Working-class university leader lobbies for free degrees

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell has joined an alliance of Greens, socialists and student unions calling for the reintroduction of free university in Australia, writes Julie Hare for Australian Financial Review.

In a speech to staff on Tuesday 20 June, Maskell argued that costs to the public purse of providing free higher education to the 50% of young people who now enrol would be offset by more graduates paying higher taxes. He says people from poorer backgrounds are put off university because of the risk of acquiring student debts. That, he argues, is society’s loss, due to the under-use of unrecognised talent.

Maskell, who was Australia’s most highly paid vice-chancellor last year with a salary package of AU$1.5 million (US$1 million), said that “from a public policy point of view, education cannot be reduced to the private good”. Noting that he was making “personal comments”, Maskell pointed to his own background as a bright kid from a working-class home in North London, who won a scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge. “I did not have to worry about fees or being saddled with a loan to pay for them,” he said.
Full report on the Australian Financial Review site