The former Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has announced his frustration that the Labour Party was unable to “find a sustainable way forward for the financing of higher education”.
Speaking in an interview to the Times Higher Education, Balls argued that the present £9,000 tuition fees system is “random and unprincipled” way to fund universities.
Balls instead explained that he advocates a graduate tax as the best way to fund higher education and said that it was a “bit of a blot on Labour’s copybook” that they had not dealt with the issue of university funding when they were in power before 2010. Prior to becoming an MP in 2005 Ed Balls was Chief Economic Adviser to the Treasury since 1997.
Balls has long been a supporter of the introduction of a graduate tax and used his platform as a candidate in the Labour leadership campaign in 2010 to explain his opinion.
Recalling the leadership race he said: “The reason I was in favour of a graduate tax was I absolutely thought students should make a contribution, but I was very wary indeed of where allowing variable fees set by different institutions…would take us”.
In the lead up to the 2015 election, when Balls was Shadow Chancellor, the Labour party pledged to reduce tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000:“We came up with some proposals before the election, which clearly didn’t win universal support”.
He continued: “They were never, ever presented as a solution. They were a step along the way.
“But you have to stand back and say: we need a system of higher education which really finances excellent institutions for the UK, which means that those students with talent go to universities to do what they want to do regardless of…affordability and [their] perception of affordability, and which is fair to the taxpayer.
“And you’d have to look at the current system – I don’t believe it’s succeeding on any of those fronts… the fact it’s so untransparent at the moment, I just think is very flawed”.
Ed Balls lost his seat in last May’s general election in what was widely considered the biggest constituency upset of the night. He has since then taken up a position as a visiting professorships at the Policy Institute at King’s College London and at Harvard. At the end of December last year it was also announced that he has taken on the role of Chairman at Norwich City Football Club in an unpaid capacity.
Tuition fees were first introduced at £9,000 under Tony Blair’s Labour party in 1998. They were then raised by Labour to an upper limit of £3,000 in 2003 before being tripled to £9,000 by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2011.