Have we woken up to the uni revolution?

Have I missed a burning debate about university tuition fees in NI? I thought not.  But better late than never. It’s surely obvious that Joanne Stuart’s recommendation to keep them at their present £3290  level is out of date – if it ever was up to date.

The DEL report is understood to favour keeping the current fees and improving maintenance grants.

Sir Reg has hinted that the financial crisis could affect any moves to be more generous to students.

“This is a devolved matter, we have to look at our own circumstances,” Sir Reg said.

 You can say that again Reg. Among topic for ( overdue?) consultation.

  • Can Queen’s stay in the elite Russsell Group of universities without putting up  fees considerably?
  • Can the UU afford its move from Jordanstown to the centre of Belfast?
  •  What is the likely effect on total student numbers?  I would expect  UK student numbers as a whole  to fall – a move not unwelcome in Whitehall I suspect. It seems  to mean the final abandonment of the 50% target of all young people to attend university.

I predict the number of NI students attending Scottish universities will also fall.

Where will the pinch be felt most? Among middle earning families.

Incidentally how can fees be gathered from former students of the NI unis who work in the Republic?

I haven’t any idea of what’s been happening over NI students wanting to go to uni in the Republic. Anybody know?

In Scotland where the SNP government ares still holding out against tuition fees for Scots,  I’ll bet they’re preparing to take a trip back down the yellow brick road to reality  -whatever education secretary Mick Russell is saying in public.

In Scotland, tuition fees were abolished in 2000, two years after their introduction by the Blair government.

A one-off graduate endowment fee of just over £2,000 was scrapped by Scottish ministers in 2008.

On Monday, Sir Andrew Cubie, whose inquiry in 1999 recommended the abolition of up-front tuition fees, said it would now be difficult to sustain a system which did not incorporate fees.

He said: “I think we’re back to a point where graduate payments are required.”

Apart from all that, Lord Browne’s report has some really good ideas for improving teaching standards and for giving students better value for money all round. Not before time. Some will mourn the end of the arms-length principle for funding universities but in realty it all but ended years ago. Greater government control of public funding wil be  balanced by some flexibility over the top limit of new fees (” the soft cap”).

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  • Joe Mahon

    Can Queen’s stay in the elite Russsell Group of universities without putting up fees considerably? NO
    Can the UU afford its move from Jordanstown to the centre of Belfast? NO
    What is the likely effect on total student numbers?WHO KNOWS

    But dont panic – soon to be ex-Minister Empey from the soon to be ex Party the UUP has announced a Review! Thankfully the consultation wont start until February and as you know these things take at least 12 weeks – well after the elections!

    Leadership – dont ya love it!

  • JOHN

    This is a bad decision for most people wanting higher education, however the one good thing to come of this is fewer people will be going to University to do a daft degree that they will have to pay for and instead will follow a more vocational pathway

  • Jo

    What is the TUV view on higher education?

    Who is the party’s Education spokesperson?

  • Hold on: not so fast!

    The current rankings of QUB (56th in the Guardian’s ranking of “teaching excellence”) and UU (79th) are hardly beacons of light.

    Their take-up of students is assisted by NI having (by UK standards) under-provision of HE places (effectively NI is half a university short).

    So: reduce the pool of would-be students, and jack up the fees, while also reducing professional job opportunities. There’s going to be an awful lot of empty places.

    What happens then? Reduce fees/award bursaries to attract recruits to less-popular disciplines? Shut down all those less-popular courses (so much for a university)?

    In the meantime, I trust we will get declarations of interest from all those MPs voting to uncap fees, saying how they didn’t have grants or state aid.

  • joeCanuck

    Does anyone know what it costs a typical student (I know there’s no such thing 🙂 ) in living expenses?

  • A NUS survey is reported by the BBC:

    The survey of 132 university and private sector landlords found the average weekly room cost had risen from £81.18 in 2006-07 to £98.99 in 2009-10.

    A typical student budget is suggested by the University of Sussex: it totals £515 per month.

    The big shift has been (a) the growth of buy-to-rent (financed by all those duff banks) and (b) the increasing control of Unite Group, and the like, “privatising’ halls of residence. Both those sectors are into de-regulated rack-renting.

  • joeCanuck

    Thanks, Malcolm.

  • Brian’s point about whether QUB can stay in the Russell Group without putting up fees raises an interesting question – namely what are the criteria for membership of it? There don’t seem to be any on the website. It seems to be a self-selecting group. Only 11 were ranked in the top 20 UK universities by the Indpendent for example. I note though that all four countries within the UK are represented. I suspect that QUB’s position within it is quite safe regardless of the fees question.

    It seems then that it should be given the same weight in these debates as any other self-selecting vested interest group.

    As for Scotland. I suspect more NI students might go there than England if the differential in fees remains. If the more prestigious English universities push their fees right up, then it might make sense to go to Scotland where costs of living are generally lower.

    I note that the NUS a few days ago said they suspect this is kite-flying, so the government can bring the figure down from this height, then look good. I’m not so sure that Eton Cameron and Westminster Clegg and the rest of the Old Etonians and Oxbridge alumini particularly appreciate the fears these plans will raise among potential students, nor particularly care.

  • Lhondoo

    I think you’re putting a bit too much significance on membership of the Russell group as an indicator of elite status.

    Yes it contains some elite universities, but first and foremost it’s a fairly loose and slightly arbitrarily composed lobby group. For example, it would be difficult to make the case that a fair few members like QUB, Cardiff, Liverpool or Nottingham have significantly higher research profiles than many non-Russell institutions like Durham, Queen Mary, St Andrews, Sussex, Lancaster or York.

