January 17, 2006

Top–up Fees are the way forward, especially if you want good education

The following is the unedited version of my Boar article…..the editor cut out all the interesting bits….

The debate on top-up fees has been raging for quite while now, with students protesting over the increase and politicians using it as a way of getting much needed votes. But have we really considered why they are needed? Are they really as bad as it might seem at first?

There are two sides to the argument, the first one is as David Cameron puts it, “You want to go to universities that are well-funded, [with] good tutors, good facilities and I want as many people who think they're going to benefit from university to be able to go.” The argument the students give is that education is a right and it must be provided for by the government. I shall attempt to convince you that in practice privatization and tuition fees are the way forward.

The main problem is that higher education institutes in UK just do not have the money needed to improve facilities and compete with institutions in other countries. Universities in America are largely funded privately with little or no intervention from the government. Yale University for example has an endowment of around £8.5 billion, as a result of which not only is it able to attract the best professors from around the world, but it is also able to give by means of scholarships and grants the best education to students from under-privileged backgrounds. Where does all this money come from? It comes from generous alumni, funding secured by the university to conduct research, and of course student fees. Last year private donors in Americans gave £13.8 billion to universities, whereas in UK excluding Oxbridge (£2 Billion) Only 5 UK universities (see table) have endowments worth $100 million, compared with 207 American universities that have a similar endowment. This huge discrepancy can in no way be compensated for by any government. The average tuition fees at Yale is more than £15,000 a year for undergraduates, but that does not mean only rich students apply. Families that cannot afford the fees are only required to pay up to a level deemed affordable according to their income status, while a lot of students get full scholarships If education can be afforded, then people must pay for it, and as many families in US can, they do pay for it.

Now you might be wondering why I am going on about American universities, and what this has to do with you as a Warwick student. Well economically speaking, a reason most students come to university is so that they get a head start in their careers. As Tony Blair pointed out university graduates do earn 50% more than those who do not go to University. Without sufficient funding, universities will not be able to employ enough staff or even maintain current ones, for example Middlesex university just announced the closure of its history department as it just does not have the resources to teach it. Today’s world is a highly connected and competitive one where the best universities attract the best students and professors, as American universities pay the highest salaries and give out generous grants to local as well as foreign students, they are guaranteed to attract the best of both. As a result the value of a degree from a UK university is bound to fall. It simply will not be worth going to university if a university cannot afford to employ a good staff to teach. It won’t enhance your competitiveness, it will not significantly enhance your knowledge nor will it provide you with essential skills that universities are supposed to provide. It isn’t just by magic that a much higher proportion of students go to university in US then anywhere else in the world.

The only way to get rid of tuition fees is for the government to fund every single university. Now, one would have thought that given the government in UK is largely responsible for university funding, government funding per university student in UK should be higher than America. But even if we were to compare government funding across UK and US, we see that an average State University in US receives £7,500 per student whereas in UK apart from the Oxbridge, the figure is £5000, so much for relying on the government. Now yes, I agree in the principle that every student has the right to education, but surely every student wants a good education. Take Germany for example, it has 300 free colleges and universities with more than 1.8 million students, which has resulted in overfull classes, where getting to the lecture itself is the hardest part. Despite its current scenario, every year only 41% of students a year get the grade in high school to qualify for university, a figure much lower than 53% in US. This means poorer students who want to go to university cannot do so if they don’t meet the grade. Free education has meant the government has to supply the resources for university, now this has proved to be a problem. Anyone reading newspapers last year would remember the economical woes of Germany, in this situation with extremely high unemployment rates, and almost no growth in GDP, does anyone really believe universities will still receive decent funding? The government wants to reduce taxes to kick start the economy, but then who will pay for education? In no way is UK immune from such economic problems, and if it were to rely solely on government funding there would be many such problems. We don’t want to pay university fees and when we start work we don’t want to pay high taxes and then we expect good education, how is this possible?

Unfortunately, what people tend to assume is that tuition fees will stop the poorer students from going to university. In reality, it makes education a worthwhile investment which brings very high returns. Universities have scaled fees in US, where a student going to university such as Harvard with a family income of less that £18,000 will not pay more than 30% of the full tuition fees. What about students whose family won’t pay for them? Well Federal loans just as in UK give out loans for the entire costs of university. Students don’t stop going to university because you charge them fees, if it is an investment worth making, you are bound to attract students.

Note- by all means attack my arguments but please don't attack me personally, my previous debates on this topic have not been too pleasant…...thanks.


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  1. A few of the most heinous problems with this article:

    What is the relevance of talking about the endowments to US universities? Do you think that charging more for courses will persuade alumni to donate more later?

