Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Reservations About Higher Tutition Fees

Today, Lord Browne publishes his controversial report into the future funding of our universities. And it looks like students are going to have to pay much more to fund their university education. Before we look at what he says, let’s set the debate into some historical context.

Remember when Neil Kinnock said he was the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to go to university? Well, I know what he meant because I was the first in my family to go too. But I shouldn’t have been. My mother, who went to school in the 1940s should have gone, and had she grown up nowadays she would have. She had the academic ability, but in those days universities really were the preserve of the very few. But in the 1960s a whole host of new universities were created and they opened up higher education to a whole new generation. For the first time, it wasn’t just the academically brilliant or the very rich who got places at university, it was people from normal backgrounds too.

But you still had to be part of an elite even if the wealth of your family ceased to matter. I went to the University of East Anglia, or university of easy access as it became known. I started my degree in 1980. I was on a full student grant. Tuition fees and student loans were only a gleam in Sir Keith Joseph’s eye in those days. So thirty years ago most students had a free university education, funded entirely by the taxpayer. Sounds good doesn’t it? Well, to those of us who had it, it was, but only 14% of 18 year olds went to university.

Since then polytechnics have turned themselves into full universities, student loans were introduced, and then Tony Blair introduced tuition fees too. Student loans I could just about understand – why should the taxpayer fund student drinking binges? But I always felt that tuition fees were one step too far – that they would put off students from poorer backgrounds from going to university and that higher education would become the preserve of the rich. Instead, though, applications went through the roof and we’ve now got to a point where 43% of 18 year olds go to university. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Except that it isn’t quite that simple.
Labour set an arbitrary target of 50% of 18 year olds should go to university. Why not 60, or even 70? The trouble is that those who don’t get to university are made to feel as if they’ve failed in life. They haven’t at all – it’s just that they may not be academically gifted. In other countries they would look to vocational training as an alternative, But that’s all but disappeared in this country.

And even worse than that, at some universities there is a 25% drop out rate in the first year. Again, needlessly, many 18 year olds feel a failure when it’s not their fault. They should never have been put in that position in the first place.

So, to return to the Brown Review. It has rejected a graduate tax but instead proposes that universities should be able to charge higher rates of tuition fees and that well off students should pay a higher rate of interest on their fees and loans than those who end up with poorer paid jobs.
It is amusing to see Labour politicians rail against this, when most of them voted for the introduction of tuition fees, even though it was not in their manifesto. I also can't help but find the twitchings of the LibDems on this subject somewhat hilarious to observe.

But the fact is that if we wish to keep higher education open to the masses, universities need to increase their income. With an ever increasing number of students wanting university places, what alternative is there? I do fear there will be a growing disparity between the top universities and the others, but in some ways it was ever thus. The difference is that it won't be your social class which stops you going to Oxbridge, it will be the size of your (or your parents' wallet).

We have made many mistakes in our higher education policy. Turning polytechnics into universities was one. Introducing a 50% target rate was another. It was always inevitable that tuition fees would have to rise and when Labour introduced the legislation they knew it too, but would never admit it.

I just hope that it won't put off academically gifted people from poorer backgrounds from going to good universities. But I fear it may.

UPDATE: John Rentoul complains that I don't say what I would do instead. He's right. I don't. Why should I? I was against them in the first place as I felt that had they been around in 1980 they would have deterred me from going to university. They clearly haven't deterred a lot of other people though, as we can see from the ever increasing number of people applying for places. So I may have reservations about these current proposals, but I am not sure I see any alternative.

34 comments:

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

"We have made many mistakes in our higher education policy. Turning polytechnics into universities was one."

That was inevitable given the parity of esteem. The polytechnics were doing degrees as much as the university (albeit CNAA degrees rather than the polytechnics' own) and the division in the sector was increasingly artificial.

Fed Up said...