    In any case, I would imagine that QUB’s position is relatively safe due to:

    1. Membership of the Russell Group being largely determined by research funding, not teaching (UKHE is by and large geared more towards and concerned with the former than the latter in general);

    2. The Russell Group is fairly conscious of being able to claim that it represents research interests accross the UK, so I don’t think they’re going to kick out their only NI member any time soon.

  • Alias

    As Milton Friedman pointed out, uncontrolled immigration is incompatible with the welfare state. Likewise, uncontrolled immigration between EU member states is incompatible with policies of subsidised education within member states.

    Students migrate to the state that offers the lowest education costs and when it does so by subsidy then it is the taxpayers in one state who end up paying for the education of the citizens of another state with the exporting state gaining the advantage of an educated workforce whose education is paid for by a competitor state and the importing state merely using its own taxpayers fund to educate the workforce of the competitor state.

    What occurs is that the host state can no longer afford to subsidise the foreign students and as it cannot exclude them under EU rules then it must raise the cost of education for its own nationals.

  • Have you any actual evidence for any of this? I severely doubt it. Especially given the figures at the link below


  • Marcus

    They can put it up to 12,000 if they want but they will have some fun years down the line trying to collect that of graduates! no average student will ever be able to pay that back.

  • NI students going to the Republic don’t have to pay ‘fees’, but do pay a ‘registration fee’ of around E1500 or so (if you are familiar with the income levy you know how fiscal semantics works in the Republic). Obviously cost of living in Dublin is pretty high, while Trinity gets NI students, numbers in UCD are low, am not sure of picture in DCU or DIT.

  • Alias

    The 8% non-nationals in UK higher education quoted in that statistic is pretty compelling evidence by itself.

    In Ireland, the figure for non-nationals in UK higher education is 15%. The reason the Irish figure it is almost double the UK’s figure is because Irish taxpayers offer a greater sudsidy than the UK offers. Hence “Students migrate to the state that offers the lowest education costs and when it does so by subsidy…”

  • Alias

    Slight typo: “In Ireland, the figure for non-nationals in higher education is 15%.”

  • Alias

    Which is utterly absurd. Why should the taxpayers of one state fund the education of the citizens of a foreign state, particularly when that state is an economic competitor? The British state shold fund the education of its own citizens or require those citizens to do so. I see no reason why Irish taxpayers should accept another state’s burden to the direct driment of its own citizens.

  • You need to be careful about the status of the students – if you look at the relative fees liable for the likes of EU and non-EU students, you’d notice a significant commercial imperative to bring in ‘non-national’ students (i.e. students who pay international fees). Even then, in Ireland and Britain, they fees are still relatively cheap compared to the likes of a mid-rank US university which would cost about $50,000 per year.

  • You see, there is this thing called the European Union….

  • Alias

    I have no problem with non-nationals in higher education if it was the case – which it isn’t – that they are subsidising the education by paying commercial fees rather than the state subdising their education by accepting them on the same basis as it accepts its own citizens – which is the case.

    “Under the Free Fees Initiative, the State meets the tuition fees of eligible students who are attending approved third-level courses. Generally speaking, eligible students are those who are first-time undergraduates, who hold EU nationality or official refugee status, and have been resident in an EU Member State for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to an approved third-level course. “

  • Michael

    N.I. is hardly ‘competetion’ for the south 😉

    Besides, any old school mates of mine that went to uni in Dublin and Galway have remained there, same with the ones that went to Uni in England.
    It’s not like they went away, did their degrees/post-grads/masters and thought, I must go back to NI and see what exciting job opportunities there are. They stayed where they were, and became assets to those places.

  • Alias

    There was also a thing called the Third Reich.

  • Reader

    Malcolm Redfellow: The big shift has been (a) the growth of buy-to-rent (financed by all those duff banks)
    It’s an unusual suggestion that an increasing number of houses available to rent will increase rental charges. Aren’t prices more likely to be tied to the increased number of students seeking accommodation over the same period?

  • Michael


  • Many international students actually pay on a separate fee structure which tends to be a significant income stream for various subject areas at particular universities (medicine, technology being typical exanples). Depending on the college, there may be large numbers of Chinese, Malaysian or other students within certain faculties – they are all paying through the nose to be there.

  • Michael

    About 20+ grand a year at QEB for a non-EU student iirc. I think it’s capped at 10% as regards places for non EU fee paying students on each course.

  • Alan Maskey

    The student yobs have plenty of money to binge drink in the Holy Land near Queen’s. Many of these “poor students” drive cars and go on flashy holidays. These yobs do not pay council tax or income tax and so fit well into gthe scrounger culture. Kick them out and bring in fee paying Asians.

  • Alias

    Well, you know, if there is this great international demand for Ireland’s higher education services and this demand is independent of a bunch of suckers called taxpayers subsiding it, then let us make an industry out of a product that there is such high market demand for and start charging commercial rates for it. Instead of losing a fortune, we could actually be making a fortune. Or is it the case that the international demand would vanish when there is no longer a bunch of suckers in Ireland to pay for it?

  • Progressive Unionist

    It’s appalling – education, just like healthcare, is an essential basic right, just like healthcare. We should no more be placing debt burdens of 30k on our young students heads than we should be asking elderly people to pay 30k+ for healthcare.

    We should be raising the money to pay off the deficit by taxing the banks who created this crisis and by progressive taxation, especially on those earning 100k+ per year.

    It’s terrible that this Tory-led government are trying to use this crisis to try and throw away all the gains of decades of social progress since the Second World War – instead of placing the financial burden where it belongs, on the high-flying financiers who created the crisis in the first place.

  • Someone has beat you to it.
    I think one of the finalists on yourcountryyourcall had also proposed a scheme for bringing in large numbers of US students to the Republic, don’t think it won, though.

  • Comrade Stalin

    This decision shows what seems to be to be an exceptional lack of foresight. How are we supposed to build a knowledge economy and attract inward investment if workers/professionals are not tooled up with the right skills and qualifications ?