    Families that cannot afford the fees are only required to pay up to a level deemed affordable according to their income status, while a lot of students get full scholarships

    Yale has a particularly well-established financial aid system, but even there, students are expected to take on debt as part of their "support".

    As Tony Blair pointed out university graduates do earn 50% more than those who do not go to University.

    No, "university graduates" do not. On average, they do – but this is no help if that figure is distorted by a few very high earners. How does it help me if my compatriots have become city traders? My salary will not be 50% higher because I went to university.

    Your discussion of the German higher education system is frankly bizarre, and demonstrates a significant lack of understanding of the tradition and status of HE in Germany.

    Despite its current scenario, every year only 41% of students a year get the grade in high school to qualify for university, a figure much lower than 53% in US. This means poorer students who want to go to university cannot do so if they don’t meet the grade.

    This is because the german education system is utterly different to ours. Many german "high school" students go to alternative further/higher education (e.g. an ausbildung, or fachhochschule) rather than university. The german education system provides alternative routes through, rather than channeling all students the same way, as we do here.

    Are you arguing that universities should accept people who can pay, rather than those who are actually any good at what they want to study? Otherwise, what is the meaning of the obvious statement that students who don't meet the grade can't study?

    Personally, I'm in favour of charging students for part of their education; when one doesn't have to pay for a thing directly, there is no reason to make a choice about whether you really want it.

    I think what we need is a sensible financial support system to support this. If student loans debt were effectively seen as something separate to other kinds of debt (eg by their not affecting a credit rating) it would be more helpful.

    But poorly-argued articles such as this add nothing to the debate.

    17 Jan 2006, 22:43

  2. 1. – US is extremely relevent because I talk about the quality of education. 17 out of the top 20 universities by almost any ranking system are in US. The fact is the education standards there are much higher. If a US degree adds more value than a UK degree or any other degree than it is a better investment.
    2. US universities have excellent opporunities for scholarships and grants, for the remaining if you can afford to pay (Which as I have said is means tested) then you should pay. Surely if my parents earn a lot there is no harm in paying for my education. In return they did not have to pay high taxes….so its only fair.
    3. Yes I agree with your point, on average they do. But lets face it if university did not add any premium to your earnings you really would not be here wasting your time….
    4. Yes the German education system is different, But the fact is those who want to go to university not alternative higher education institute ones, can only do so if they achieve the required grade and not otherwise. whereas in UK for example some universities take even with a CCD
    5. Universities of course should accept those who can study, but what about those who did not get the grade and stil want to go to university, grades aren't everything, maybe you were editor of a newspaper or playing professional sports and thus did not meet the grade, that doe snot make u any less deserving of a place in university.

    Lastly – look mate I told you before no personal statements, as I said, attack the arguments and I will defend them but there is no reason to call it a poor argument just because you have a different belief to mine….

    18 Jan 2006, 00:15

  3. I agree that more money must be funnelled into the system if competition with the US is desirable. In the OECD, the UK ranks 22nd in terms of public funding for tertiary education relative to GDP, and 8th for private funding. The US ranks 4th and 2nd respectively (data here ). I doubt it's coincidence that US institutions dominate world rankings. Sure there are more of them, but they aren’t inherently cleverer; they just have more cash. The teaching profession as a whole is more desirable to talented individuals because the differential with earnings in popular industries is lower.

    If we’re happy with our rank relative to other nations relative to other nations, fair enough. It may be reasonable to accept lower quality universities if priorities lie elsewhere, e.g. pensions and the NHS. If we want universities to be as good as they can possibly be, we need higher taxes or higher tuition fees. The latter seems more reasonable to me.

    18 Jan 2006, 00:42

  4. Lastly – look mate I told you before no personal statements, as I said, attack the arguments and I will defend them but there is no reason to call it a poor argument just because you have a different belief to mine….

    I don't believe I attacked you personally – I attacked your article and the reasoning therein. And now I shall attack your response.

    US is extremely relevent because I talk about the quality of education

    That was not my question. My question was

    What is the relevance of talking about the endowments to US universities? Do you think that charging more for courses will persuade alumni to donate more later?

    Now,

    2. US universities have excellent opporunities for scholarships and grants, for the remaining if you can afford to pay (Which as I have said is means tested) then you should pay. Surely if my parents earn a lot there is no harm in paying for my education. In return they did not have to pay high taxes…so its only fair.

    I agree with this, but to paint a picture where poorer students are supported by grants is only half of the picture; they are also expected to take on debt to support themselves. I haven't said that this is a good or a bad thing, but it does have to be understood if you want to understand student finance in the US.

