University blues

August 18, 2010, 7:04 PM GMT+0

Over half (52%) of Brits think that too many young people are studying at university and many agree with Vince Cable’s proposals to overhaul the undergraduate funding system, recent research has revealed.

This comes in light of Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willetts's announcement that more than 160,000 pupils are likely to miss out on university places this year. Some have even suggested the number could reach 200,000 as applications strongly outweigh available places. There are currently around 2,396,000 full time students in UK higher education but despite such high numbers, the poll also found that 25% think the number of entrants is ‘about right’.

Loans and taxes

As the cost of educating such high numbers of students becomes an issue of contention, the Coalition Government is currently looking at ways to bridge the gap between university funding and the real price of degrees. Currently, ‘home’ students (those who are from the country in which they intend to study e.g. England) pay £3,225 a year upfront in fees to their university. This sum can be paid by the Government via The Student Loans Company, and then paid back through taxes once a graduate earns over £15,000 a year.

However, Business Secretary Vince Cable has suggested an overhaul of the current system, replacing it with a variable graduate tax. This would mean that instead of receiving a loan and going into debt, graduates would pay an increased rate of tax, which would rise in line with earnings.

Although the proposal has been rejected by senior members of Government, our survey has found it to be the most popular option amongst the public. Over a third (36%) think that a graduate tax would be the best way to fund universities, whilst 29% believe the current system to be the best.

Interestingly, those most likely to still be in university education (18-29 year olds), think that the current system works best, with 38% choosing it, compared to 22% of 18-29 year olds thinking the graduate tax option would work best.

Survey details and full results