Call for graduates to pay towards cost of education

image caption, The report says graduates should have to fund a proportion of their course

Scottish university graduates should have to contribute towards the cost of their education by paying deferred fees, according to a think-tank.

A report from Reform Scotland has argued that higher education was not a free entitlement.

It suggested graduates should pay towards costs once they earned more than the average salary.

However, Education Secretary Mike Russell has pledged not to introduce tuition fees for higher education.

The Reform Scotland paper suggested the Scottish government could continue to fund a set proportion of the average cost of a degree course, depending on the subject.

The rest would be repaid by the graduate, once they are earning more than the average salary in Scotland, and collected by the Student Loans Company.

In England, the issue of whether to raise the current cap of £3,225 on university tuition fees is currently under review.

'Student ratios'

Although graduates may earn more and subsequently pay more tax, many successful top rate taxpayers have not gone to university, the report said.

It argued higher tax contributions should therefore not be seen as payment towards higher education.

The report added: "There needs to be a better balance where the individual graduate as well as taxpayers contribute towards education."

The Power to Learn paper also calls for the abolition of the Scottish Higher and Further Education Funding Council and for the Scottish Qualifications Authority to be made a fully independent trust.

Means-testing student loans should be scrapped so that students can claim the maximum available, the report said.

Report co-author Geoff Mawdsley said: "At present, there are those who are academically able but financially unable to go to university but pay taxes which subsidise those who do go to university.

"While it is true to say that society as a whole benefits from having a well-educated workforce, the individual graduates themselves also benefit from the higher earnings they accrue."

Universities UK, which is the organisation for the higher education sector in England, said there was evidence to suggest that the extra money generated by fees has had a positive impact on the student experience.

The group's chief executive, Nicola Dandridge, told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "There is very good evidence of it going to improve student facilities such as accommodation and sports facilities and also improving the infrastructure, but perhaps most significantly improving staff student ratios."

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