Scrap student loans and instead give every 18-year-old who stays in training a £20,000 lump sum, a former Government adviser has said.
This would work out as better value for the taxpayer than the current system of student loans, according to a new report by Tom Richmond who is now director of EDSK, a think-tank specialising in education and skills.
The report, titled Free to Choose, argues that the £20,000 loan should be available for all school leavers to spend on either university, college or an apprenticeship.
It comes ahead of the Augur review into higher education, which is due to be published in the coming weeks.
Last February Theresa May ordered a review of post-18 education led by Philip Augar, a former equities broker. The Prime Minister came under pressure on the issue after it was felt that Jeremy Corbyn's pledge to abolish tuition fees won support from young voters in last year's general election.
Only 20 per cent of students will ever pay back their loans in full, the report says, leaving taxpayers to pick up a multi-billion-pound tab every year.
Mr Richmond, who used to advise the Department for Education (DfE), argues that the loan repayment threshold should be lowered from £25,000 to £12,500 which would mean that a greater proportion is paid back by graduates.
Almost a third of graduates now find themselves in non-graduate jobs, with some earning less than if they hadn’t gone to university at all, the report says.
Giving every 18-year-old a lump sum of cash and giving them the freedom to choose how they spend it would encourage students to give more serious consideration to technical and vocational routes, it adds.
The money could be spent on any approved qualification at a regulated provider, including university degrees, college courses and apprenticeships, the report says.