    But lets face it if university did not add any premium to your earnings you really would not be here wasting your time..

    See, that's the thing about universities – they're about learning. Employability is rather secondary to learning and research. I'm here because I enjoy what I do, not because I thought that the degree I studied would guarantee me a huge salary.

    But the fact is those [in Germany] who want to go to university not alternative higher education institute ones, can only do so if they achieve the required grade and not otherwise. whereas in UK for example some universities take even with a CCD
    Universities of course should accept those who can study, but what about those who did not get the grade and stil want to go to university, grades aren't everything, …

    What's the point here? Are you seriously arguing that universities should not select on ability? If you had a little more knowledge of the German Abitur system, you'd know that access to German universities is not low because of restricted places, it's low because of stringent selection. Abitur is hard, but really a much fairer test than our A-levels.

    maybe you were editor of a newspaper or playing professional sports and thus did not meet the grade, that doe snot make u any less deserving of a place in university.

    Yes, it does. University is not a social club, it's a centre for advanced study. If you haven't proven yourself capable of the academic demands that will be placed on you, then you shouldn't be here.

    18 Jan 2006, 10:39

  5. Matthew

    I don't believe that people who went to university earn, on average, 50% more than those who didn't. This is one of those statistics that no one seems able to cite a source for.

    What I want to know is:

    • Who worked this figure out?
    • How did they work it out?
    • When did they work it out?

    18 Jan 2006, 11:34

  6. To max.
    1. Endowments are extremely important as a source of income. Now because universities in UK are funded by the government and there are no real systems of scholarships in place people don't really donate to universities. Maybe you think it is irrelevent but I wanted to show how much the people in US care about learning and how much they are willing to support institutions even after leaving them. Which apart from Oxbridge is almost unheard of in UK.
    2. Yes poorer students have to take on SOME debts, but they are interest free (or on par with inflation – i forget which one) and are payable over a 25 year period. It is a small percentage of your income that is affected by it, yes it may be an issue but there is no harm in paying for it. I mean can you explain why a higher proportion of US students go to universities than almost anywhere else in the world despite the higher fees??? Its time to start viewing it as an investment in your own future.
    3. Yes its possible you only want to experience the learning, but I am quite sure if it offered nothing more than some more knowledge I never use, or use limitedly very few people would be interested.
    4. I don't know why you and my German friends have opposing views in the issue. They tell me it is an achievement to get into a lecture and there is no real learning that takes place in majority of universities.
    5. Being an ahiever in other activities does not mean you are incapable of studying it only shows your dedication and hard work. One might say that university is at the end of the day an academic institution but then why do we have these other activities????? if it were only a place to study why do we play sports or music or dance? I am afraid that university is about much more than academia and that exams are not the only way to judge someone's ability. Which is why Oxbridge and US universities offer sports scholarships, they agree with this ideology.

    18 Jan 2006, 11:56

  7. To Iyabosa Adeghe – Yes mate, yu are right, its time for the system to change,,,,

    18 Jan 2006, 11:57

  8. I don't believe that people who went to university earn, on average, 50% more than those who didn't. This is one of those statistics that no one seems able to cite a source for.

    I normally see a figure of 40% quoted, but don't know when it was calculated. A study by a couple of Swansea researchers which was all over the news mid 2005, said that government estimated earnings for graduates was miles off. Rather than a lifetime gain of £400k, they said new data implied a gain of approximately £150k, and the subject studied makes a great difference. A BBC report is here, their paper can be found here.

    18 Jan 2006, 12:07

  9. "lets face it if university did not add any premium to your earnings you really would not be here wasting your time"

    I find it extremely depressing that so many Warwick students see a three or four year degree as merely a stepping stone towards a lucrative career, rather than as an important process of learning and development. It's hardly surprising that we're bombarded with so much career propaganda when there's such a ready market for it.

    18 Jan 2006, 12:37

  10. I agree, why should all education be geared towards a job? There was a system like that here in the past when there were polytechnics (which prepared their entrants for vocational jobs) and universities which were centres of learning. I know of a few people who lament the loss of polytechnic status as, despite what a lot of people think, there was a lot of prestige attached to those institutions and the practical degrees they offered. But this was discarded in favour of universities for all for some reason.

    One might say that university is at the end of the day an academic institution but then why do we have these other activities????? if it were only a place to study why do we play sports or music or dance?

