Plans to revolutionise higher education and halve the cost of student fees are to be proposed today by former Labour cabinet minister John Denham , as he warns that "the whole system of university finance for English students is sliding slowly but surely off a cliff". Warning that Britain already has the most expensive public higher education system in the world, the former universities secretary under Gordon Brown points out that for every pounds 1 spent on teaching students nearly pounds 6 is spent on student debt cancellation, a growing black hole in the public finances. He claims this cancellation figure is rising, with as many as 50% of this September's students not expected to repay loans in full. Under Labour's fee system the figure was just 28%, "an increase that means fewer and fewer successful graduates are paying off the debts of more and more economically less successful graduates". He warns "this will become a bigger issue in English politics", as ever-rising fees will lead to "more and more students and parents asking what and who they are paying for". He says that, as a result - despite pounds 6.7bn of tax funded spending on higher education - hardly anything is spent directly on teaching students. He points out pounds 4.2bn is spent on debt cancellation, and only pounds 700m is spent on teaching. In a speech to the Royal Society of Arts he will say: "I don't know of any progressive principle which thinks it is a good idea to induce people, generally from lower income backgrounds, to take on huge loans, demand big payments and then to tell them they don't have to pay after all. "It's not how progressive parents bring up their children and the state should do do it either." Insisting the terms of the debate have to change, he suggests the cost of higher education can be cut by making 30% of courses intensive two-year courses lasting 39 weeks of study a year, and costing 20% less to deliver than a three-year degree. He also suggests as many as 50,000 courses - 15% of the total - should be funded by employers paying for the training of a member of their workforce. He introduced these employer-sponsored courses when he was universities secretary. Denham, who was a former parliamentary aide to the Labour leader, Ed Miliband , has put his ideas into the party's policy review. Threat to fund for students, page 11 = The proportion of students starting this September who will fully pay back their loans, according to MP John Denham 50%
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