Monday, 13 December 2010

STATEMENT: Communist Party lecturers and teachers call for abolition of tuition fees

The Communist Party’s Education Workers’ Advisory Committee steering group reaffirmed on Saturday its opposition to university tuition fees following last week’s narrow victory in Parliament for ConDem coalition plans to lift the cap on fees to £9,000 per year.

Communist Party chair, and former president of the National Union of Teachers, Bill Greenshields, reported that: “The current government is continuing and accelerating the commodification of education — the process by which education will increasingly be for sale only to those student ‘consumers’ who can afford it, and to big business through its domination of research, etc.

“The Communist Party regards education not only as a service to individuals which should be provided regardless of ability to pay, but also as a centrally important basic industry vital for the development of all aspects of an advanced society.”

Calling for the abolition of tuition fees, the steering group supported as a fair and viable alternative proposals drawn up by the University and College Union (UCU) and left think tank Compass for a Business Education Tax, increasing corporation tax in Britain to the G7 average and raising almost £3.9 billion.

David Goode, Vice-president of Cambridge UCU, told the meeting: “Of the G7 countries, the Britain has the second-lowest rate of corporation tax, behind Japan, Germany, France, Canada, and the United States, with only Italy coming in cheaper. The G7 average rate of corporation tax is 32.87 per cent, with Britain very much in the bargain basement for big business at 28 per cent.”

The landmark 1997 Dearing report on higher education that led to tuition fees listed the three beneficiaries of higher education as the individual, the state, and the employer, and said the key was finding a fair way to get all three to pay their share.

Since that report, fees and then top-up fees have been introduced, the state continued to invest (until now, at least), but the employers' contribution has been negligible. Despite benefiting from more generous business tax arrangements than other countries, employers in Britain spend less on employee training and development, and invest less than the global average in supporting university research and development.

Goode went on to tell the steering group that: “Increasing the level of corporation tax in Britain to the G7 average would raise almost £3.9 billion — more than enough to abolish all tuition fees while only affecting the richest four per cent of companies. Ninety six per cent of companies would remain unaffected, and the small business rate would stay at 21 per cent. Britain's corporation tax rate would still be below that of Japan, the United States, and France, and lower than it was last time the Conservatives were in power, countering objections that it would damage business in Britain by making it uncompetitive.

“The steering group will be seeking to promote as widely as possible the Business Education Tax,” said steering group convener Simon Renton, of University College London. “The UK’s unusually low rate of corporation tax allows big business to benefit greatly from a plentiful supply of high-quality graduates without paying towards them, while the graduates themselves will be saddled with decades of debt. This simply is not on.

“We believe that the proposals will be welcomed by hardworking families who want their children to benefit from education but are put off by the debts created by university tuition fees that will follow them round for the rest of their working lives.”

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