On the plus side, it does an efficient job of demolishing the ludicrous "graduate tax" idea. Also, it acknowledges that
Other countries are increasing investment in their HEIs and educating more people to higher standardsAnd the graphic design is striking in a rather retro way. It would have been improved by being embellished with the dirty fingerprints of assorted Labour party politicians, since the previous Government commissioned the report, but although the fingerprints are missing, the following quote serves that purpose:
Students do not pay charges, only graduates do; and then only if they are successful. The system of payments is highly progressive. No one earning under £21,000 will pay anything.Of course, the above is too good to be true. It reeks of Gordon Brownism, in that it's making promises too good to be true: no-one pays anything, you get much more back that you pay in later, and Government can print all the money needed to fill the short-term funding gap. There's also some stuff about student charters that looks suitably new-Labourish.
We estimate that only the top 40% of earners on average will pay back all the charges paid on their behalf by the Government upfront; and the 20% of lowest earners will pay less than today. For all students, studying for a degree will be a risk free activity. The return to graduates for studying will be on average around 400%.
However, the present government seem happy to accept this gift. The headline figure of 7000 pounds per year to study at a UK university is dismaying many people, although not nearly as much as the lack of any limit on the fees that may be charged.
Here's a David Blunkett quote that I found here
This is a complete betrayal by the Liberal Democrats of everything that they have ever said on higher education and of the platform they stood on at the general election. The Tories have already performed a volte-face on their previous policy. This leaves only the Labour party with any credibility on student funding and the future of our great universities ...
The fact that the Labour party introduced university fees in the first place, and commissioned this report, seems to have escaped his attention! And here is the single take-home message of this blog post: Labour is to blame (or, if you like fees, they get the credit). Don't ever forget that. And don't ever forgive people like Blunkett for trying to trying to pass on the blame to his opponents.
What happens next? i.e., more specifically, how much will universities will charge? Probably there will be a high ``sticker price'' embellished with a system of discounts and bursaries for students with good exam results. It is tempting to assume that Oxford and Cambridge will gleefully impose very high fees, but they will be reluctant to be seen to be shutting out poorer candidates. Below them, prestigious universities will want to be seen to have a relatively high fee since university degrees are a Veblen good, but then they will have concerns about being able to attract enough students at the basic sticker price. If high fees do not deter too many UK students, then overseas students may be a casualty, at least if they no longer pay substantially higher fees than home students.