  • The convenient hinterland of a university (or similar institution) is geographically limited. Of course the influx of any additional student population increases demand. However, the increase in student numbers has not been shuffled into the same number of institutions, and there has been some substantial increase in the number of establishments (University of Lincoln, anybody?)

    One example: the University of Oxford has increased student numbers by less than 5% over the last three years (and most are accommodated in-house): does that explain the corresponding 20+% increase in housing costs?

    The requirement to maximise income from mortgages-to-rent uplifts rents for what was (in many student areas) stock little above slum level. There is a further step-up because of safety and other regulations (my student flat in Dublin was a cold-water job with periodic rising sewage). Then the institution “privatises” its in-house accommodation. etc. etc.

    Take a look at the NUS-commissioned surveys to see how inflationary the process has been over the last decade.

  • slug

    Getting graduates to contribute to the cost of the degree they benefit from – only after their pay has risen to decent levels – is the most realistic way to properly fund an excellent university system.

    Browne got it right. NI will have to follow to a greater or lesser extent.

  • slug

    PS I should declare a conflict: I work at a university.

  • Alias

    Folks already have free education, so that isn’t in dispute here. The issue is higher education and whether or not taxpayers should finance the careers of others or whether those others should finance their own career choices.

    Why should taxpayers finance doctors or lawyers who then charge those taxpayers 60 euro a visit or 100 euro an hour? The taxpayers have set them up in business only to be fleeced by them. If folks want higher education to improve their earnings capacity then they should invest in it like any other businessman or self-serving person will do. I see no reason as a taxpayer to divert my money to these freeloaders.

    The good thing about making folks pay for their own career choices is that they will be less likely to change careers after the taxpayer has financed the career they originally choose. There should be student loans either since these shites don’t pay them back. Let them work and pay for their education like they do in America or find some grant program to pay for it.

    As we see in America, having to self-finance their career choice does not in any way lead to a shortage of employees in those professions where higher education is required so the claim that people will not advance their own careers through education unless someone else pays for it it is utterly bogus.

  • Progressive Unionist

    That’s not right – that like saying “getting sick people to contribute to the cost of the healthcare that cures them”…

    Post-war Britain has aspired towards being a civilised society, a decent social democracy. Healthcare and Education are core to that aspiration.

    We’re the 6th biggest economy in the world. The burden of the financial crisis should be placed on the bankers and ultra-high earners who caused it, and not on the shoulders of our 16 and 17 year olds who represent our future.

    The Tories are just using this as an excuse to tear down the pillars of social democracy. Shame on Vince Cable and any Liberal Democrat who supports them in this.

  • Progressive Unionist

    Why should taxpayers finance doctors or lawyers – because those taxpayers – and their children – have the right to same free higher education…

    If we call ourselves a decent society, then Healthcare and Education are at the core of that. (at least the Scots still believe in that).

    The Tories are using this crisis as an excuse to fulfill their ultra-right wing Thatcherite dreams (all this talk of education being a “market”) –

    The Tories are trying to tear down British social democracy and all that middle-and-low income people have gained since 1939.

    Already a number of Lib Dem backbenchers are rebelling – even two former leaders (Ming Campbell and Charles Kennedy) – say what you like about Labour, but they would never have done this to our young kids, they would never have burdened them with a Thatcherite ‘free market’ where they have to face 30,000 pounds of debt just in order to get a decent education.

    (and a Degree these days is the base level for success for anyone under 35 – obtaining a degree is what obtaining A-levels was 25 years ago, and for the Tories to be forcing students into 30 grand of debt is just appalling)

  • Alias

    Sorry, but I don’t have any moral obligation to finance your career. If you want higher education to advance your occupational opportunities and income then the responsibility is with you to make that investment in your career, not with me. I see no reason to donate a portion of my income to advance your earnings potential in the workplace.

    In fact, the suggestion that I should is utterly absurd. If I want to earn extra income in knowledge-based economy then I have to invest in acquiring those skills and in selling the service I offer based on them to my clients. Taxpayers do not pay for my training, and I do not ask them to fund my business. I do not like being asked to fund your business when that is what I am doing by funding your acquisition of occupational knowledge and income you will derive from it. Pay for it yourself or do without it. If you’re smart, you’ll invest in your education in order to improve your earning potential. If you’re not, then I’d have wasted my money paying for it.

    (I used the generic ‘you’ by the way!)

  • Progressive Unionist

    So it’s dog-eat-dog in your world then? Fair enough, that’s exactly the kind of American-style ‘market competition’ idea that underpins these Tory education proposals.

    A degree is the basic pre-requisite to get started in a career these days and is the equivalent of an A-level in years gone by. Education (just like healthcare) should be free at the point of delivery through primary, secondary and third-level at least.

    I say that out of a belief that humans can do a lot better than dog-eat-dog, and I don’t believe in human-eat-human.

  • slug

    Actually being sick is not a choice hence different.

  • What I find incomprehensible is the refusal of these right-wingers (right whingers?) to see the social utility in higher education.

    I’m not going to rehearse the way UK, indeed all Western society moved in the post-WW2 years. That was based on an educational revolution.

    What I will suggest at this juncture is that Higher Education should be seen as part of the general Research & Development budget, without which we are into gentle, increasing and inevitable decline into Third-World status. There are now more technologists at work in China than there have ever been in the whole of the UK in the whole of history.

    One further thought: every Tory government since WW2 has allowed, even encouraged R&D to shrivel, and with it, on each occasion, whole swathes of UK industrial capacity.

  • Anon

    Education is a public good. If you doubt this, imagine the consequences to the economy if there was a 50% drop in graduates. If students and teachers unions had stones, they’d “strike” and refuse to apply through UCAS the first year and if possible, start appl;ying to other lower cost countries. the government would brick themselves.

