December 15, 2010
Last week’s vote on student fees saw thousands of angry protestors descend on Westminster, to no avail as the proposal has now passed both houses. This is obviously a very thorny issue for the Coalition – and the Lib Dems in particular.
But what’s interesting is that the main counter proposal to hiking student fees was a proposed graduate tax. Only thing, it isn’t really an option, due to two rather large glitches – foreign students and EU law.
A tax would only cover those residing and earning money in the UK, thereby allowing foreign students to circumvent paying. Considering that the UK is home to some of the best universities in Europe, and there are currently about 120,000 students from other member states at British universities, this could potentially mean substantial financial losses to the UK university system; losses that would have to be paid back by graduates staying in the UK.
A solution to this dilemma would be to have a two-tier system whereby a graduate tax would apply only to UK students, and university fees would apply to the rest. However, this is contrary to rules enshrined in the Maastrict Treaty – which determine that EU citizens studying in another EU member state must be treated under the same conditions.
To be fair, British students are allowed to go abroad and enjoy European universities under the same rules as all other EU students – which does count for something (which more UK students could take advantage of – language and grammar would be two particularly good areas to focus on). But it’s amazing how EU rules seem to creep into everything these days – no matter how domestic of a matter it would appear.
Quite irrespective of the merits or drawbacks stemming from freedom of movement that is.Open Europe blog team