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Interventionism is suddenly all the rage with the Westminster Conservative government, and higher education is feeling the impact as new policies and legislation are brought to bear on the sector, writes Johnny Rich, Chief Executive of Push and of the Engineering Professors’ Council.
Mike Boxall, an independent researcher and consultant on higher education policies and strategies, and a senior adviser to PA Consulting, considers the emerging post-COVID world and its implications for the future of universities. His blog is based on a paper published recently by PA Consulting, and co-authored with its HE lead, Ian Matthias.
The Westminster government should wake up to the full potential of higher education to help it meet its ‘levelling up’ goals, argues Professor Martin Jones, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Staffordshire University.
The long term cost of writing off graduate debt would be up to £80 billion lower than some politicians and commentators have claimed, an analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
The IFS dismissed suggestions that government debt would rise by £100 billion if it wrote off loans taken out by graduates who paid £9,000 a year tuition fees. The actual cost would be only around £20 billion if action was taken immediately, rising to £60 billion if the policy was pursued after an election in 2022, it said.
However, a paper on the analysis adds that writing off loans would still weaken public finances, and would also largely benefit high-earning graduates, with low earners standing to gain very little.
The analysis follows a debate on the cost of cancelling graduate debt after Labour pledged to scrap tuition fees and its leader Jeremy Corbyn suggested his party would also like to be able to “deal with” the debt burden of those with “the historical misfortune of being at university during the £9,000 period”
Shortly after Labour’s manifesto promise the IFS stated that scrapping fees for new students would increase public borrowing by £11 billion a year.
The new analysis says writing off post-2012 fee loans would bring about a one-off increase in the government’s deficit of £34 billion, but beyond that it would be increased only by the loss of interest that would otherwise have been accrued on the outstanding debt.
“Depending on how the write-off is scored it is possible that the deficit would actually be reduced in future years as less debt will be written off in those years. But of course this would all be dwarfed by the £11 billion a year cost if loans were replaced by “free” tuition going forward,” the paper adds.
The IFS also adds that cancelling graduate debt could leave those who did not borrow the full amount available and the 7 per cent of students starting in 2014-15 who chose to pay fees upfront feeling cheated.
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