Its not the poor that will be affected but the lower middle classes. People like my family. We have a joint income of £80k, which we have achieved by working extremely hard, brought up a family without any additional benefits (and yes I can accept the loss of family benefit). Both my children want to go to uni - one for dentistry and one to be a vet. They too are likely to achieve because they work incredibly hard. we think the total cost of going to uni , at todays prices, will be £100k fees and £50k living costs.
We have put aside £20k to help them with their fees and costs but today feel totally devestated. When the kids leave uni they are likely to have debt of around £60k - will their premium earnings kick in straight away - no. Will they be able to afford a house - no. What is the point of all their and our efforts? The poorer will have bursaries, not my kids.
What will happen is that my kids will be encouraged to go abroad - where the premium will enable them to repay debts quicker. This is the death knell of ambition and aspiration. What should happen is that there should be fewer unis, fewer courses, more into FE and trades, an improvement in the credibility of A Levels and ending of this bizarre 50% to unis nonesense.
Who do I blame - squarely on Labour - failed education policies, failed economic policies, failed social policies.
They want to be the new generation yet they look like the Clingons to me. They should NEVER come back to power. As for the Coalition - there must be compensation for the hard working families in this country - the burden of the debt cannot rest on the middle classes.

Newmania said...

There is a plus side though.If you are paying you will have to think very carefully about the job you will get which may put a focus on the whole disconnect between work and education which we suffer.

I just slobbed off and did English but I intend to give my boys altogether diffrent advice when they come to that age. It may not include University at all or perhaps look abroad, think about sponsorships and above all value for money.

All of this requires a plan and a a realisation that reality is not far off. I wish someone had done some of that for me

norman said...

Iain
As a retired academic and some one who worked in both academia and Industry, here and in USA, this parting kick from Gordo, yes it was his government which set up Lord Browne review( totally not required for now) is unfair. I can accept £3290 per year fee as my son took out the loan and the loan company paid this fee per year when he went to a top university and graduated. But £7000 or £12000 per year plus maintenance is a step too far. Lord Browne fell for the "howling of resources trick" by the top universities. Actually, these universities like UCL, Imperial not to say much about Oxbridge expanded beyond belief branding themselves as global universities as their senior management found out that by doing so they can expect fat cat bonuses and salaries. What is not acceptable is in Scottish universities Scottish students and EU students pay no fees and Scottish students who are coming to top English universities because they are better resourced thanks to tuition fees, pay NO fee, and much worse, even though they have only Scottish Highers (AS level) they are admitted for to do degree for 3 years unlike 4 years in Scotland.

If you remember Tony Blair won the tuition fee vote on the back of Scottish Labour MPs.

I have my neighbours children asking me what to do. I say to them, given their good A level grades, p**s on English universities and go to Dutch universities in Utrecht, Amsterdam or if life sciences or medicine go to the famous Karolinska University in Sweden. They will save a fortune and get a very good education.

Finally, if our bright and best cannot go to universities and acquire the skills needed for our industry and business, then the gates are open for Indian IT and science immigrants. I sent an e-mail message to 10 Downing street and to Cable and Willets, pointing out this and asking the govt to cut the overseas aid budget by 80% and find the money.
If Libdems want more aid to go Africa as Clegg promised then they should stop howling about tuition fee hike.
The peope who will be hit are not the poor or the rich but the lower middleclass many of whom voted Tory.

Lady Finchley said...

You are right - the sheer increase in numbers of students applying for university (because of Labour's ridiculous target)makes it not viable for the taxpayer to fund university places. Tuition fees are here to stay and people had better learn to live with it just like we have always done in the States. It is an accepted fact there that students obtain loans which they will be paying off for a long time. And the problem is?

My niece, who comes from a lower income family managed to go to university and supplemented her loan by working part-time which I realise is repugnant to most layabout British students - my own offsping included.

In the States there are various bursaries and scholarships available so that students from lower incomes won't miss out.

Funny that most of the people bleating about the burden of student loans think nothing of incurring huge debts for consumer goods. And the argument about being saddled with a student loan will prevent the poor dears from getting on the property ladder is wasted on me. What law says that people should be homeowners in their 20's? Where I come from, people save for a house deposit over a number of years and rent in the meantime. True, most people I know didn't become homeowners until their mid 30's and early 40's but is that a bad thing?

