A strong case for both public and private investment in higher education
Any discussion of funding and student finance should take place within a shared understanding of the nature of universities as both public and private institutions. The question of appropriate balance between public and private funding should not be driven only by economic pressures on the government but based on a coherent argument about the desirable extent of public support for higher education.
The investment of public funding in higher education is just that – an investment. The UK government invests 1.1% of GDP in its higher education sector and, in return, universities contribute 2.5% of GDP, making them generators of economic growth and wealth creation. Universities generate over £59bn for the UK economy. Furthermore, the wider social and cultural benefits of universities and the UK research-base to our society are clear.
At any point in time it is crucial to maintain public investment in higher education in order to drive the UK knowledge economy – and even more so as the economy seeks to grow out of recession
Given the considerable private rate of return to the individual and the regressive nature of a system of 100% public funding for higher education, it is appropriate that individuals should make some contribution to the cost of their university education.