BRITISH higher education policy makers should learn from the success of Australia's pioneering model of income contingent tuition fees, Bruce Chapman of the Australian National University told Royal Economic Society conference delegates.
Professor Chapman, an economist at the university's centre for economic policy research, outlined Australia's Higher Education Contribution Scheme, which has been running for seven years.
Fees from students in Australia generate 10 per cent of the total higher education operating budget. Fees are repaid when a graduate's earnings reach Australia's average income level.
Professor Chapman argued that the Australian model shows that income contingent charges will not affect the socio-economic mix of the higher education body.
The university student body is made up of a disproportionate number of those from relatively advantaged socio-economic backgrounds, and the majority experience significant economic advantages as graduates, he said.
Professor Chapman warned that higher education should be free at the point of entry, as up-front fees would deny access to the poor and the insecurity would prove a major disincentive for potential entrants.
"Not to charge the direct beneficiaries a small proportion of the costs means that the financial burden for the support of higher education falls on all taxpayers, the vast majority of whom do not have access to the system," he said.
Sir Ron Dearing has indicated that his higher education inquiry team has taken great interest in the Australian model.