People really need to lose their sense of entitlement fast. The country is BROKE - geddit?

trevorsden said...

1000 generations? There must have been Kinnocks going back to Piltdown Man. They have not changed much.

Polytechnics should not have been turned into universities (do we not have Ken Clarke to thank for that?) but it is still higher education no matter what you call them.

No doubt there is a lot of waste in higher education as well. It would be nice if all education were free and we actually tailored education more to people's and society's needs.

Bearing in mind Green's proposals we could afford a lot more if we wasted a lot less.
And BTW I do not see much realistic difference between raising fees and paying them back when you can afford and the alternative graduate tax.

Balthazar said...

What no one makes any mention of is how little work UK students are, for the most part, expected to do (of course there are exceptions!). University in the UK is now one extended party. I am not saying they don't work at all but just not much. We must be wasting so much by treating our children in this way.

I have a daughter at a US university and a son at a UK university. My daughter NEVER has time to go out during the week - only on Friday and Saturday nights. She is not exceptional. She rarely finishes work before 1am. Four hours sleep is typical. It is considered normal.

A friend of hers at a UK university doing the same course recently told me she was so bored because she had so few lectures.

I hear the same thing from all my children's friends. Oxford and Cambridge are the only exceptions, where they do appear to work hard.

albertmbankment said...

I feel that all those smug people who, having themselves enjoyed a free tertiary education, are now so determined that students should pay for their education, should expiate their hypocrisy by belatedly paying up for theirs. Come on now, Blair and Brown, Cameron and Osborne, Clegg and Cable, even 'Lord' Browne, and all the rest of you comfortable, sanctimonious high-achievers. You've all had the benefits of being taught, for free, at the finest universities. You all have done well as a consequence. Let's see you front up now, by volunteering to pay an open-ended, retrospective tax for the full effective period of your earnings since then - based upon whatever rate you elect to impose on the nation's young. If you fail to do so, I for one will brand you hypocrite.

To expect students to go deep into debt, in their teens, is merely another form of the previously widely-derided principle of hypothecation. Students 'pay' for their education in the form of tax paid over a lifetime of work. The more successful pay more because they earn more; well, durrrr! Education is an investment by the nation. We don't 'need' media studies graduates, golf-course managers and charity-workers. We will need properly technically-skilled graduates in useful disciplines which will enhance the country's earnings over the coming decades.

I have boys in their teens; one wants to study engineering and the other seems to want to go into medicine. In the absence of a sensible, far-sighted educational policy, I will be tempted to advise them to take the education, and then emigrate from this blighted, benighted, short-sighted country. Their skills will be in demand around the world. As far as I am concerned, subsequent governments can whistle for repayment of their loans.

When I dabbled on the edge of economics, many years ago, one of the earliest lessons learned was that nobody can borrow cheaper than a government. Let's see the government have the courage to invest in education. If everybody's tax rate has go up a notch, who can possibly object. We are, after, all, all in this together.

Oh dear, Iain, I rather appear to have got the wrong end of the stick. I've been ranting about tuition fees, while I see that you mean tutition fees. That's a different thing altogether, right?

albertmbankment said...

I feel that all those smug people who, having themselves enjoyed a free tertiary education, are now so determined that students should pay for their education, should expiate their hypocrisy by belatedly paying up for theirs. Come on now, Blair and Brown, Cameron and Osborne, Clegg and Cable, even 'Lord' Browne, and all the rest of you comfortable, sanctimonious high-achievers. You've all had the benefits of being taught, for free, at the finest universities. You all have done well as a consequence. Let's see you front up now, by volunteering to pay an open-ended, retrospective tax for the full effective period of your earnings since then - based upon whatever rate you elect to impose on the nation's young. If you fail to do so, I for one will brand you hypocrite.