    Just a guess but possibly because if universities only offered study and nothing else then they'd get no students as no one wants to spend 24/7 studying. But the peple who come to university to study academic subjects should be capable of working out a balance in life. There are a lot of societies and sports I want to try but cannot because my work is more important. I am here to study history, everything else is a bonus which must be worked in to fit the degree.

    Also, here's a thought. Say you went to one of the sink-estate schools in the inner city in Manchester. Most of your contemporaries are on the dole, pregnant, in jail, in poorly paid jobs. But you worked your arse off and somehow managed to get ABB at A level despite the school being hideously underfunded, the teachers not really caring and a home life which is not conducive to learning. You worked harder for that than most people will ever work. You work like a demon over the summer in two jobs to get some money to be able to afford university. You are taking the maximum loan as your parents cannot support you, which means you are saddled with debt. Then you get to university and find many of your coursemates are there because they come from rich backgrounds, failed to get the grades but wanted to go to university anyway and could afford the fees. Who is going to do better? Who is going to justify the money spent on them at university more? And who is going to feel more put out by the whle process?

    18 Jan 2006, 13:38

  11. "I find it extremely depressing that so many Warwick students see a three or four year degree as merely a stepping stone towards a lucrative career, rather than as an important process of learning and development. It's hardly surprising that we're bombarded with so much career propaganda when there's such a ready market for it. "

    I concur.
    The merits of attending university can not and should not be judged purely on the basis of the size of one's salary following graduation.

    18 Jan 2006, 14:23

  12. Yes university is more than just about getting a job, and I firmly believe in university, but what I am saying is will there really be as much interest in university if employers did not need it for a job? Basically if that 40 or 50% premium that Tony Blair talks about did not exist, I do not believe as many people would want to go to university. Education does not have to come from university, please don't get me wrong I believe in university as much as you do which is why I am here, but at the end of the day I do not believe I would be here if spending all this money did not pay off in the end in higher dividents. Maybe you would and others also would but a lot of us just would not be here. At the end of the day what have you come to university for? Surely even if it is not to progress towards your desired career then it cannot be something totally unrelated…..

    To – Holly – I was using that argument to justify why one should accept students not just plainly on academic merit but also excellence in other fields, which Max says is not required for university. I don't understand if you are saying all of university should NOT be geared towards getting a job, yet you are against accepting students who may not get an AAA, but rather a ABB but are brilliant musicians or national tennis champions and may want to pursue both studying and other activities they should not get in?

    With regards to coming from a poor background….firstly I said it should be means tested, so you would not be taking out maximum loan, in fact you would only be paying 3 to 5 thousand dollars if you were that poor. On the other hand if you worked hard to get to uni, you certainly will be more deserving, and I agree some people can afford to get in because of being rich, but how does the current UK system solve that? Oxbridge LSE and even Warwick still have more from high paying fees schools and Oxbridge still has more male students…..the fact is if yu are rich then it is impossible to stop you using your money to get in anyway.
    I know education can be free but it won't be of the same quality as that provided for under a competitive system, except for a very few institution that are heavily supported by the government.

    18 Jan 2006, 14:28

  13. With regards to coming from a poor background, firstly I said it should be means tested, so you would not be taking out maximum loan

    Have things changed since I was an undergraduate? I thought the less money you had, the bigger your loan?? Has the top-up fee system changed this? An update for an oldie please!

    18 Jan 2006, 15:08

  14. No I agree brilliant musicians and tennis players should be given the chance to study, it is an acknowledged problem in football (and probably in other sports) in this country that the players often don't have great qualification and then end up with problems at 35 when their football careers are over. But I think sometimes compromises must be made, you cannot do a three year degree and put in the level of dedication needed to achieve in your artistic/sport field unless you are a total genius. Lowering standards for these people (as has apparently been the case sometimes in America) is not the answer as it harms those who are doing the same course without the additional talents. The answer is seperate courses for the music/sports stars which will give them the education they want/need, but not affect the non-musical/sporty students.

    Also the current UK system does not solve the problem of getting the smart kids into university that is true. A Warwick Uni report a few years back suggeted that the state school kids at university tend to do better than the private school kids when both have the same A level results. The problem comes from the fact that Britain's education system has been batted backward and forward between left and right for so long that it's now a curious hybrid. It would increase stability to shift it either left (more money to get all schools up to the same standard) or right more money to private schools and attempts to get smart poor kids in there) hence why the centrist Labour government's education policies are a load of rubbish. Personally I lean to the leftist argument but others would claim the rightist ideas are better.

