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University funding: Now for the debate

Proposals to charge Manx students towards their university education for the first time are likely to spark intense debate in the coming weeks, with Tynwald due to vote on the scheme next month.

The Department of Education wants to introduce a universal charge of £2,500 for all students.

Means-tested additional contributions on a rising scale kick-in for those whose parents earn more than £80,000.

If the scheme's approved by Tywnald, Treasury loans will be provided to cover the charge, repayable a year after graduation, provided the student earns more than £21,000.

The department currently spends £11 million per year on fee grants, but says it's a luxury it can no longer afford.

Director of Education Martin Barrow says the squeeze on budgets means they have to act quickly if the scheme's to be in place from 2014:

Education Minister Tim Crookall says the Manx scheme is still more generous than that in the Channel Islands where contributions are higher, and in the UK where most parents pay the full cost of tuition fees.

But it's unclear yet if the new scheme will deter Isle of Man youngsters from going off-Island to university.

The minister says there's no firm evidence the prospect of a debt will have that effect:

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