To expect students to go deep into debt, in their teens, is merely another form of the previously widely-derided principle of hypothecation. Students 'pay' for their education in the form of tax paid over a lifetime of work. The more successful pay more because they earn more; well, durrrr! Education is an investment by the nation. We don't 'need' media studies graduates, golf-course managers and charity-workers. We will need properly technically-skilled graduates in useful disciplines which will enhance the country's earnings over the coming decades.

I have boys in their teens; one wants to study engineering and the other seems to want to go into medicine. In the absence of a sensible, far-sighted educational policy, I will be tempted to advise them to take the education, and then emigrate from this blighted, benighted, short-sighted country. Their skills will be in demand around the world. As far as I am concerned, subsequent governments can whistle for repayment of their loans.

When I dabbled on the edge of economics, many years ago, one of the earliest lessons learned was that nobody can borrow cheaper than a government. Let's see the government have the courage to invest in education. If everybody's tax rate has go up a notch, who can possibly object. We are, after, all, all in this together.

Oh dear, Iain, I rather appear to have got the wrong end of the stick. I've been ranting about tuition fees, while I see that you mean tutition fees. That's a different thing altogether, right?

albertmbankment said...

I feel that all those smug people who, having themselves enjoyed a free tertiary education, are now so determined that students should pay for their education, should expiate their hypocrisy by belatedly paying up for theirs. Come on now, Blair and Brown, Cameron and Osborne, Clegg and Cable, even 'Lord' Browne, and all the rest of you comfortable, sanctimonious high-achievers. You've all had the benefits of being taught, for free, at the finest universities. You all have done well as a consequence. Let's see you front up now, by volunteering to pay an open-ended, retrospective tax for the full effective period of your earnings since then - based upon whatever rate you elect to impose on the nation's young. If you fail to do so, I for one will brand you hypocrite.

To expect students to go deep into debt, in their teens, is merely another form of the previously widely-derided principle of hypothecation. Students 'pay' for their education in the form of tax paid over a lifetime of work. The more successful pay more because they earn more; well, durrrr! Education is an investment by the nation. We don't 'need' media studies graduates, golf-course managers and charity-workers. We will need properly technically-skilled graduates in useful disciplines which will enhance the country's earnings over the coming decades.

I have boys in their teens; one wants to study engineering and the other seems to be heading towards a career in medicine. In the absence of a sensible, far-sighted educational policy, I will be tempted to advise them to take the education, and then emigrate from this blighted, benighted, short-sighted country. Their skills will be in demand around the world. As far as I am concerned, subsequent governments can whistle for repayment of their loans. Let them sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind.

When I dabbled on the edge of economics, many years ago, one of the earliest lessons learned was that nobody can borrow cheaper than a government. Let's see the government have the courage to invest in education. If everybody's tax rate has to go up a notch, who can possibly object? We are, after all, all in this together.

Oh dear, Iain, I rather appear to have got the wrong end of the stick. I've been ranting about tuition fees, while I see that you mean tutition fees. That's a different thing altogether, right?

Victor, NW Kent said...

The increased fees and student debt will accelerate the emigration of many qualified young people.

Go to Australia or Canada with your degree and a couple of years work experience - problem solved.

New Labour's ridiculous pitch for 50% to go to university necessitated the introduction of top fees so the Law of Unintended Consequences will come into play here.

Germany has half of our percentage going to university and tuition there is free. The other half go into vocational training and Germany still has a large export market for its manufactured goods.

Q.E.D.

Ruth@VS said...

I was also the first in my family to go to university and benefitted from the grant system. I despair at what has happened since - useless degrees achieved by too many people who will never get the higher incomes promised, especially as they have to pay everything back as well. I wouldn't recommend anyone to go to university full time now - much better to do a part-time qualification, paying as you go while working too.

Unsworth said...

Why do cretinous 'journalists' like Rentoul believe it incumbent upon you - or anyone else, for that matter - to put up alternative proposals? You've voiced your concerns, full stop.