    Not sure about your figures for state school admissions though. Amongst home students 78% are state schoolers at Warwick, and even Oxbridge lets in a majority of state schoolers, though not enough considering the national ratio of state schoolers to privaet schoolers.

    the fact is if yu are rich then it is impossible to stop you using your money to get in anyway. I know education can be free but it won't be of the same quality as that provided for under a competitive system, except for a very few institution that are heavily supported by the government.

    I disagree but my proposals for dealing with it would be a little too leftwing for a lot of people (well, rich people) so I'll leave it. Suffice to say I delete 98% of all Careers Service emails. It's not what I came here for.

    18 Jan 2006, 15:12

  15. To throw my thoughts into the ring… The first question that must be answered before we get into the funding debate is, what function do universities serve? Traditionally, they were built as institutions of academic thought and research; undergraduate studies were a side-line. These days, the focus is shifting towards undergraduates as the "customers" whereby we buy into a university education. I personally feel that universities would do well to maintain postgraduate research as one of the cornerstones, if not the cornerstone of their business. This draws in large amounts of funding from corporations – look at our own university and the investment that is poured into it because of our research links with industry.

    If training of undergraduates is another function that we want universities to perform, then I think that costs should be shared between those that it benefits – i.e. the employers who need trained graduates, and the employees who will benefit from higher salaries, prefferable work or whatever. To this end, I think that the government should be encouraging industry to take on a greater role in supporting undergraduates. The decline in sponsorship for degrees through bursaries, scholarships and whatnot is very noticeable from the levels of 20 or 30 years ago; if the government wants to increase funding without charging more to students then the way to do so is to give companies incentives to sponsor undergraduates. This will also lead to an increased proportion of graduates trained in the area of skills that are required by industry.

    18 Jan 2006, 15:15

  16. I've always felt that any education past A-Level should not be a right but should be something which you should have to pay for. Those who are the ablest among those who cannot afford it, should be given state scholarships. Those who are not, should work to support themselves through university.

    It's a shame that University has merely become an extension of the A-Level System.

    18 Jan 2006, 16:38

  17. I object to the idea that those who seriously persue extracurricular activities should be separated from those that don't. I am a Biochemist, but I spend most of free time doing music and eventually want to go into it as a profession. I have managed to to balance my studies with everything else and, not to sound arrogant, have done perfectly well so far, am one of the people that others come to to answer questions and still put a hell of a lot more work in to my academic studies than a lot of my coursemates who don't do anything extracurricular. I really don't think I should be forced to come out with a lower-class degree just because I happen to have interests elsewhere.

    18 Jan 2006, 17:13

  18. It's not about segregation, it's about those who clearly put their sport/music first and want some extra qualification on the side but can't cope with a full degree. I was mainly thinking of those who play sport or do music at a professional standard which is quite time consuming. Sarah, you mention you use up your free time on music, well there are some people who would view it the other way round, spending their free time on study. It's them I was thinking of.

    It also all ties back into me believing in the value of education for its own sake. Why should people who treat their degree as secondary to their extra curricular activities (and Sarah, from what you've said I would class you as someone who takes their degree very very seriously even if you'd rather be a musician) get the place of someone who hasn't got the money but has the ability and enthusiasm?

    18 Jan 2006, 19:46

  19. Holly, usually people who excel at something do not get into university because of money but often attract scholarships because they are so good. It is not easy to study and excel at other activities, and those who do deserve to be rewarded. Yes there are people that may not deserve to go to the top university, and for them there are several other choices. I mean lets face it American universities in general do not have a shortage of money, and therefore in a lot of these universities quality of education will not be a lot different from each other. If you don't make the grade does not mean you dont go to any university, education is also for those that ar not of high ability…..because otherwise it is just discrimination.

    18 Jan 2006, 21:30

  20. Agreed, although it would require a massive injection of funds to make all universities equal in terms of what they can offer to students of all abilities. And it wouldn't just be universities who'd need cash for equality, schools and sixth forms would need it as well. Personally I'd like to see that but let'sf ace it, in this country there are nowhere near enough people willing to pay for anyone's education but their own and thier families. Otherwise there'd be higher taxes, fewer "bog standard comprehensives", and no private schools. But that's a socialist utopia which ain't gonna happen.

    18 Jan 2006, 22:01

  21. Hello. Can I ask why anyone is disputing the additional benefit of a university degree? Is it just to blow holes through Udayan's article? Shame.

    Is anyone seriously saying a university education is NOT highly likely to generate a better life later on? Are these people aware what a slap in the face this is for parents across the world who devote themselves and their resources to sending their children to university, in the expectation that barring being run over by a bus their children will do well and earn a good wage?

