It is often said that higher education has big benefits for individuals and for society, so it should be financed by taxpayers sufficient to cover the public benefits.
This has been summarised in the Times Higher as follows:
For the most part, students, like policymakers, are preoccupied with the question of who benefits from a university education, and whether these benefits can be quantified in any meaningful way, or translated into a “fair” ratio of public to private funding.
An old HEPI report, which argues the UK should learn from Australia, concludes:
Evidence would suggest that a 50:50 balance of public: private contribution may achieve something close to optimum economic efficiency.
The many changes to student funding in England over the past 20-odd years have created a system in which it is thought that taxpayers cover around 45% of the costs and students / graduates around 55%. More...