Reform Scotland, the independent, non-partisan think tank, says today that all graduates should in future be expected to contribute to the cost of their university education.
At present, only students from outside the EU and from England, Wales and Northern Ireland pay for tuition. Scottish students and those from EU member states pay nothing.
The think tank argues that the Coronavirus crisis has both exposed and exacerbated major financial turmoil in the university sector, and that a restructuring of the way universities generate income is required.
In today’s paper – A Degree of Fairness: Fixing Scotland’s University Funding Crisis – Reform Scotland’s Director Chris Deerin says that:
- it is fair for graduates to pay back a part of their tuition once they are earning the average Scottish salary
- from the next academic year, EU students should no longer receive ‘free’ tuition
- this should remove the current cap on Scottish students, which means some are refused entry to a degree despite being qualified
Commenting, Chris Deerin said:
“Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on many areas of Scottish life, particularly those which were already under pressure before the pandemic hit.
“There is no better example of this than the university sector. Over half of our universities were already in deficit before Coronavirus, and increasingly reliant on fee-paying students from the rest of the UK and the rest of the world to stay afloat.
“We would all like to live in a world where ‘free’ university education works for the universities, the students and the taxpayer. But it’s time to admit that it doesn’t. Demand on the public purse is high and only going to rise – our politicians should have the courage and the foresight to challenge some old shibboleths in order to prepare Scotland for the challenges ahead.
“There needs to be a better balance between the individual graduate and taxpayers in contributing towards higher education. Graduates should pay back a proportion of their tuition fee once they start earning the average Scottish salary. This is fair, because graduates on average earn more money throughout their lives than non-graduates, and it is also reasonable, because those who never earn enough money to pay back their tuition will never have to do so.
“The levying of tuition fees has long been an intensely ideological and political issue in Scotland. It should be neither. This is about the survival of our university sector, including institutions renowned around the globe and essential to our economic future.
“To fail to redress the balance would be an act of national self-harm.”