    And please, no "money is not everything" arguments. As a debater I used to tolerate those arguments, but now it seems to me only rich people say that (by rich I mean those who do not have trouble paying their bills) and frankly speaking, it is bollocks unless you live in the developed world, but barely 20% of the world's students live there. I mention this because the debate has shifted from the UK and into the general moral/hypothetical arena. In the UK money is not paramount the way it is in other countries.

    "I find it extremely depressing that so many Warwick students see a three or four year degree as merely a stepping stone towards a lucrative career, rather than as an important process of learning and development."

    "The merits of attending university can not and should not be judged purely on the basis of the size of one's salary following graduation."

    Gosh. Time was, university was a way to get out of a bad neighbourhood, meet some folks, get laid, etc. My parents used university as a way to get the hell on out of a relatively poor way of living. Fact of the matter is, life has become SO comfortable in countries like the UK, people view university as a ground for education first and crucial preparation for employment second. Underlying this confidence is the assumption that you are pretty much guaranteed a job regardless of how stupid or uneducated you are – a 95% employment rate (yes, I know a lot of these jobs are crap, but a job is a job) means we can afford to see it this way.

    In countries like China and (especially) India there are millions of engineering/economics/etc. graduates waiting around for jobs, many of whom do brilliantly in their studies – but overpopulation and dearth of industrial might means there are simply not enough high-end jobs. This firstly might say to them "why even bother?", but instead more and more are going on to university. Why? In the hope of doing well enough to get a job – getting, say, 90%+ instead of 89%, for example. Otherwise many of them would have nothing at all.

    So do not make the mistake of being smug in your assertion that university is a centre for learning. Nothing is absolute, but everything is secondary to necessity.

    19 Jan 2006, 00:38

  22. Cries at how sad the world is

    19 Jan 2006, 00:56

  23. Well money isn't everything. If you're simply going to dismiss that fact then there's not really very much point replying.

    Alternatively, learning because education is in itself is an important and valuable thing is clearly a false notion, and all students whose chosen degrees are not geared towards maximising their income should drop out now. Sorry all students who do humanities etc, but I'm afraid education that doesn't primarily gear you for business isn't just a waste of time, it's also offensive to literally millions and millions of engineering and economics students.

    Perhaps one of these economics/engineering students will take the high paying job that I don't really want to do. Or are my actions so heinous that I have actually removed the possibility of that job ever existing?

    19 Jan 2006, 01:23

  24. "Is anyone seriously saying a university education is NOT highly likely to generate a better life later on?"

    I'm not speaking for others, but personally no, I'm not saying that. One point I think that is worth making though, is that of people taking degrees that are simply because they think that "university sort of seems the right thing to do, my friends are doing it and I don't have to get a job for another 3 years", which I think is an increasingly prevalent attitude amongst undergraduates. You mention the argument of economics and that's perfectly valid, but you must surely see that there are only ever so many well paying jobs. We can't all be millionaires, and as such the best companies and the best jobs will be awarded only to the brightest graduates. The difference in having so many graduates is that the qualification itself becomes devalued. To what extent employees are sifted by means of the degree system depends on the value of the qualification; the way the system is going it's just going to be a mandatory thing to have for a well paying job but by no means is it guaranteed to get you a well paying job. You can draw a parallel with A-Levels – because pass rates have gone up, the best universities are increasingly moving towards things such as entrants exams to sift the brightest applicants out, because the A-Level has become devalued due to the sheer number of people taking the qualification. Surely you can see that a system in which many people are taking a degree unneccessarily (for entry into work where their subject and transferrable skills are not necessary) and for people who will not end up with a well paying job, that spending a large sum on an education and leaving after 3 years with 5 figure debts is not doing those specific individuals any good?

    19 Jan 2006, 01:25

  25. Sorry, I didn't mean " sheer number of people taking the qualification" when discussing A-Levels but of course the sheer number of people achieving high grades

    19 Jan 2006, 01:29

  26. I sympathise with what Ankit said above. My parents have many interests, but when offered a chance to study in the UK, future earning potential took priority. Having marketable skills was a means of escaping poverty and overcoming the obstacles posed by not being a native citizen. We shouldn’t criticise those who aren’t here purely because they enjoy learning, as some have unknown obligations and circumstances guiding their decisions.

