Who benefits from University education? The student or society? The Financial Times and The Times writes today about a report from Lord Browne, a former executive at BP, that suggests that government can save £1.8bn on the reform which lifts the cap on tuition fees from the present £3,290 per year. The average tuition fee is estimated to rise to about £7,000 per year. The government is looking positively at the report but has not yet accepted it.
What would happen is that the future generation, ie the students, is going to pick up the tab for their education to a higher degree. The National Union of Students criticized the report for this. However, one columnist claims that this, like in the US, makes students more motivated and creates a better work ethic. This would be a critique against the Swedish system of free University tuition. It was also claimed that the students can demand more from the teachers if they pay themselves and would also be able to demand what courses that should be taught. Universities would also become more autonomous.
In order to not force graduates to move selectively into higher paying jobs, there is going to be repayment brackets of about £21,000. If the graduate earns less they don't have to start repaying and if there is something left on the loan after 30 years it will be donated.
An alternative funding mechanism for University studies that is being discussed is a so called graduate tax, ie a taxation of the graduate at work, tied to their earning potential. It is being promoted by for example the Liberal Democrat Vince Cable who is presently a business secretary. This mechanism would not have the quality increasing potential as the present proposal by Lord Browne. Some students would also pay back more that the cost of their education with this method.
The implementation of the reform would mean a free-market revolution in higher learning provision according to The Financial Times. Perhaps a similar change in Sweden would provide the vitamins needed for further improving University education. There would also be more competition between Universities that would lead to increased standards. Having paid for your education yourself to a higher degree must make students more serious about what they are doing and cause responsibility for their lives.
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