Rentoul is completely off his trolley if he believes that critics are obliged to provide solutions. We pay (for) our politicians and Civil Servants to do the work. It's up to them to take comment on board as necesary.

Paddy Briggs said...

It might be wishful thinking but let me tell you how I got my degree. In the mid-1960s I was recruited by Shell-Mex and BP, the UK marketing arm of Shell and BP, straight from school with a couple of moderate A levels (Two A levels was much more the norm in those days). After a couple of years of learning a bit about the business I was selected along with a handful of others to do a BA Hons degree course at Ealing Technical College (now Thames Valley University). The standard was academically quite high and it was a genuine Honours Degree in Business Studies guaranteed and monitored by the Council for National Academic Awards. I graduated in 1970 with a 2.1.
The incidence of corporations/private sector employers offering young employees the chance to do vocational tertiary education is I suspect low these days. But why not? On a “Sandwich Course” you learn about the business of your employer as well as doing proper vocational education. And when you graduate you go into a job with already an inbuilt loyalty to your employer. I stayed with Shell for the rest of my 37 year career.
There are other funding models for Tertiary education and other ways of getting there than traditional University courses. My Business Studies degree was almost entirely relevant to my subsequent business life. It cost me nothing and Shell got me – for better or worse!
Why doesn’t the Government encourage Private Sector employers to offer appropriate vocational Tertiary education to school leavers in return for these students’ commitment to that employer? Tax incentives could apply so that the net cost to both the employer and the taxpayer were kept low. Everyone would benefit.

richard.blogger said...

Iain, you miss an important point. Yes those who earn a higher income pays a higher interest rate but only until they have paid off the loan. This means that the very rich, those who can afford to pay off the loan immediately, gets the education the cheapest, even cheaper than those just about the threshold to pay back the loan.

Chris said...

Another problem with this system is that it doesn't charge extra to well-off students - it's charges extra to students with well-off parents. This places a small but important minority in a difficult position - why should someone be forced only to take a degree that their parents approve of, simply because of their background? I know several people who were taking useful, important degrees who received no financial support from their parents because of disagreements, and this system would exclude those people.

Lord Blagger said...

But the fact is that if we wish to keep higher education open to the masses, universities need to increase their income. With an ever increasing number of students wanting university places, what alternative is there?

=====================

There is a very simple alternative. Pay off debts. If the government didn't have 5,000 billion of debt, it could afford to give free university education.

Instead, its paying over the odds for photocopying paper, paying over the odds for quangos. Paying over the odds for politicians. Paying people to live their entire lifes on the dole. ...

There's an alternative for you Iain. Stop paying for these things, and students can have a free education.

The debt of course still needs to be paid but I notice yet another default in process.

Pensions are no longer linked to RPI but to CPI, which is lower. That takes a few 10s of thousands from the students complaining about free education.

ie. They get to pay twice

Boo said...

I think with so many people going into university and the nature of the job market the 3 year degree is no longer viable for most students.

Hopefully the tuition fee business will force the issue, leading to a more flexible and useful degree.

I suspect for most people a one year taught, one year work plus corespondance course would be much better at equiping the nation.

Ofcause this does rely on a strong A level. University can no longer afford to do the schools job for them.

Peter said...

Increased Tuition Fees are the best bad option.
Universities need extra income in the longer term.
Partnerships with further education Colleges in the UK would bring income and allow students a cheaper option.
Why not have partnerships with foreign Universities as well. The Chinese for example.

geraldallen said...

Iain; Reading your post on tuition fee's Bob Piper is right you are becoming a boring old "whatever"(maybe pompous as well).Quite correct to point out the hypocrisy of those Labour M.P,s who voted for tuition fee's,when 90% of them had free university education thanks to the implementation of the Robbin's report/commission by the 1964-1970 Labour government.At least you acknowledge that you were lucky enough to recieve a free university education;but then shrug and say you see no alternative to tuition fee's;hypocrisy eh? surely a graduation tax is the only equitable solution,do'nt tell me Whitehall's finest minds ca'nt find a fair/satisfactory scheme totaxpayers and students(thats if there are any left after Gideon takes his axe to the Civil Service and Academia.

notayesmanseconomics said...