    One point I think that is worth making though, is that of people taking degrees that are simply because they think that "university sort of seems the right thing to do, my friends are doing it and I don't have to get a job for another 3 years"

    I'd agree. At secondary school, the possibility of not going to university was alien. Students should enter knowing what jobs the average graduate in their field goes into, likely earnings in those fields, and the likely cost of education. Cold calculation would force candidates to think carefully about whether the whole business is cost effective. As has been said above, money isn't everything, but people shouldn't be under any illusions about what to expect. If this means prospective economics students with no interest in banking decide not to go to university, then so be it. They’ve been spared the burden of future debt and society needn’t pay for them to engage in intellectual pursuits that could be enjoyed in their own spare time.

    19 Jan 2006, 02:56

  27. Thank you Ankit and Iyabosa! I needed some support!

    I never thought it would be hard to explain to people espeically students that university is an important stepping stone in your career. Yes some people come here only to learn…..but what good is it if you will not use it ever again? I came here to study economics and I want to use it later on, surely if you are studying the subject you love then you would not just want to stop after university,and if you do then you cannot use the argument of education against me…. Fact of the matter is apart from humanities (sorry) and some social sciences most other subects offer an extremely high premium generally for coming to university and that is why so many people go to university. If that were not the case you would have a lot of older people and retired people coming to university just to "learn"....

    19 Jan 2006, 11:18

  28. Christopher Rossdale

    You forget that for many years the driving force in knowlege has been the Academia – people who devote their entire lives to learning. As a first world service country, that sort of push for knowlege is crucial. Privatising the academia – i.e. pushing those that only want to learn into the public sector, eradicates all autonomy and driving towards profitable results. Top universities HAVE to produce academics, or our knowlege and future is left very unsure. People that are here to learn rather than to use their degrees as stepping stones to money-making careers are to be admired.

    19 Jan 2006, 14:39

  29. Christopher Rossdale

    You forget that for many years the driving force in knowlege has been the Academia – people who devote their entire lives to learning. As a first world service country, that sort of push for knowlege is crucial. Privatising the academia – i.e. pushing those that only want to learn into the public sector, eradicates all autonomy and driving towards profitable results. Top universities HAVE to produce academics, or our knowlege and future is left very unsure. There could be no universities, especially none like warwick, without a strong academia. People that are here to learn rather than to use their degrees as stepping stones to money-making careers are to be admired.

    19 Jan 2006, 14:47

  30. "Yes some people come here only to learn…..but what good is it if you will not use it ever again?"

    So the only "use" of learning is to further one's career?

    19 Jan 2006, 14:58

  31. Udayan:

    4. I don't know why you and my German friends have opposing views in the issue. They tell me it is an achievement to get into a lecture and there is no real learning that takes place in majority of universities.

    Nor do I. I spend quite a lot of time in Germany, and am very familiar with the education system there. In some universities, some lectures are full – this is rather a reflection on the universities' poor administration than on them being over-full. I asked around the people I know who are currently studying, only two had ever experienced an overfull lecture.

    Iyabosa:

    We shouldn’t criticise those who aren’t here purely because they enjoy learning, as some have unknown obligations and circumstances guiding their decisions.

    I don't. The question is "what does one get from university?", and there are in my opinion a couple of approaches to this:

    • Currently, very many new students believe that they have come here to be taught a load of information, pass some exams, get a good job and make loads of money.
    • Universities, however, have traditionally taught students to think.

    This means that a university should not be spoon-feeding students; that's for A-level. By the time you finish with university, you should be able to take thought to a higher level – more than just summarizing information, but actually analysing and synthesizing your own views coherently.

    The problem lies with the fact that (and I am aware that this is a hard thing to say in our "enlightened" educational approach now) Not everybody is capable of the kind of thought processes that universities should be developing. Sorry, it's blunt, but that's the way it is. Universities are elite institutions, one has to accept that fact.

    For those students who are capable of the work here, they should be supported as far as possible. Those who aren't shouldn't be here, regardless of whether they believe it might improve their job prospects.

    I want to clarify my position regarding tuition fees: I think they should be increased for home students. But I think that this can only be undertaken as part of a balanced adjustment of how students pay for education; just increasing the cost will be counterproductive. I want people to judge how much they want to come here, and make a choice based on that. But we need to support those people who come here, for example by low interest rate long period loans that shouldn't affect a person's future credit ratings, and so on. For me to consider borrowing £50–80k at the moment is not feasible. If I could essentially take this as a loan (much like a mortgate), paid back over the rest of my working life, it wouldn't bother me really: you need a mortgage to buy a house, perhaps you need one to go to uni.

