The author of the Cubie Report into student finance in 1999 has called on the banking and finance sector to play its part in securing higher education funding.
Sir Andrew Cubie, who led the independent inquiry into student finance a decade ago, told a higher education conference in Edinburgh last week that Scotland needed a "mixed economy" of funding for higher education, with contributions from the state, graduates, business, trusts and individuals.
But the financial sector should offer the means of guaranteeing graduate contributions, he argued.
"Scotland should charge its financial and banking community to produce financial instruments to securitise the income streams which will arise from graduate contributions," said Sir Andrew.
He wished the search for a Scottish solution to funding the higher education sector had happened two years ago instead of now, when "the enemy is at the door" and Scotland is having to respond to the Browne review of higher education funding and student support in England.
The Cubie report led to the creation of the graduate endowment fund, albeit in a different format from its recommendations. The fund was scrapped by the SNP Government two years ago.
Sir Andrew said although the Scottish Government's policy of full funding of HE from the public purse was "a laudable ambition", it needed to have its feet set more in reality.
It should re-balance its public expenditure away from HE in favour of early years provision, he said, particularly in light of Scotland's 20 per cent levels of poor literacy and numeracy.
`We have to manage graduate expectations'
It takes many graduates three to five years to get a degree-level job, delegates heard.
Linda Murdoch, convener of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Service (Scotland), said a third of all call-centre workers were graduates, according to conservative estimates, although the figure could be as high as 70 per cent.
She told the conference that media reports about high graduate unemployment misrepresented the true situation.
"There are plenty of jobs out there but often not the kind that graduates think they should do. We have to manage expectations for graduates," she said.
Jobs previously seen as "working-class" jobs, in areas such as hospitality, were now being used as a starting point for graduates.
"The message is that in order to get any decent start in terms of a career, you need to do a degree," she said. "Parents will say, `Can I afford not to send my child to university?'" she predicted.
The next few years, under falling budgets, would see a growing demand for courses with work placements and internships, she said.
Earlier this week, a UK-wide study of the graduate class of 2009 found that 8.9 per cent were out of work in January 2010. The Higher Education Careers Services Unit said the last time graduate unemployment hit this level was in 1993.