Access to a free education is a cornerstone of 21st-century Britain, and yet many children are being badly let down, with the levels of literacy and numeracy still shamefully low. This leaves many young people unable to compete in a job market in which the unskilled are being increasingly marginalised.

Much of this has to do with government investment and priorities. Yet schemes aimed to benefit the young, such as Sure Start and the Educational Maintenance Allowance, have been sacrificed, and child benefit and child tax credits squeezed. Even those with successful school careers will feel the pinch with university tuition fees now £9,000 per annum for many current students. Furthermore, few students are aware that, far from being charged artificially low interest rates, they are now being charged 3.9% interest on their student loans. Many post-2015 graduates will enter the world of work carrying debts in excess of £40,000. Current first year undergraduates now face a 9% tax on income on earnings over £21k for 30 years post-graduation.

IF has published the following reports on higher education reforms and student loans and fees:

False Accounting? Why Higher Education Reforms Don’t Add Up

Squeezing Our Students? An English and OECD Comparison

Such issues raise a fundamental question: How valuable are our future citizens to us as a national resource? And what exactly are we doing about it?