Year after year, international students tell us that finance is one of the biggest hurdles and worries in studying abroad, and the UK education sector has had to work hard to put across the message that it is competitive, and provides value for money on price.
And while other countries save money by educating their graduates abroad (either subsidised by the host country, or by the students who usually fund themselves), the UK pays the full cost of educating 99% of its students at home. Though, at least it then tends to benefit from the skills they have gained, unlike the many developing countries who see their best qualified graduates leave, with the argument still moot as to whether they lose out via brain drain or gain, eventually, from brain circulation and remittances.
Against that background, it's interesting to see new imaginative ideas being floated in Australia, as two leading players from the HE sector, Bruce Chapman and Glenn Withers, start researching the idea of opening up the Higher Education Contributions System (HECS). Could the system be opened up so that international students could fund their studies via HECS? Could it be extended to enable more Australian students to study abroad? Could it be used as a way of compensating developing countries when foreign graduates come to work in Australia?
It would be foolhardy to suggest that the new student funding system in the UK, barely in its infancy, is ready to take on challenges like this. But it would be refreshing to see some creative thinking on issues like these.