Who should benefit?

February 3, 2011

It is possible that the haemorrhaging of funding to European Union students studying in the UK arises because of the way in which we describe the student support system ("Fees shift could leave UK 'haemorrhaging' cash to EU students", January). Would EU students still be eligible if student support were a means-tested social security benefit designed to help them meet the extra costs of being a student and to offset their reduced earning power? The eligibility rules for benefits include a UK residence requirement.

It would not, of course, be a universal benefit. Students would receive it if they chose to and would pay their fees directly to their higher education institutions. They would then make contributions after they graduated at 9 per cent of income over £21,000, and stop when they had made sufficient contributions to cover the benefits that they had received.

In reality, the cash flows to students and from graduates would be exactly the same as in the system as presently described - except that only those with UK residential status would be eligible to receive and to contribute.

John Craven, Vice-chancellor, University of Portsmouth

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