    The system proposes not only sticks a mortgage sized burden on students, it starts seriously closing off the opportunities for the poor and the lower middle to go to the top unis.

    I wonder if this is bait and switch though. Make the initial pitch so horrendous that anything below looks good.

  • Anon

    Without graduates, Alias, there is no “knowledge based” economy for you to sell anything in. And it’s getting to the point where people really need third level education for a reasonable standard of living, just as in a previous generation there was a shift where second level was really required. The investment in education very likely has a positive return. Some contribution from the student, sure. It’s good for them to have a stake and incentives not to screw up. But this a massive shift of burden from the state to the individual.

    The response here well be “Nah nah nah media studies nah nah nah”. If there are too many poor courses, or people going to the wrong courses, then that is a structural problem rather than a demand one, and thius the solutions are different.

  • slug

    After fees were introduced at the £3200 level (a couple of years ago) people worried about it putting people off. But in fact the numberof applicant soared. The fees are not paid off until income rises. This is a fair way of paying as the person who benefits from the education pays for it.

  • I agree with Progressive Unionist – but as far as what Alias says about doctors etc applies very readily in the Republic in a way that people in the North might not grasp (particularly with reference to doctors) although that’s one small issue within a wider problem.

    People use ‘market’ language around education but have no idea how nonsensical that has been. As part of the market-readiness of the university sector, quality control has supposedly been introduced. But it has simply been co-opted directly from industry to measure research, teaching quality etc in a way that can be presented as a ranking mechanism. So the necessary beaurocracies were put in place and industrial-type quality audits of various university practices were undertaken. What has happened? People quickly learnt the rules and know how to achieve a 23 out of 24, or a 5-star rating or whatever. It’s impact on graduate quality or research output? Minimal, if any positive impacts at all. However, the beaurocracies have a considerable cost implication and university staff lose a proportion of their time to various meaningless exercises. Oh, but every now and again some of the papers get to release mutually-contradictory ‘league tables’ etc so the markets can still be seen to be god (and with the conceit that prospective students actually pay any attention to them). While no-one is saying that universities should not evolve with the times, they are supposed to be centres of learning, not simply branded supermarkets for degrees.

  • Glencoppagagh

    I fail to see the ‘social utility’ derived from elevating occupational training into an academic environment. Nursing is a recent example and I’m sure you can remember when it wasn’t expected that solicitors or accountants to have a degree. Were they any less competent for that.
    Meanwhile, nearly all our universities are becoming increasingly demeaned by the presence of students who simply want to acquire a white-collar trade. Few of them have the slightest interest in pushing out the frontiers of technology.

  • slug

    It is to secure a better university sector capable of attracting top notch scientists that we in the university sector welcome a less bureaucratic system as here. Fees make universities less dependent on the state and secure our finance. WHile the taxpayer will continue to fund the research councils, those who benefit from a university education will now make a greater contribution, which seems fair, but only once their salary rises so they can afford to, which also seems fair.

  • slug

    “It’s [the RAE] impact on graduate quality or research output? Minimal” The RAE did a lot to drive standards up on research. UK universities are now focussed on research output in a way they weren’t before.

  • Slug, I was speaking more broadly including the QAA etc as well. True, the first RAE had an impact, but since then everyone learnt the rules and the real impact has been minimal. There is more ‘RAE-rated’ research and an increasing number of media (including the web) to promote research outputs, but there is no evidence in either that it drove up research standards or quality.
    Despite the QAA etc the emphasis has shifted from learners to staff (to ‘perform’ for the RAE), so graduate quality has been impacted. If you look at the subject specific thresholds for the QAA (in its short life-time) it is hard to claim the standard is rising over time.

  • slug @ 9:54 am:

    That’s a very partial view. The immediate effect of introducing top-up fees was a reduction in HE student numbers. The HE participation rate (Heipr) fell from 42% to 40%. The only later figures (they are currently available only up to 2007/8, while the 2008/9 is qualified as “provisional) are further complicated by “a change in the underlying data” (see the BES circular, para 18). Then there is the drop-out rate: around 22% of students fail to complete an undergraduate course; and this is even higher in the key “undersubscribed” courses of maths and engineering.

    Some observers suggest that any subsequent Heipr increase is in part merely the alternative to rising unemployment. A further complication is such figures is the “professionalising” of many occupations (B.Sc, in golf-course management, anybody?)

  • Glencoppagagh @ 10:09 am:

    That assumes nursing = tending (have you seen the technology of even an average hospital ward? the record-keeping?)

    Similarly, “accountancy” is now much more than book-keeping.

    Allow me to declare an interest, as
    * the parent of a solicitor who has specialised in the field of medical negligence (see above);
    * the parent of a “management accountant” whose last and typical month has taken her to Phoenix AZ, Edinburgh, New Jersey (repeatedly), Bangalore and Prague;
    * as the uncle of a “forensic accountant” digging deep in dirty deeds.

  • Oops: missing close-bold. Sorry for shouting.

  • Aldamir

    I do not see why the state seems to adopt a “one size fits all” approach to higher education, at least at the undergraduate level.

    There are subjects that would add to the knowledge economy, such as computing, technology, hard sciences or engineering. Surely these should be subsidised to a greater extent.

    In a second category would be vocational subjects, such as teaching or nursing, this category would also include law and medicine. These should be subsidised in line with the likely future need. A case could be made for some of these subjects to be studied in vocational colleges instead of universities (not medicine obviously), with courses potentially shorter than the standard 3 year undergraduate degree.

    A third category would be traditional university arts subjects, such as history or philosophy. while educationally valuable are less beneficial to the economy. These should attract lesser or no subsidies.

    Finally there are new subjects such as the “surf studies”, media studies and the type of thing regularly unearthed by tabloids. I don’t see why many of these should be taught at university at all.

