Last Tuesday, the UCL Conservative Society hosted a debate on the motion ‘This house believes university tuition fees should be abolished’. We were pleased to welcome several excellent speakers who made some very compelling and informative arguments on either side of the debate. Speaking for the proposition were Surya Kumaravel and Declan Pollard, whilst Sam Sherwood and Alex Wallitt spoke for the opposition.
Whilst the audience overwhelmingly opposed the motion at the beginning of the debate, the proposition made a valiant attempt to change their stance. Declan made the argument that education is a right and that to put financial barriers in the way of education is deeply unfair and damaging to society.
Surya, however, made an alternative argument instead proposing that the current system of tuition fees be replaced with a graduate tax. This, he hoped, would pose a less daunting burden for prospective students, particularly those from less affluent socio-economic backgrounds, as well as raising more revenue from higher earners. He also hoped to disincentivise universities from putting profit over quality, such as by prioritising places on courses such Law, which do not cost universities much per additional student.
The opposition, however, argued that the best way of helping people access education was to keep the current fees system. It was argued that with the already enormous cost of providing university education it was best to prioritise spending. Abolishing tuition fees, Sam argued, would effectively mean increasing support for more affluent students who do not need it.
Alex went on to argue that money would be better spent on increasing support for vocational training such as apprenticeships. This would more fairly support everyone’s life prospects, not just those of an academic leaning and help to alleviate the skills shortage this country faces.
After the main speeches the floor was then opened to the audience who made valuable contributions to the discussion too numerous to mention individually. The passion and calibre of these arguments was exciting to watch and proved that this is clearly an issue about which people care passionately.
Whilst ultimately the proposition were unable to convince the audience to change their position, both sides certainly put forward several very thought-provoking arguments and perhaps even changed some people’s views on a very important issue.
This is merely a summary of the debate and is by no means exhaustive. Whilst every effort has been made to fairly record both sides of the debate and fairly attribute all arguments made it is not a verbatim account of events.