Owen Smith has revealed plans to scrap tuition fees and replace them with a top-up graduate tax. In an attempt to increase his share of the youth vote in the ongoing Labour leadership contest, the MP for Pontypridd also promised guaranteed apprenticeships and more new starter homes if he were to gain power.
Speaking at Nottingham University on Saturday Mr Smith spoke of the way in which the government had ‘let down’ young people ‘time and again’. He said, ‘They have been given a rotten deal and we must turn this around’.
In Mr Smith’s plans, tuition fees would be replaced by a graduate tax, amounting to 1-2% of earning above £15,000 for a specified period after graduation. This period is likely to be around 25 years. It is also possible that graduates whose earnings are in the highest tax bracket could be taxed an addition 1-2% of their income. The plans have been criticised as being too similar to the existing earning-based repayment system.
Mr Smith has pledged to guarantee apprenticeships for people with level three qualifications. Level three qualifications are most often achieved in the form of at least two A-level passes but include other certificates including level 3 NVQs and BTEC Nationals. The apprenticeships would run for a minimum of two years, with the apprentice guaranteed the national living wage. They would receive a combination of practical training and ‘off-the-job learning’.
The new apprenticeships would be funded by increasing the levy paid by large companies for apprenticeships to 1%. It currently stands at 0.5%.
Jeremy Corbyn, the incumbent leader of the party and the only rival candidate, has also expressed support for abolishing tuition fees.
Voting has already begun in the contest, with around 650,000 people eligible to vote. The result will be announced in Liverpool on 24th September.
Meanwhile, international students are likely to face more stringent visa rules, foolowing a recent announcement from Theresa May.
According to The Times, the Prime Minister told cabinet colleagues that limits on EU migrants “are a priority” for Brexit negotiations, and “work is under way to examine how to reduce the number of international students coming to the UK”. The Prime Minister is said to want universities to “develop sustainable funding models that are not so dependent on international students”.