Early repayment of student loans: should government impose early repayment penalties?

Tim Leunig and Gill Wyness
September 2011

The CentreForum report 'Early repayment of student loans: should government impose early repayment penalties?' criticises the government's intention to introduce early repayment charges for graduates on high incomes or those making large repayments.

The thinking behind the charges is that the government will be able to recoup some of the money lost through non-payment of interest. But CentreForum believes that the sums raised will be small relative to the costs and that it will add an unnecessary layer of complexity to the student loan system.

The report suggests that debt aversion not affluence is the biggest cause of early repayments, most of which are small and made by relatively poor graduates who will not be affected by the proposed penalties.

It points out that the people the government is hoping to charge (the very rich) will often pay their university fees upfront, bypassing the loan system altogether.

Download the full report.

International aid and educating the poorest

International aid and educating the poorest

Pauline Dixon and Paul Marshall
September 2011

The government has stated that it plans to raise the aid budget to £11.4 billion by 2013; a move that is sure to anger many who view systematic (government-to-government) aid as inefficient and dependency inducing. This report proposes a solution to the mismanagement of aid, through its allocation to a younger generation of social entrepreneurs at grassroots level who understand what needs to be done and how to do it far better than their frequently out-of-touch governments, whose primary concern is often that of self-preservation. In so doing, this report aims to show how the government can effectively manage its aid budget, whilst still maintaining public support in these times of austerity.

Looking at the empirical evidence available from various control trials, the report focuses on the particular example of school voucher schemes in some of the world’s poorest countries that facilitate a burgeoning private education sector. These private schools have come about quickly and organically in response to the failures of the government’s charity supported state system. Parents have made their opinions clear and these schools, charging minimal fees whilst providing high quality education, are frequently being chosen over the supposedly free and seemingly inadequate state equivalents.

However, whilst often cheaper than their state counterparts, many still cannot afford entry into these private schools. This has been noted by some charities in the developed world who have implemented privately funded and targeted voucher schemes in the developing world with great success. These vouchers, given directly to the poor without the government acting as middleman, have proven extremely effective whilst avoiding much of the waste and corruption that is often associated with aid. Furthermore, this report notes that such schemes could be applied to a much wider field and has positive effects in other sectors such as health.

Using a more rigorous and empirical approach, CentreForum proposes that through listening and engaging with those at ground level, the British Government could be far more effective with its increased aid budget, whilst also quietening those in opposition to it.

Download the full report

"This is the right thinking to aid. Innovative schemes around educational vouchers allow aid to be targeted at the grassroots level and give real choice to those most in need."

- Dambisa Moyo, economist and author of the New York Times best-seller 'Dead Aid'

Parenting matters: early years and social mobility

Chris Paterson
August 2011

The government has embraced the key message that it is by providing support in the earliest years of a child’s life that the biggest differences can be made.

The most important factor influencing a child’s development is the quality of parenting they receive and the quality of the Home Learning Environment this creates. The government has stated that 'what is needed is a much wider culture change towards recognising the importance of parenting' and has expressed the desire for 'parenting advice and support to be considered the norm'.

This report strongly supports this willingness to engage directly with what is happening in the family sphere to prevent the (deeply illiberal) squandering of individual potential.

"This is an excellent report: a national parenting campaign is exactly what Britain needs. CentreForum proposes a powerful set of ideas by which this can be achieved."

- Graham Allen MP, Author of the Independent Report to HM Government 'Early Intervention: The Next Steps'

"This intelligent, creative and forward-looking paper is packed full of good and stimulating ideas. I commend it to all policy thinkers interested in parenting and social mobility in the UK."

- George Hosking, Founder and CEO of WAVE Trust

"The report is very useful because it draws attention to an issue that makes a big difference to children."

- Gareth Jenkins, Save the Children (from BBC article)

Download the full report.

Degrees of quality: how to deliver the courses we need at prices we can afford

Degrees of quality coverGill Wyness
August 2011

This report calls for an end to the current loop of self-monitoring where universities teach, award and mark their own degrees - and urges research-intensive universities to design standardised curricula that can be taught in the majority of institutions.

It warns that government plans to introduce a market in higher education may have undesirable consequences, with more providers making quality and value less easy to determine. It is suggested that moving to common standards and independent marking will be an effective quality control measure, similar to A-levels.

"CentreForum's report is the first systematic explanation of the case for separation of teaching from accreditation. It is hugely important for the debate about teaching in higher education - and not just in this country."

- Gervas Huxley, Teaching Fellow in Economics, University of Bristol

Download the full report.

Click here to view policy impact timeline.

The end of the peer show? Responses to the draft bill on Lords reform

CentreForum and The Constitution Society
July 2011

Focusing on the debate on government proposals published in May 2011, this joint publication from independent educational trust The Constitution Society and the liberal think tank CentreForum brings together direct responses to the draft bill on Lords reform from distinguished academics, peers and MPs.


Graham Allen MP, Chair of the Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform
Prof Sir John Baker QC, University of Cambridge
Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
Prof Patrick Dunleavy, The London School of Economics
Mark Harper MP, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform
Prof Lord Harries of Pentregarth, Gresham College
David Howarth, University of Cambridge
Rt Hon Lord Maclennan of Rogart, Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Policy Committee on Constitutional and Political Reform
Prof Iain McLean, University of Oxford
Prof Dawn Oliver, University College London
Rt Hon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Shadow Leader of the House of Lords
Dr Meg Russell, University College London
Rt Hon Baroness D'Souza of Wychwood, Convenor of the Crossbench Peers

Download the publication.