education system.

The complete ‘Frequently Asserted Fallacies of the Crisis and How to Quash them’ can be read here:


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