Charon’s Advent calendar: Day Nine

Government majority on fees rise 21 – so now future generations will pay a great deal, whereas many of us did not have to pay fees.  Maybe we could stop waging and paying for wars in the future and invest in people here – they are, after all, the future of our nation as well.

6 thoughts on “Charon’s Advent calendar: Day Nine

  1. This is truly a sad day for our country. A considerable number of very able but financially disadvantaged young people – (especially ENGLISH young people) – will not be able to go to University as a result and the future of our country will be harmed, perhaps irreparably. [I find the national disparities and how those disparities are funded especially offensive).

    We are a nation which, for the ego of the politicians, wastes millions of pounds every year on so-called “defence.” Don’t get me wrong: we need some “defence” but we do not need to be a sort of world policeman and we certainly should not be trying anymore to conduct campaigns like Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The administration also seems to have ring-fenced oversaes aid. We have no money but we can give money to assist countries which are the emerging global economies. We have also paid to “bail out” the Republic of Ireland and there may be more to come from the “Eurozone.”

    I have felt since the summer that this coalition – which I gave a cautious welcome to at first – was embarking on nothing more than a course of action which will lay waste our country. I hope to be proved wrong but the signs are far from encouraging.

  2. Frankly I’m in despair of the nature of the debate going on. In the first instance, we are obsessing about university education when this is the real outrage :-

    As measured by the OECD our school standards are going backwards relative to other countries. Why the hell aren’t we concentrating on that? It’s noticeable that the US is even further down, sends more people to university, they get in even more debt yet can’t get suitable jobs. Indeed the people in the bottom three quartiles in the US have got worse off in the last 10 years despite spending even more on tertiary education than we do. In the places where they are very successful (software, computers, IT, Internet. telecomms), what has got them there is not through sheer numbers, it is from quality. Anybody who has dealt with major American IT outfits. Who has visited IBM, Google, Microsoft or the like can see this.

    As to the future generations will pay more for a University education then true, and it’s very bad. But we’ve had a trebling of the number of people entering university in the last 15 years. I now realise that I was very lucky, but frankly I don’t think that the sort of education I had would be suitable for most people, but if you do pour ever more people through the system then we will get less spent on each person and a chasing of quantity over quality.

    It’s notable that Germany has far fewer graduates than we do (indeed there’s an EU report which places them 12th out of 18 on tertiary education efficiency and criticises them for that).

    The UK system is counted as very efficient, simply on the basis of the number of graduates.

    However, whose economy is in suplus? Whose is providing the majority of money to bail out the Euro area? Which country has managed its public finances best? Which country has world-leading manufacturers (we have a few, but nothing like that of Germany). Germany has done this despite absorbing the basket-case that was East Germany.

    I’m lucky, and there is a case for those of us who were to contribute a bit more. But in my says it was the few that went through this route. There were plenty of other opportunities and other ways of gaining an education and training for a career which were more appropriate.

    There are a number of recruitment organisations that have estimated the economy can only absorb about 30% of the available graduates into jobs where they can truly make use of degree level education. What has now happened is we have raised the bar for recruitment such that people have to go to university simply to remain in the race. Inevitably, even with that qualification, many will end up in rather mundane jobs having spent three years of their life (and now incurring debts) to jump over artificial barriers.

    I would much rather see a proper, independent review of what education means, what is best for people and

    I work with many people who work in responsible, demanding jobs who managed to get there through routes other than university. Indeed the route they came by was more appropriate. Many of them have children who have gone through the university system and have come out the other end disillusioned. In some cases they’ve even gone back in (depending on parental resources) to try again on something more aligned with career opportunities.

    I despair, I really do. We are creating something impossible, following blind faith and fixating on arbitrary targets.

  3. Steve, one of the reasons that the UK is in this mess is that there has been a dogma of having market based solutions in education.Unfortunately, this produces perverse results. Exam boards and universities are under financial pressure to dumb down and sell certificates.

    Another is that employers use university degrees as a means of screening job applicants. That is, they don’t care what the degree is in, but they use it as a measure of the candidate’s abilities.

    This is wonderful for the employer, as they pay nothing of the £40k that it costs for their applicants (or society) to buy the essential degree.It is plainly absurd that so many students are studying, not for the sake of learning a subject, but getting an entry ticket to the job market which has no bearing whatsoever on how they perform the job.

    The only way forward that I see is to have a more prescriptive approach (and this does not mean a return to the 1950s). Standards have to be maintained by a body that has no financial interest in dumbing down. Government and employers need to work out a cheaper way of measuring candidate’s suitability for employment.

    The only obstacle to this is that there are many vested interests that do well by the status quo.

  4. @james c

    I’m in agreement with what you say, and I’m particularly in agreement that lazy employers are using the university system as a job application filtering system (and I don’t differentiate between private and public employers). It rings only too true.

    At this point I was going to start qualifying my response, but I really can’t find anything that I really disagree with. We need to stand back and look at what we are trying to achieve.

    If I was to raise one point, it would be that, rather than this being a market, it is more like a faith community. Some of what we’ve done looks rather like those centres of indoctrination that certain religions favour. We have fallen under the spell of slogans lines.

    On the simple matter of standards, they do have to be outside government controls. In fact I would want it to be international. Well that’s until some international agency manipulates the results to satisfy some political master.

  5. The solution, which requires political will, is to abandon the idea of universities for all and introduce vocational qualifications that would be accepted by employers for jobs that currently require a degree.

    These qualifications could also be modular, so that a basic qualification could be added to by night school, a sandwich course, career break etc. So a person might join work with a basic vocational certificate and then develop their skills as their career progresses.

    That way the vocational stream would have the flexibility to offer different levels of training.

    Traditional academic degrees would continue, but in reduced numbers and would be designed for the most able.

  6. Legal question:

    Austrians complain that EU law prevents them from stopping Germans coming to take advantage of their low university fees (and easier minimum entrance requirments for medicine). Why does the same EU law not apply to English students who wish to to study in Scotland, and who cannot currently do so without having met a residency requirement? Are Scottish universities breaking EU law?

    English students could of course go to the continent to study. Maybe given the increased attractiveness of continental universities with low fees, British state schools will revisit their policy of providing poor to non-existent second language teaching, and move modern languages up their list of priorities.


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