So now we know. It’s going to be a graduate tax. Or maybe it isn’t. Depending on which newspapers you happened to read over the last couple of weeks, the future of higher education funding will either be an additional premium on the income tax of graduates, or a more complex income-linked repayment system.
Some Conservatives were alarmed to see that the coalition had apparently identified a new tax as their favoured solution. In fact, those who watched David Willetts being interviewed the other weekend will have heard him say something rather different. What he actually said was:
"We do have a preference for a way of going forward that involves graduates after they have got into work… we do think that then graduates should make a higher contribution to the benefits of the university education they've received."
This line is one I find rather familiar - and is not exactly new. It has in fact been Conservative policy for five years. On 20th August 2005 the Shadow Education Secretary - one David Cameron - said in an interview with the FT:
"We all know that we want Britain's universities to be the best in the world. That will mean that there ought to be some method of co-payment for people going on to higher education."
When he became Leader that policy was confirmed, and has remained his view ever since.