Active Thinking Topic 80  - Should Higher Education Be Free?

31 March 2024

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: Zoom online

Recommended Viewing: BBC News (6 Jun 2015) "US students head to Germany for free degrees" @ 

Talking Points

1. What is the opportunity cost of getting a TAFE Diploma, a BA/BSc, an MA/MSc or a PhD? What does the employment culture in various countries have to do with this?

2. In almost every job you learn to do a set of procedures and (maybe) are told a reason for following those procedures. Most students and also the general public expect a university to teach them the procedures and reasons attached to a particular job/profession . Is this enough? What other roles can a university offer?

3. What (if anything) should students pay to learn, and what should be free? Your reasons?

4. Once something is free, people often value it less. Is this a problem with free education? How can we encourage students to study hard if failure costs nothing?

5. People from poorer homes usually have a harder time getting good opportunities for advanced education. What are some handicaps they suffer besides lack of money? Should there be special assistance or scholarships for people from poorer backgrounds?

6. Some governments believe that free education to the highest level is a very good way to build "human capital" which will make the country rich. Some other governments believe that education should be a personal investment, not a public investment. What is your view? Why?

7. I first entered an Australian university in 1965, part-time (my government employer paid the fees). The emphasis was on academic excellence, both to get in and to graduate. There were very few international students. Now 30% of university students are international, paying high fees. What are some advantages and disadvantages of these two different models for universities?

8. Quite a few university students drop out of study before they graduate (maybe 30%). This also happens in TAFE programs. Has their education been wasted, or has the experience likely taught them some useful knowledge and skills? Examples?

9. Quite a few European countries offer free or almost free university education. They may even give free tuition to international students. Why do they do it? Why doesn't Australia do this?

10. How much time and money have you been willing to invest in higher education? What were your motives? Are you getting a good return on the investment?


Extra reading & Viewing

Thor May (2014) "So we had a few failures. Was that the end of university?" @  [Quote: "The proper role of universities is endlessly debated. There are the competing demands of teaching and research, sources of funding, the shifting status of disciplines within the academy, and so on. Nothing is more contentious than who is suitable to be a university student. Should it be a matter of privilege, a question of sheer academic brilliance, an issue of national employment requirements, an attempt to offer the maximum opportunity to the maximum number of citizens … ? As with so many human questions, some fortunate individuals will benefit under almost any access regime. Difficult decisions arise at the margins, and the policy choices which are made there can have long term consequences. .. The source of this short document is intensely personal. It is the story of early university misadventure by one individual, myself. At first glance it might seem of little interest to anyone but the protagonist. I am publishing it because in fact pieces of this story fit the lives of so many students who simply disappear from the statistics and into oblivion."]

Rahamah (n.d.) "15 Tuition-Free Universities in Australia You Would Love" World Scholars Hub @ 

Pola Lem (April 3, 2023) "Moscow’s Free University, branded ‘undesirable’ by Kremlin, closes doors - Academic council says safety of teachers and students a top concern after Kremlin puts institution on blacklist". Times Higher Education @ 

Entire Education (5 Oct 2022) "10 FREE UNIVERSITIES IN FRANCE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS New Ranking" Entire Education @  [no voice]

R247 Success (2 Jan 2024) "12 tuition-free universities in Europe for international students. The best universities in Europe. Free education in Europe. Full scholarships to universities in Europe. International scholarships in Europe.)" Youtube @ 

Miriah Davis (August 28, 2022) "Dan Andrews announces free university for thousands of nurses and midwives in Victoria as part of $270m scheme - Under the $270 million scheme, students completing undergraduate study in nursing or midwifery either in 2023 and 2024 will receive a scholarship of up to $16,500." Sky News @ 

Illustrate to Educate (8 Jun 2020) "Should Public College be Tuition Free? | What are the Pros and Cons of Tuition-Free College?" Youtube @ 


Should Higher Education Be Free? (c) Thor May 2024

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