    Merit based bursaries seem to be a good way of providing funding, especially in the less crucial categories. This would leave some places open to merit alone and would therefore moderate the effects of a more market based system.

    I am not convinced that it should be a government policy to increase participation in university education, as it seems to create excessive numbers of graduates and leads to “qualification inflation” as degrees become essential for jobs which previously did not require them, while practical vocational qualifications are downgraded in importance.

  • slug

    John personally speaking I can see the pressure to do research is so much higher than before and I think that’s good. We have high quality in research now. As for teaching, the QAA is of little relevance I agree. Teaching quality has however actually risen a lot in my experience in the last 10 years (certainly mine has!) and that is partly from student surveys and feedback on lectures as well as a sense that the student is now paying and deserves better; student fees can be expected to give universities a sense that there is an income to be had from good teaching and as such I think its going to help quality.

  • slug

    Malcolm: participation is at a higher level now than 10 years ago. Participation should not go to 100% There are other ways of trainning (such as apprentices) where people themselves currently pay the cost. University should not be subsidised relative to other forms of teaching and training – that is very unfair.

    Drop out rates are often associated with bad initial choice of subject and tends to happen at the lower standard institutions. Work needs to be done to improve drop out through better focus on this problem. Using it as an argument against fees seems unlikely to work. Fees might reduce drop out in fact.

  • Aldamir @ 11:43 am:

    The essential notion there is impeccable: of course there has to be a positive incentive to those key “undersubscribed” areas of maths, engineering and science.

    However (and we all knew that was coming) …

    Something goes badly wrong when either free-enterprise or state-sponsored “encouragement” goes overboard. Two examples:
    1. In the aftermath of the “Big Bang” there was an upsurge in students opting for business management and (particularly) accounting. One cynic (there are at least two around) extrapolated that by 2020 all graduates would be accountants.
    2. Similarly we currently have a plethora of would-be lawyers being pumped out by law-school degree mills. Many, too many, are being recruited from ethnic minorities, with low academic grades, and being induced to shoulder a sackful of debt in the process. But, hey!, these law schools are “flourishing”, aren’t they?

    On the other hand …

    Some decades ago my Borough Councillor alter-ego was chairing the biggest local-authority computing centre going. He discovered, somewhat to his astonishment, that a prime source of recruitment for computer programmers (a discipline then in its infancy, and not another recruiting ground for bottom-feeding sub-polytechnics) was … Classics graduates. For Classics was one of the few areas where strict grammar was still being taught. This (as with war-time cryptography – no guesses as to one of my current reads) illustrates the law of unintended consequences.

    [Here’s hoping the format is right this time.]

  • What type of shit hole has the UK become when it refuses to finance the education of some of its brightest young people. What type of people have the British become when people like Brian, and those who govern us think it is a sensible thing to charge these youngsters to complete their education.

    Take alias point, “The issue is higher education and whether or not taxpayers should finance the careers of others.”

    For christ sake, higher education is not just about gaining a career it is helping to create a rounded human being who can draw on a back long of human knowledge when facing difficult situations in their later life.

    I wonder if people like Brian have ever said no to power, I have no doubt if they were alive in nazi Germany they would have accepted the norm of that society, just like in this society they blindly accept charging people for uni as this is the current norm set by capital. They prattle on like robotic morons every thing must have a price because the market is always correct, tell that to the fairies or the UKs competitors.

    Growing up in the 1950s in a working class family, none of our friends or neighbours kids went to uni and were unlikely ever to do so, or so we thought. Yet not once did I hear any adult say it was unfair for them to pay taxes which in the main only sent middle class kids free to uni.

    Why; because these uneducated workers understood instinctively it would benefit the country and their own lives. Thankfully more WC kids now attend uni, still not enough, yet the opinions these workers held back then, is as true today as it was back them.

    It is a great pity some of you nice middle class people do not show the same dignity and foresight of these men and women, most of whom had recently come through WW2. Instead you spend your lives shitting yourselves that some bod down the road is getting something you are not.

    Indeed in truth you behave in the stupid way they power elites intend you to.

    Shame on all who display such selfish and silly ideas about higher education, we spend vast sums on foreign military adventures, bailing bankrupt banks out, renewing antiquated trident system and we get not a whimper from Brian and his silly chorus of selfishness.

    The UK is one of the richest nations in the world but this government and its moron supporters in the middle classes will reduce it socially to third world standards.

    Get some backbone, stop acting like silly chorus girls.

  • slug @ 12:12 pm:

    participation is at a higher level now than 10 years ago

    It’d damn-well better be, after the squillions of public money thrown at it. It’s also better socially-distributed, which is about to go into sharp reversal.

    Participation should not go to 100%

    Who said it should? Under the outgoing Blair-Brown government the target (never achieved) was 50%, which still fell well short of Far Eastern growth economies. The “accessibility” of HE in the UK was thus improved, so that the 2005 Global Higher Education rated the UK third in its rankings. That was just above the US and behind the Netherlands and Finland: Ireland, still a “tiger economy” at the time, was rated 7th.

    End of the good news.

    Even before top-up fees took full effect, that same Global Higher Education report (2005) was dissing the “comparative affordability” of UK higher education: “The United Kingdom and New Zealand are near the bottom of the ranking because of high costs and low national incomes.”

    Well: that’s not going to improve, is it?

    Drop out rates are often associated with bad initial choice of subject and tends to happen at the lower standard institutions.

    As for “bad initial choice’, I’d largely agree. Particular execration should go to those institutions that suck in under-qualified students from lower socio-economic groups (and upwardly-mobile ethnic minority groups) into over-subscribed employment areas. My current bug-bears are “computing science” and law.

    I’d hesitate to lump all those as “lower standard institutions” however. Let’s skim over the relatively-worse drop-out rate for Scotland.

