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Debate: University Tuition Fees (UK)

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Should students in higher education be charged tuition fees?

Background and context

Originally, UK students were supported by a maintenance grant from the government, which went towards payment for necessities such as food and accommodation. The last Conservative government replaced this system with a student loan, to be paid back after the student graduated and reached a set income. Tony Blair’s Labour government kept this loan, but added in a tuition fee for each student (currently £3225 per year ) to go towards the cost of their further education, which can be paid after the education, if necessary, in the same way as the loan. The introduction of tuition fees sparked a huge backlash, with many students refusing to pay them on principle. The proposition are therefore defending their introduction. The debate over which system preferable can often turn into a debate over whether university education is a right or a privilege. It should also be noted that many statistics can be produced by both sides for number of applications, percentage of applications by class etc, but as these are all for the very short term they may not be completely reliable.

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Argument #1

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Yes

Governments have only a certain amount of money to pay for services such as schools, hospitals and police. The core education, to which all are entitled is from five years of age to sixteen, and this is paid for by the state. University education is a privilege, not a basic right, and thus it is right for those who receive it to pay for it.

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No

As countries become more developed, they need are more highly-trained and skilled workforce. If this is the case, then the country in question should extend the ‘core education’ referred to by the proposition to cover university as well, on the basis that the county present prosperity allows an extension of the services the state supplies. Such funding would be well worth any increases in tax necessary to afford it.

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Argument #2

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Yes

We live in a capitalist society where we pay for services that benefit us. The graduate benefits immensely from his or her further education by receiving a substantially higher salary than a non-graduate, so it is only right to pay for this advantage in life.

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No

When we consider questions of state funding, we must consider them from the viewpoint of society as a whole. If these graduates benefit society as a whole, for example by attracting more commerce using business skills learnt, or improving services with a medical degree, then it is only right that society should pay for these skills to be acquired. There are no individuals; all are part of a society, and it is this society that must be considered.

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Argument #3

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Yes

The system is entirely fair to students from different backgrounds, as the fees are only paid back when a certain salary threshold is reached. Hence someone who fails to benefit from their education doesn’t apply for it.

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No

Contrary to the proposition’s claim, tuition fees discriminate enormously against those from poorer backgrounds, who are less able to get into debt. Even if they do choose to go to university, students who happen to have rich parents are at a huge advantage compared to those who have to pay the fee off themselves.

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Argument #4

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Yes

At the moment, it could be persuasively argued that too many people are currently applying to university (around 35 % of all students). Obtaining a degree is simply not worthwhile for some people given their future employment plans, and the time could be spend far more constructively in actual work. Universities feel pressured to take as many people as possible, as they are funded per student, yet this is not always in the students best interest.

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No

What sort of government presumes to decide on behalf of the public what career they should follow ? The proposition’s point screams elitism; people should be able to decide for themselves whether to take a degree or not. Besides, as a country becomes more developed, more skilled graduates are needed; the proposition by this argument are looking to stunt a nation’s growth.

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