Maintenance grants for the poorest students should be re-introduced and tuition fees removed for British students taking approved degrees, said local MEP Jonathan Arnott today.
The ideas of the UKIP Euro-MP about education coincide with newly released esearch showing that three out of four university graduates are never likely to pay off their student loans.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that ‘the combination of high fees and large maintenance loans contributes to English graduates having the highest student debts in the developed world’.
It estimates that 77.4% of students will have some debt written off after 30 years.
Mr Arnott, a former maths teacher, said, “That is clearly a very worrying situation and one that frankly cannot be allowed to continue. Part of this problem arises from the ridiculous obsession with achieving a 50% target for school leavers going to university.
“This should be replaced with a target driven by the needs of industry – saving £0.5 billion per year by the end of the Parliament.
“Subject to academic performance we would phase in over two years the removal of tuition fees for British students taking approved degrees in Science, Medicine, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics on the condition that they live, work and pay tax in the UK for five years after the completion of their degrees.
“We will also restore maintenance grants to the poorest students and in general, vocational learning will take place on the job and not through the university system.
“Students from EU and non-EU countries will be treated equally and pay the same fees, raising £0.7 billion per year. Student loans will be available only to British students, to reflect the difficulties involved in recovering the debt from those who intend to live abroad,” said Mr Arnott.
He also pointed out that calls by Education Secretary Justine Greening for firms to back government moves for technical education mirrors his suggestion for vocational and technical schools.
“Vocational education must never be seen as a second-class option. This would have a strong industry link and we would introduce an option for students to take an Apprenticeship Qualification instead of four non-core GCSEs which can be continued in post-16 education. Students will be able to take up apprenticeships in jobs with certified professionals qualified to grade the progress of the student,” he explained.