Dylan Thomas and Marcus Booth were Presidents (respectively) of the Conservative associations at Edinburgh and St Andrews universities from 1999 to 2000. Dylan served in the British Army Intelligence Corps for 6 years seeing active service in Afghanistan and Iraq, he now works in Risk Management. Marcus is a corporate finance lawyer at leading UK law firm and is Chairman of Conservative City Future, having contested Angus at the 2001 general election. They are both on the approved parliamentary candidates' list. They are argue here that tuition fees should be scrapped altogether in order to provide the highly educated workforce that Britain needs for its future prosperity.
Vince Cable's proposals for a Graduate Tax and Lord Browne's review of higher education funding have put the cost of higher education back on the agenda. How we pay for university is one of the great questions of our age. Is university an entitlement to be funded by the state, or should graduates be asked to contribute more?
The coalition seems to be moving towards the latter. Tuition fees were introduced in 1997, tripled in 2004, and are expected to rise to £5,000 over the next few years. The typical student now leaves university with debts in excess of £20,000.
The notion of a free university education apparently should belong to an idyllic past. With record numbers of students we are told that the tax-payer can no longer afford the full cost. The historic deficit bequeathed by the last government only serves to strengthen the case. Graduates will, it is assumed, have to pay more by extending New Labour's tax on learning.
However the figures reveal how close we are to the provision of free university education. The UK spends a little over 1% of GDP on higher education, over 70% of which is government spending in the form of research grants, tuition fee subsidies, and student bursaries. Income from tuition fees, currently set at £3,300 per student, comes to only 0.15% of GDP or approximately £5 billion. This is small change for the government but an increasingly heavy burden for graduates.