University graduates should pay towards the cost of higher education once they earn more than the average salary, according to a report by a think-tank.
Reform Scotland says higher education is not a free entitlement and should be contributed towards in a deferred fee. It comes days after Education Secretary Mike Russell said fees are “off the agenda” in Scotland.
In England and Wales, a review could pave the way for higher fees when it reports back in the autumn.
The think-tank outlined its recommendation in its Power to Learn paper, which also calls for the abolition of the Scottish Higher and Further Education Funding Council and for the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to be made a fully independent trust.
Means-testing student loans should be scrapped so that students can claim the maximum available, the report argues.
Geoff Mawdsley, one of the report’s authors, 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 society as a whole benefits from having a well-educated workforce, the individual graduates themselves also benefit from the higher earnings they accrue.”
On the proposed graduate fee, the report says: “Although graduates may earn more and subsequently pay more tax, many successful top-rate taxpayers may not have gone to university, so higher tax contributions should not be seen as payment towards higher education. There needs to be a better balance where the individual graduate as well as taxpayers contribute towards education.” On the SQA, the report adds: “There is no requirement for a state provider of qualifications, especially one which has such a clear conflict of interest by both accrediting and awarding qualifications.”
The Scottish Government would continue to fund a set amount of the cost of a degree course, depending on the student’s chosen subject, with the rest funded by the graduate, Reform Scotland suggests. Any fee would only be repaid through the existing Students Loan Company once the graduate is earning more than the Scottish average salary.