A think tank linked to a former Labor prime minister has called for an end to free university education for all in Scotland.
Reform Scotland – of which Lord Jack McConnell is chairman of the board – said Scottish graduates should repay some of their fees when they earn enough to do so.
It is claimed this will mean more Scots will be able to attend university, pointing to figures which show an 84 per cent increase in the number of Scottish-domiciled applicants being refused entry to universities in Scotland since 2006.
As it stands, the Scottish Government sets the amount of funding it will provide each year to Scottish universities to cover free tuition fees for students domiciled in Scotland.
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The briefing, titled Scrap The Cap, argues that those who receive a financial benefit from attending university should reimburse part of their tuition fees, while those who cannot afford to pay should reimburse “little or nothing”. .
The think tank also suggested that the Scottish Government could consider introducing schemes to reduce or remove reimbursements for graduates who remain in Scotland to work in certain sectors for specified periods.
Reform Scotland research director and co-author of Scrap the Cap, Alison Payne, who has served as a policy adviser to the Scottish Conservatives, said: ‘While society as a whole benefits from a well-educated workforce , individual graduates themselves also benefit from the higher earnings they accumulate.
“However, at present in Scotland, only society at large pays through the tax system for graduates from Scotland.
“The funding agreement may appear to benefit Scots because there are no direct fees to pay to attend university, but it has also created an artificial cap on the number of Scottish students who can study in Scotland.
“The ambition of our young people is stifled by the way we fund higher education.”
Lindsay Paterson, Professor of Education Policy at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science and a member of Reform Scotland’s Commission on School Reform, added: “We need to remove this unfair cap.
“To do this, graduates should contribute to the cost of their higher education through a deferred fee, to be repaid once they earn more than the Scottish average wage.
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“The proceeds from the reimbursed fees would free up money to provide scholarships to students from low-income families.
“Such a system would guarantee a ‘no gain, no cost’ university education.
“This change is not only inevitable, it is also right.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘The Scottish Government remains committed to ensuring that higher education is free for students domiciled in Scotland and that access to university is based on ability to learn and not on ability to pay.
“Our continued commitment to tuition-free funding ensures that eligible Scottish-domiciled students studying in Scotland do not incur up to £27,750 in additional student debt and produce the lowest levels of student debt in the Kingdom. -United.”
Tuition fees were abolished in Scotland during the early years of the new Scottish Parliament, then controlled by a Labour-LibDem coalition and replaced by a graduate endowment, similar to what Reform Scotland is proposing.
The graduate endowment was abandoned by the SNP after the party came to power in 2007.
Scottish Labor told the National that the party’s position on tuition fees was unchanged from its 2021 manifesto which stated that it would “ensure that free tuition is fully funded”.
Former Prime Minister Alex Salmond, who once said ‘the rocks would melt with the sun’ before the SNP ended free tuition, said: ‘In the midst of a cost of living crisis brought about by the right-wing policies of the government at Westminster, the very latest What Scotland needs is this right-wing dogma of Reformed Scotland.
“Proposing the reintroduction of tuition fees in an environment of skyrocketing interest rates reflects the folly of people personally isolated from the economic pressures affecting working families.”