  • Driftwood

    That’s a sexist closing remark.

    Maybe you should go on a course.


    Choosing A Degree In Women’s Studies
    Choosing a womenís studies degree is a great way to get all the benefits of a liberal arts education while focusing on issues particularly relevant to women. Holding a womenís studies degree shows potential employers that you are not only skilled at critical thinking, research and effective writing, but that you are sensitive to cultural differences and how they affect certain groups, in this case, women.

    Career Opportunities In Women’s Studies
    A bachelor’s degree in women’s studies can be a springboard to a number of interesting careers, including social worker, psychologist, health services worker, sociologist, victim’s rights advocate, politician and college or university professor.

  • Glencoppagagh

    have you seen the technology of even an average hospital ward? the record-keeping?
    But does it require a university education to deal with them? Could the necessary skills not equally be acquired through on-the-job training?

    I mentioned solicitors and accountants only as examples of occupations where within living memory a degree was not required and and I’m certain that a degree in accountancy certainly isn’t required today so there’s one vocational training course that universities could ditch . I’m sure your management accountant offspring had a proper university education.

  • Glencoppagagh

    “A case could be made for some of these subjects to be studied in vocational colleges instead of universities (not medicine obviously)”

    Why not?

  • D’oh! I’d think a strong element of on-the-job training went with any profession these days. Indeed, always did.

    As for nursing, I’d guess (for another instance) the handling and use of pharmaceuticals (everything from a common aspirin to the strongest opiates) might benefit from a bit of theoretical knowledge. As we well know from too many recent cases, the prescribing doctor can and does get it wrong. Or ambiguously illegible. But if your concept of “nursing” amounts to bed-pans and bed-making, we’ll just have to differ.

  • slug

    I predict that in NI we won’t buck this-we will raise fees and sign into the same mechanisms as in England/Wales. We may however place a cap of say £6000 on the fee, as a kind of compromise.

    QUB and UU do need to be well funded- they contribute through research and teaching to the economy and the money will not be there unless this scheme goes through.

  • Slug,

    Is it beyond the wit of people in the north to offer an alternative, or when the oil baron says jump, your provincial politicos simply cry how high boss, is this why young men and women went to their deaths.

    For thirty years Irish Republicans thought outside the box, now they cannot even emulate the constitutional nationalist like the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

  • socaire

    ……………. four countries?

  • Alias

    “I predict that in NI we won’t buck this-we will raise fees and sign into the same mechanisms as in England/Wales. We may however place a cap of say £6000 on the fee, as a kind of compromise.” – Slug

    It won’t be possible in practice to have fees that are markedly lower than the rest of the UK since that would lead to an influx of students from other regions seeking lower fees that would duly displace the local students, with NI’s taxpayers subsidising students from those other regions while local students can’t find a place.

    Likewise, Ireland will have to follow the UK’s lead in order to avoid the same detrimental outcome. UK citizens and other EU nationals are entitled to subsidised education in Ireland at the expense of Irish taxpayers on the same basis as Irish citizens. As Mr Friedman pointed out, uncontrolled immigration and state subsidies are not compatible with each other.

  • Alias

    Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good old-fashioned socialist rant:

    “University tuition fees for undergraduates were abolished in Ireland in 1996. This paper examines the effect of this reform on the socio-economic gradient (SES) to determine whether the reform was successful in achieving its objective of promoting educational equality. It finds that the reform clearly did not have that effect.”


  • Joe Mahon makes a good point, rather than DEAL with the issue, it’s kicked into the long grass for post-Assembly with Sir Reg, unbelievably, offering the same quango queen who conducted the first pointless review now conducting the second.

    Tertiary Education has been ruined by politicians. Those radical egalitarians forcing 50% through the system have corrupted it, and the Uni’s have rubbed their hands and gone alone with it.

    I think that the fees proposed are immoral and that there is a profound unfairness. We need a fundamental repositioning of University Education, fewer students, minimal fees, and a focus on excellence. How about we close down the Media Studies Department and concentrate on genuine areas of study? How about we stop betraying young people, landing them with vast debt?

    Just a few thoughts….

  • Driftwood

    I refer the honourable gentleman to my earlier quote:

    A bachelor’s degree in women’s studies can be a springboard to a number of interesting careers, including social worker, psychologist, health services worker, sociologist, victim’s rights advocate, politician and college or university professor.

    The latter three can, of course, be combined for compression of income. Not that I had any ex Wimmins Coalition unelected ‘politician ‘quango queen in mind.

  • Precisely!

  • barnshee

    “A bachelor’s degree in women’s studies can be a springboard to a number of interesting careers, including social worker, psychologist, health services worker, sociologist, victim’s rights advocate, politician and college or university professor.”

    Well I give you the usually incompetent if strictly PC victims rights brigade sociologists et but I am sure that Social worker psychologists, speech therapists radiographers et al will be miffed to realise that all that 3as at a level and years of study could have been taken care of via a “bachelor’s degree in women’s studies”

  • Driftwood

    that’s what it says on the academic tin.
    Only surprised to see Fighter pilot, Brain Surgeon and Barrister left off the list. The mediocre ‘professions’ you list are FE College material, or were, until recently. Social work is bland pc box ticking, radiography and occupational therapy etc are minor technical positions that a trained rat could do, what’s your point?

  • Alias

    “How about we stop betraying young people, landing them with vast debt?”

    I’d like to see adults assume financial responsibility for their own education rather than looking to the nanny-state or mummy and daddy to pay for it – or mummy and daddy looking to the state to pay for it.

