The general election in the UK is over, after months of campaigning, and the hard work for the Conservative Party has now officially started. And whilst the election was hard fought by the major parties, including Conservative and Liberal Democrats looking to extricate themselves from an uneasy alliance in a coalition government, it was the Conservatives who came through with a clear majority. So what does it mean now for graduates, and their prospects for employment?
Whether you’re a student, unemployed or at any stage in your career, what the new government now says and does should matter to you. With a shaky economic recovery taking hold, but an uncertain future, the actions the government now take are critical to the long term prosperity of the nation.
The European Question
One of the key tenets of the Conservative manifesto was to offer an ’in out’ referendum on Europe in 2017. Between a significant number of euro-skeptics in the Tory party, and the rise of the UKIP vote this election, there is the possibility that this could result in huge change in the relationship the UK has with Europe.
This is potentially bad news for students, as universities in the UK receive some funding for research from European bodies. It could also be bad news for new graduates because it would call into question the freedom of movement that we have long assumed within the borders of Europe, potentially limiting the positions open to skilled British workers outside of the UK.
Benefits, Tax And Low Earners
As many students and recent graduates find themselves in low paying positions, the Conservative stance on tax is of interest. The manifesto promised that nobody on minimum wage and working 30 hours a week would have to pay income tax, and the tax free personal allowance would rise over this parliament to £12,500. This would mean more money in the pocket of students and new graduates on low wages.
The Conservative government have, however, pledged massive cuts to the overall welfare budget, meaning that graduates who do not find work immediately might find themselves facing an increasingly difficult environment.
The recent rise in tuition fees to the current £9000 cap was instituted by the Conservative government, and will certainly not be reversed in the short term. Indeed, there was a rumour - which has not been denied - that the cap could rise to £11,500. The plan for this parliament is to introduce an additional loan scheme for taught Masters and PhD courses, meaning graduates could fund further studies - but will have to ultimately pay back all they borrow.
The Tory manifesto focuses some attention on the future for international students, looking to clamp down on visa overstays and any abuse of the system. There are question marks also about how funding for widening university participation could work - this is potentially an area that will face the chop as savings are made from higher education.
And What if You Didn’t go to University?
The Conservative Party promised to create three million apprenticeship places if they got back into power this year. These places will be paid for through other changes - and cuts - to the benefit system. With National Insurance also to be scrapped for workers younger than 21, the policies seem to be encouraging businesses to employ more young people, rather than necessarily widening participation in university. The quality of the positions created is of course key - and further changes to the benefit system will certainly cause concern for some.
Whatever your current situation - student, new graduate, or some way onto the career ladder, it is safe to assume that some change is afoot. While the Conservative party have traditionally been viewed as the party of business, they are relying on the UK’s economic recovery gathering strength to get the country moving again. New graduates will surely hope - along with the rest of us - that they have a formula that works.
How do you think the Tory victory will affect you? Your thoughts and comments below please...