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Getting a degree should be free, says top university lecturer

13th January 2014
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Higher education should be free to all students when they begin their degrees, says a senior lecturer at one of the UK’s most respected universities.  

Dr Mark Reiff, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Manchester, says: “Public higher education should be absolutely free at the point of entry for everybody. What would be required from each student is a promise.”

That promise is that students would commit to paying a fixed percentage of their income (6%) during their prime earning years (35-54, for example) to the university that awarded their degree.

The suggestion, which avoids additional government spending, comes as part of a new study published in the journal Theory & Research in Education.

Reiff’s proposal suggests that the ‘promises’ of each university year group be bundled and sold to investors as “education securities.” Investors would later receive a share of the average income for the cohort.

According to publishers SAGE, “because average income moves with inflation, investors would be assured of getting their initial investment back plus whatever amount is necessary to cover changes in the value of their money. The securities could include a real return (over inflation) of as much as 3%. Universities would be paid in full when the securities were offered, no one would be required to incur debts, and people both at home and abroad would have a new, safe place to put their money.”

The publishers add that the system could appeal to both the political left and right, and that “Students would be free to pursue whatever occupation they wanted, without the pressure of having to be sure they could pay off their student loans. The cost of their degree would directly relate to their ultimate earning power. And the percentage-based system means that nobody would pay more than they could afford.

“Instead of using the financial services industry to create weapons of mass destruction, we would be using it to create investment vehicles of mass education.  And everybody will benefit from having an educated populace, for education, once obtained, can never be repossessed.”

Do you think this kind of system would alleviate the financial pressures involved in going to university? Let us know your thoughts...




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