English advances

August 3, 2007

Fiona Hyslop's article ("Scotland's learning nation widens its reach", July 20) just hints at some of the difficulties Scotland will face thanks to the recent decision of the Scottish Parliament to abolish the graduate endowment.

Sooner or later, the Scots will have to decide whether to fund the cost of higher education by increasing taxes or by reprioritising - in effect robbing Peter to pay Paul.

By contrast, we are giving institutions access to more income streams that lever in private as well as public funding because that is how world-class higher education systems are financed - not just tuition fees but also philanthropic giving and endowments. This not only provides more money for English universities but also reduces the risk of dependence on a single state revenue stream.

We want competitive world-class universities in every part of the UK, but all the evidence shows that such institutions need to be able to access both private and public funding. How is Scotland going to finance such universities in the future?

The English system is also fairer. It shares the costs of the additional investment needed in HE between the taxpayer, graduates and, increasingly, employers and voluntary donors. In doing so, it recognises that there are benefits to those who participate and that there is an inherent fairness in asking graduates to contribute from their salaries.

Our reforms are progressive and they are working, especially to protect the needs of low-income students.

In our global world, universities need more money from a variety of sources to compete against the very best. In England, we are going to continue to support our universities, but tuition fees with proper support for lower and mid income students are a central part of a world-class higher education system.

Bill Rammell
Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education

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