Every young person in England should be given state funding of £10,000 to spend on a university, college or training course of their choice when they reach 18, a group of academics has suggested.
The academics say that giving university undergraduates £5,000 a year over two years could be used to cut the cost of their tuition fees, while those who do not want to go to university could use the money to cover the cost of further education or an apprenticeship.
The idea is set out in a new paper, A National Learning Entitlement: Moving Beyond University Tuition Fees, which is due to be published tomorrow by the Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES), based at UCL Institute of Education.
The authors of the paper say it would cut the cost of tuition, with those on a three-year course, for example, not having to fund the first £5,000 of each of their first two years, but then paying for the third year.
While students would still have to take out government loans to cover the remaining costs, the academics claim their idea would benefit more people than Labour’s proposal to scrap tuition fees, because the half of young people who do not go to university will also be able to draw on the £10,000 entitlement.
Every young person in the country would become eligible for the National Learning Entitlement on their 18th birthday, which they could spend on any accredited course up to a maximum of £5,000 per year over two years. Any adult without a degree would also be eligible.
The entitlement could be used flexibly to finance part-time study, and if necessary could be spread over a lifetime.
The authors say they hope the move would reinvigorate adult and further education, with funding for FE having shrunk by a quarter in five years while the number of students over 19 in FE and skills has slumped by nearly half since 2005-6.
The academics claim their scheme would cost £8 billion compared to £10 billion scrapping university tuition fees.
“The proposal takes the debate beyond the current narrow focus on university education and student debt, to a broader and more inclusive system which would encourage learning at all ages by a diverse range of students, at a lower cost than the abolition of tuition fees,” the paper argues.