Marriage 'dowry' fears over loans

7th January 2000 at 00:00
David Henderson recalls the issues that ministers tried to sweep under the carpet 30 years ago

WOMEN would be carrying an unwelcome dowry into marriage if student loans were introduced, Scottish Education Department officials cautioned in 1968 when ministers were facing critical questions about funding the rapid expansion of higher education.

Bruce Millan, the education minister, thought, on balance, that changes were unnecessary, papers confirm.

His officials, however, favoured loans or a system of partial loans to pay for rising numbers and costs, although they recognised the deterrent effect of such a move on poorer students and women. Universities were in favour ofa substantial increase in tuition fees to offset costs.

Ministers were being advised by the University Grants Committee to consider loans, instead of grants, but ruled out a graduate tax as unworkable.

One option was to make students repay, over time, 25 per cent of tuition fees and 50 per cent of maintenance awards.

The UGC contended: "Unless one is able to argue that possession of university qualifications does not produce an economic benefit later in life for those students who become salary earners, it does not seem possible in principle to reject a loan system outright, especially if a few desirable safeguards and incentives are built into the scheme."

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