Last week’s poll: funding higher STEM education

Engineer readers support variable fees to reflect differing costs of degree courses

Our poll in response to the government’s review of higher education funding attracted 379 responses, but half of respondees declined to pick one of our suggested options. The option attracting the largest number responses was for variable fees to reflect the cost of running different courses, with 20 per cent of the vote; a sliding graduate tax to repay higher education costs attracted 16 per cent. Former education secretary Justine Greening’s suggestion of a graduate tax to pay into a higher education fund to pay for future students’ studies attracted 14 per cent of responses.

There was no clear trend in the comment section to pick out a favourite solution, but of the 41 comments we received from readers, there seemed to be some support for the state picking up the full cost of science engineering and technology higher education.

‘Sally’ noted: “We do need to fund higher education in some way, but the present system is unsustainable, and for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who do not have the parental bank to help them out, we have seen real hardship. A graduate tax seems a sensible system as it is related to pay rates, but the maintenance grants need to be brought back and be independent of parental ability to pay.”

‘Edward’ stated: “What I genuinely struggle to understand is how the country could go back to the system under which I was educated. In those far off times less than 10 per cent of the population had the opportunity to attend University. Consequently, the costs were much lower and could be funded from taxation.”

We also saw some support for apprenticeships. “A fully trained apprentice is producing wealth quicker than a university graduate. Also still too many companies insist on a Degree to obtain a job. This is very much outdated in my opinion. There are many people who are equal or better than graduates who in many cases have to retrained into the real world to make a living,” said AB Dutton.

Several readers expressed sympathy for graduates saddled with high debts when embarking upon their career, while Stewart Barker had a novel suggestion. “The majority of University Degrees should be sponsored by industry, local government or the NHS,” he said. “The sponsors get to nominate their candidates and in return get a proportionate reduction in corporation tax. A percentage of the nominees should have spent some time working for the company sponsoring them. Not everyone want to or needs to go to university directly from school.”