    At what age do they stop being the responsibility of others? Taxpayers already fund their secondary education, usually until they are legally adults. The Victorians invented childhood and we’ve been expanding the age limit ever since. Now it seems they’re still children until they’re well into their twenties and are totally incapable of making any progress without other providing for their needs until then…

    Even if the state provided them with loans, they’d simply declare themselves bankrupt after they had acquired the education knowing that if enough of them did so that the state would treat them with leniency. Besides, in Ireland’s case (which has a circa 6.5% yield on 10 year bonds) and to a lesser extent in the UK (with a 2.88% yield), private lenders could borrow money much more cheaply in the markets than the state could borrow it so there is no need for the state to become involved as a lender when private sector can handle it more efficiently and cost effectively. It is unlikely, however, that any sensible bank would risk its money on those feel ‘betrayed’ by having to assume such responsibility and would more than likely shirk it after the money is spent, so I can’t see lenders getting involved is any serious or sustainable way on the multi-billion scale required.

    The other nanny-ish state method would be for the state to act as guarantor for loans secured from the private sector with a required that the money is deducted in taxation from their wages when gain employment. Obviously, the quicker they pay it back then the less interest will accrue on it. However, that would need some fancy legal work in order to ensure that they don’t clear off to another country and duly default after they qualify.

    I don’t see either method working. They’ll just have to do as the Americans do and pay for it themselves. My daughters know that their parents will fund their education but they also know that they will have to pay it back. That concentrates their minds wonderfully.

  • David Vance

    You really do need to get a grip, if you carry on thinking outside the central government set box, you will find the branch on your tail.

    “How about we stop betraying young people, landing them with vast debt?”

    Now there is a sensible thought, it just will not do, here on slugger the market decides all, unless you happen to have your hand in the tax pot, then it is all about bringing democracy to the masses ;).


    Why is it nannyish to provide a sizeable section of young people with a good, rounded university education, at the tax payers expense? As to your silly tabloidese attack on women’s studies it proves you lack a serious argument, better to dance a jig for the reactionary herd, certain of a round of applause. (Your normally much better than that)

    As to is your rather nasty attack on social workers and academics. With respect old chap, I doubt you would be quiet so dismissal if you needed a social worker to assess whether your old mum needs her arse wiped at the tax payers expense, or help getting into bed. Or god forbid when some ponce buggers a grandchild.

    Your ignorance is stunning, the victorians invented childhood crap, more scraps to the herd as if it is a crime to be a child, hell no, what a waste, far from being at uni, little jimmy could be working down a mine, or selling himself on a Bombay street, or maybe making your mighty US multi nationals trainers in a far east sweat shop.

    What a waste we make of human labour, hell why not go the whole hog, as you are displaying the characteristics of a pig, and bring back slavery and lynch any chattels who come within a mile of a book.

    This debate has exasperated me as you can see, it reminds me of those debates we used to have here when people cheered the market and held up the celtic tiger as proof of its perfection. As with this debate few thought outside the box which had been carefully erected by the political fofers of big Capital.

    For christ sake you ask a multi national capitalist to look into uni funding and you get a crock of shit, Browns report is his re-entry ticket to polite society boyfriend on arm.

    Even a half educated worker like I could have predicted what he would report before he put pen to paper.

    Just as a massive mistake was made over the fallibility of the free market, (if only some of you chaps had also read marx, booms and slumps and all that) over education you are on the same road with your cries of you cannot do that, follow the diktats of US capitalism.

  • MickHall

    I am of an age where I got through Uni without tuition fees and with a tiny grant. I came from a working class background and I got by. I wish the same for all who seek to pursue academic achievement and entirely oppose the thinking of those who sau it is fine to saddle the jilted generation in debt. They deserve better and clear sighted responsible political thinking os the way to help them. Not that I see much of it!

  • David, We often disagree and I am sure will again, but of late I have noticed some free thinking coming from your community and I take my hat off to it.

  • Lhondoo @ 7:47 PM:

    Generally that’s indisputable (even if Nottingham and Cardiff might feel the affront). Even so, the score of Russell Group institutions soak up two-thirds of the UK universities income from R&D. The knock-on there is the Unique Selling Point it gives in recruiting overseas students and trousering the “bunce” they bring: the Russell Group get about a third of that market.

    Lest we forget, the non-Russell unis have their own little huddles: there’s the 1994 Group (effectively the 2nd XI, except there’s another score of them) and the University Alliance (about another couple of dozen). At this point I find myself recalling Decline and Fall, with Paul Pennyfeather, rusticated from Oxford, falling into the clutches of the teaching agency, Church and Gargoyle:

    We class schools, you see, into four grades: Leading School, First-rate School, Good School, and School. Frankly,” said Mr Levy, “School is pretty bad…

    Changing the thrust slightly, may I comment on the graphic fronting today’s Business This Week section of the Irish Times? It is a comparison of annual rates of inflation:
    Clothes down 7.7%
    breakfast cereals up 3.6%
    Spirits down 9.9%
    Petrol up 11.9%
    Meat down 5.2%
    Third-level education up 21%

    As they say: way to go!

  • Alias

    I’ve no idea what you are complaining in your first couple of paragraghs about since I neither wrote nor read the post that you are replying to. Why don’t you get the moniker of whomever wrote the post and reply to them instead?

    My point stands: adults are responsible for their own financial affairs, and they are legally adults at 18 so anything they do after that age to advance their own careers should be paid for out of their own income or done without.

  • Progressive Unionist

    Less bureaucracy – great.

    ‘Those who benefit from a university education to make a greater contribution…’ – that’s what progressive taxation is for. People with degrees earn more money, and pay proportionately more tax.

  • Alias

    Incidentally, my generation (mid 40s) paid for their own third level education. So the recent luxury of free or heavily subsidised third level education is a fad that was too expensive to last. Is it the end of the world? No, it just means that this generation will have to do what my generation did.

  • Feeling reciprocated, Mick.