Hi Iain
Thanks for this post. I too was the first to go to university in my family and I must be slightly younger as I caught the phasing out of student grants...

As an economist I was always surprised by the 50% target which seemed much too high.

But on a day where we had inflation over target again as I report in my blog. We get what is an inflationary increase in student fees.

"The CPI at 3.1% is some 1.1% above its target whereas its predecessor RPI-X is at 4.6% and is accordingly some 2.1% over its target. This situation has persisted all year which seems to be something of a re-writing of the meaning of the word “temporary.”"

jbw said...

albertmbankment said...

"I have boys in their teens; one wants to study engineering and the other seems to want to go into medicine. In the absence of a sensible, far-sighted educational policy, I will be tempted to advise them to take the education, and then emigrate from this blighted, benighted, short-sighted."

Good point - I tried that - the trouble is that they don't want to leave!

Osama the Nazarene said...

As an initial aside, the good burghers of Norwich always thought that the government turned a second rate golf course into a third rate University.

Setting a somewhat different context, most of us know that the previous labour government left us in deep doodoo financially. The coalition government has to drastically cut back government spending and it seems that as part of the cuts 3 billion of the 4 billion paid to universities will be cut. In these circumstances money has to be found from other sources to continue funding higher education. Hence Lord Browne.

Interesting to know if Gordon was also going to cut government spending on universities?

As for our universities keeping up with Harvard, what a load of spin. The first thing Vice Chancellors did when they received the extra money raised by the Blair-Clarke tax on students was to treble their pay, hey ho!

Stephen Wigmore said...

I completely agree Iain. This is a sick trick on students, designed to cripple them with debt, passed down from on high by people who were happy to get a free education and then go on to trash the economy, which the young will now have to pay for.

Universities are just like any other self-interested public sector group. We should pay no more attention to them than any trade union or civil servant demanding more, more and more public money so they can keep their snouts in the trough.

Of course vice-chancellors and academics at top universities don't care about saddling students with vast debt, they're not the ones who are going to have to pay it. They just want more money to increase their bloated pay, perks and "international reputation" and they don't care about the ordinary undergraduates who will be saddled with vast debts to achieve this. The US system is awful and we should not be copying it.

We should have a clear contribution from tuition fees, from a progressive graduate contribution and from state funds, but not an attempt to throw the entire burden on the student. And I say this as a life-long Tory and happy supporter of the Coalition, on all issues but this one.

Salmondnet said...

"Tutition" fees? The squeeze must be cutting into editing.

mrslant said...

"But the fact is that if we wish to keep higher education open to the masses, universities need to increase their income. With an ever increasing number of students wanting university places, what alternative is there?"

That depends on what you mean by "the masses". 30 years ago, university was open to anyone who could pass the exams, regardless of their background. Now it risks becoming the preserve of the rich again.

The reason applications have continued to rise despite increasing cost is because a degree is now a requirement for any sort of white-collar job. If 40% go to university, you need a degree to show that you're in that 40% - whereas 30 years ago a couple of O levels would have done. Widening access just devalues the currency.

The alternative is simple: fund fewer places. There will be more money to go round, so bright students can still go to uni regardless of background, the currency of a degree will be revalued, and lesser qualifications will once again suffice to get a decent job, especially if we restore some sanity to school exams too.

mike said...

To my mind the Browne report misses the point completely. The university system is the main problem here. It is far too expensive for the value it delivers to the country (and the student).

I have a BEng and an MSc and the important (i.e money earning skills) portion of my (highly technical) 4 years at university could have been taught to me in an intense 12/18 month period if it had been done properly by skilled teachers. If the efficiency of higher education was looked at tuition fees (and therefore access) would be much less of an issue.

Some might argue a free market could help here. I would disagree because I'm a lefty! But whatever your view let's talk about why education is so expensive rather than purely concentrating on how we pay for it.

Ian said...