  • Progressive Unionist

    “A third category would be traditional university arts subjects, such as history or philosophy. while educationally valuable are less beneficial to the economy. These should attract lesser or no subsidies.

    (much weeping and tearing of hair) – this is exactly what’s wrong with the right-whinger (thanks Malcolm) concept of education-as-supermarket!

    Where would the West have gotten over the past few centuries without the Renaissance or the Enlightenment? (built on folks who had the creativity to look and build upon what must have seemed at the time the monetarily/economically useless legacy of Greece/Rome)

    Enlightenment values are – arguably – about all we have over China right now…

  • Alias

    Looking for state handouts is called free-thinking now? *rolls eyes*

  • Progressive Unionist

    At what age do they stop being the responsibility of others?

    I think that as human beings, in this peculiar and complex world, we all have a responsibility to each other, no matter how old we are.

  • Alias

    Don’t be so silly. You did NOT pay for your Education. The cost of it was subsidised by Government.

  • Alias

    It wasn’t – and it was a five year course at that, with an additional two years of practice to qualify.

    How did I pay for it? Lots of ways, but the most creative was making shampoo in one gallon containers in the bath and selling them to hairdressers!

  • Well, I admire your creativity (!) but all those years of tuition were not funded by shampoo.

  • Progressive Unionist

    It’s not about state handouts Alias, it’s about how we work together as a decent society –

    (meaning, methinks, competition in some areas, but co-operation as a society when it comes to the really important things)

    I’ve no problem with economic competition when it comes to creating a better brand of toothpaste – but when it comes to the basics that we all need, like Healthcare (the NHS) or Education (ideally free fees + plus for low-income people maintenance grants) – than that, to my mind, is just the mark of a decent society.

    Those kind of values are fairly deeply rooted in the British people’s idea of what Britishness is about – which is why Churchill, albeit a much-beloved war leader, lost the 1945 election so badly – and why the Tories and their Lib Dem accomplices are heading for a cropper in the Scotland, Wales, London and Local elections next spring.

  • Progressive Unionist

    (and If Great Leader Tom “No Dissent Allowed” Elliott or any other NI politicans want to associate with the Tory massive spending cut plans, he’ll be heading for one hell of a cropper too…)

  • Driftwood

    and why the Tories and their Lib Dem accomplices are heading for a cropper in the Scotland, Wales, London and Local elections next spring.

    Probably PU
    Eventually though, the region (SE England) that subsidises those regions, and here in North Irelandshire, may stop feeding the begging dogs that bite its hand.

    If you think that’s acceptable, fine, thankfully I have some relatives in Esher, Surrey that will take my family in the resulting catastrophe. Dont fancy your chances in the wastelands though.

  • Progressive Unionist

    Funny isn’t it – I got family in those parts too… and doubtless most people in SE England have close friends and family elsewhere in the Union.

    “begging dogs that bite its hand” – i mean come off it, seriously, in another life were you in the arthur griffith SF society circa 1906 by any chance?

    So stop being ridiculous, SE England (the economic statistics for which are skewed by London) isn’t going to leave the UK and in fact there’s every chance Labour will bounce back in London next May.

  • “It’s not about state handouts Alias, it’s about how we work together as a decent society –”


    Progressive unionist is correct; I would add this matter has nothing to do with handouts, it is about how best to use the tax revenues which we all contribute, ie for the benefit of individuals and society as a whole.

    Talk of no longer being able to afford these things is not only plain wrong but daft, do you feel the Japanese, Germans, Chinese, etc, intend cutting back on higher education, I think not. They understand the key to their future prosperity is partly locked into expanding higher education, research, etc.

    I have to say again on this issue you use emotive language like “handouts” as you lack an argument. How can receiving a state subsidy for education be a handout, when the money comes from the tax pounds parents, and in some cases students, have paid in for years. Be honest, in no way could this be descried as a handout.

    You talk about people taking responsibility for themselves, but surely that is what they are doing by working for a degree. Would you prefer they leave school and sit on their backsides doing nowt, of course not.

    As individuals we can only do so much by our own individual endeavours, it is why we voluntarily, if a little testily pay taxes. If you have a better idea about living in a civilised society I am all ears, but going back to a country which as Turgon wrote, has echoes of the 19th century about it, is not for me and I would judge it is also not for a majority of my fellow countrymen and women.

  • I recall that earlier this week, on another site I was bragging about all the good reading I’d be doing this week.

    It didn’t quite happen that way because my local Oxfam bookshop had some goodies, including R.V.Jones’s Most Secret War. Now I chucked out a crumbling paperback copy some time back, and regretted it when politics.ie was debating the Dublin North Strand bombings, and blaming the Brits for “bending the beams”. So I blew £3.49 on a foxed first edition with dust-cover.

    End of pointless anecdote.

    Except for a striking contrast.

    Jones (Google for his obituaries) was a dyed-in-the-wool old-school Tory, who too often cites David Irving for this reader’s total comfort. That apart, throughout the text there are snippets like this (from page 392), relating to events in early 1944:

    Again we became very firm friends, and I can remember from those days [Philip Dee] telling me that after the war he wanted to get back to a university because he believe the future of Britain lay in good university education, and that we should have to rebuild after the war. Having been at Cambridge previously with Rutherford, he went to Glasgow as Professor of Natural Philosophy in 1945.

    After the War Jones himself spent 35 years as Professor of of Natural Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen.

    Jones, son of a veteran who served in the Coldstreams in the Boer and First World Wars and who by choice never rose above the rank of sergeant, went on an LCC scholarship to Alleyn’s, and on an Open Exhibition to Wadham, Oxford.

    As my highly-intelligent Yorkshire cousin (down the pit at age 14) would have said, “Think on!”

    Conclusion: you either are for the redeeming values of education or you’re blind to what our future may need.

  • billy


    Could you define ‘daft degree’ for us?