Graduates will demand higher salaries as a reward for racking up huge debts. I for one am comfortable about this - however, in this age of 'progressive' politics, politicians must also be comfortable knowing that there will be an inevitable increase in the gap between salaries of the haves (graduates and the middle classes) and the have nots.

Waxy said...

I wonder how many people have actually read the detail of the Browne review rather than reports of what it says?

So many commentators have an outdated view of higher education. Almost 40% of undergraduates study part time - and they've always paid unregulated fees up-front. More than 12% do their HE study in an FE college.

And courses in derided subjects like media studies often have HIGHER employment rates than some traditional subjects.

Everyone who moans that 'more means worse' misses the point that the boundary between 'higher education' and advanced further education is increasingly meaningless. Whether it's called FE or not, we need to be a cleverer country rather than compete globally in low value-added goods and services - which means more education and training. This means not just an extended initial education but recurrent lifelong learning. And of course individuals, employers and the state ALL need to pay more.

One area where Lord Browne might be challenged is the cursory consideration of making business pay more. Compared to other OECD economies, British business contributions are measly.

As the father of a 13 yo I share the apprehension of other parents about to help my son through HE - should he chose that route but that might mean part-time study combined with full or part-time work, blended learning combining face to face tuition with on-line study (see MIT's OPen Courseware initiative and i-tunesU for initiative far more creative than most UK HE - outside the Open University).

The main thing is to stop thinking of higher education as some kind of socially selective finishing school for those enjoying an extended initial education on a leafy campus or amid dreaming spires.

DeeDee99 said...

Going to university or not is the modern equivalent of the 11+.

If you don't get A levels at go to some form of university - even a low level ex-polytechnic to study Waste Management with Dance - you have 'failed.' Never mind that you might become a master craftsman at a trade or an entrepreneur who didn't need the accolade of a 'degree' from some institution which calls itself a university.

By decreeing that 50% of young people should go go university, Labour re-introduced selection but at a later stage and with a price tag attached.

The Coalition Government, because of our economic circumstances, has now had to rachet up the price tag for most.

How much better it would be if we returned to the common-sense of the 60s; university for the true elite; grammer school for the second tier and vocational school/training for the remainder. All with no price tag attached.

Ben said...

I find the furore surrounding Browne's proposals somewhat frustrating as people may knee-jerk reactions to information they have yet to properly analyse. I am a recent graduate from a middle-class background with 18k of debt. This debt doesn't bother me in the slightest because I know the terms of repayment are extremely favourable. If I start on a wage of around 19k a year, I will pay around 30 pound a month on repaying the loan. Is this really a crippling debt??? And what difference does your background make to the 'burden' of this debt??

The new system, if anything is even more progressive than the old one. People should stop getting caught up in the figures and youngsters should be fully informed that student debt isn't the burden that the lefties and liberals attempt to convince you that it is. Yes I'd be worried about 18-30k of debt if I owed it to a bank but the extremely favourable conditions of repayment offered by the government make most degrees a worthwhile investment.

The added bonus will be some polytechnics masquerading as universities going to the wall and the 'degrees' they offer will be replaced by more useful vocational courses which offer far better value for money.

Now can some people in a more influential position than myself make this argument clear to the stubborn anti-fees community. Currently this community makes arguments with no clarity or foundation simply quoting large figures to breed fear.

Treacle said...

You say "our universities", but it's only the English ones, you know; and there *are* parts of the UK other than England. There's nothing to stop students from England applying to Scottish universities if they don't like the fees that they will have to pay in England. The fees for English students at Scottish universities are only £1,225 p.a. They might find the quality of education better there too.

niconoclast said...

Watching the university students on ch4 last night with their whining mendicancy and entitlement mentality and drearily predictable cloned lefty views I'd be happy to see less such morons going to university.More is less as Mr Amis used to say.

icrlp05 said...

The table at the bottom is interesting...

http://changemyworldview.blogspot.com/2010/11/debt-free-aged-73-how-9000-tuition-fees.html