    I don't want to think about the reposessions, though ;-)

    19 Jan 2006, 15:40

  32. What a range of comments. Isn't the point of coming away to university to "grow" as a person? Whether this is through your course, societies, sports clubs, large amounts of alcohol on a Monday night, whatever, you're still growing as person, gaining new experiences. Surely that's why most people come to university? For the experience? Nobody knows what will happen after their degree. You could come to university with great intentions to work hard but end up hating your degree and then find more enjoyable ways to spend your time, scraping through on a 2.2 at the end of it. But you've had the experience. And who's to say that that's not as valid an outcome as being serious as hell for three years and getting that first you've always dreamed of? Each to their own. Surely nobody tries to come to Warwick thinking they're going to just slack off for 3 years? It doesn't work like that, there are still exams to pass or you get kicked out.

    Besides, with more and more people getting 2.1s and firsts, you need extracurricular activities to get yourself a job. All work and no play….

    19 Jan 2006, 15:44

  33. "So the only "use" of learning is to further one's career?"

    The use of knowledge does not necessarily have to be linked directly to one's career. Also, I accept that some subjects teach transferrable skills such as the ability to reason, to critically review and analyse, and also to research. But if someone doesn't apply the knowledge learnt at university either during their career or outside of it in later life (and indeed with the number of lectures many courses have I wonder if they are actually learning much to start with) then what is the point in investing £15,000 in tuition fees over 3 years in that study? (As Udayan says in his article, the government contribution to tuition fees is about £5,000 per annun per student) Most of all, why should the government foot the bill in this case, where there is no benefit to society.

    19 Jan 2006, 15:54

  34. Most of all, why should the government foot the bill in this case, where there is no benefit to society.

    You're not a believer in culture, then?

    19 Jan 2006, 16:23

  35. I honestly can't get over how absolutely tragic some of the things I've read here are. Max Hammond, you are the last shining beacon of hope in an extremely depressing debate.

    19 Jan 2006, 18:02

  36. Not a great believer in culture, no. If people want something then fine, they should pay for it. Is this wrong? Why should some non-essential things be free and not others? Why should the government subsidise the theatre and then tax the hell out of me for wanting to go racing at the weekend? And in any case, if someone is looking to go into a career in culture-related something (performing arts or whatever) then their education in my view would be justified because they intend on using the knowledge they have gained at university.

    19 Jan 2006, 18:16

  37. Well so far we've collectively dismissed academia and culture, are there any other facets of society that are too outmoded to survive?

    19 Jan 2006, 21:52

  38. Matthew

    This debate is bizarre. The country needs graduates, or so the government keeps telling us. Apparently if 50% of school-leavers don't go to university then the economy will suffer. So, apart from all the hugely persuasive intellectual/cultural arguments, it is clear that higher education is a public good. So the public should pay for it. End of discussion, surely?

    19 Jan 2006, 22:32

  39. Matthew, it's not that clear cut. If we're being precise, individual companies need graduates of particular types. If you made students pay a higher percentage of the cost causing fewer to go to university, those companies that actually need graduate level skills wouldn’t die. They’re free to alter wages so as to increase the willingness of people to study with a view to entering their field. They may also sponser students through study as suggested by Christopher. If you doubt this is the case, observe the queues of people in the economics dept. and business school queuing up to work at investment banks. Organisations like the CBI have an interest in regularly declaring a shortage of graduates and those with vocational skills. If the cost burden is shifted to taxpayers as a whole, organisations the CBI represents needn’t adjust wages and training expenditure. Paying more people to head to university is an effective subsidy to businesses. Arguably, there’s nothing wrong with this if you want to minimise the chances of firms going abroad, where graduates are cheaper.

    Even if you think economic considerations should guide tertiary education policy, the current state of affairs is inefficient. Companies within the country may need graduates, but the average English graduate isn’t as desirable as the average engineer. If you want to honour business’ cries, I bet you’d get more value for money by reducing funding for the humanities and social sciences and directing money towards potential maths, compsci, engineering and chemistry graduates.

    19 Jan 2006, 23:53

  40. To Chris – please do not use the term first world, coming from India I find that term derogatory and so do people from other developing nations, I hope to respect all of us you will start using the term Economically developed nation (ECD), or less economically developed nations (LECD).
    To Joe – My point being, whay study math if you love it but are never going to use it again? That does not mean becoming an investment banker, but you could be a statistician or actuarian, but at the end of the day if you study math it would be of benefit to use it!

    Max – for the first time I agree with you! University is here to make you learn how to think, I believe critical thinking is a process we should all aim to acquire during our years at university…..well put. But on the whole culture argument….I dont see where you are going….Investing 5000 pounds per student for culture????Going to university broaden your horizons, teaches you a lot more about the world etc.,.. but as Christopher says, no government can afford to put too much money into it if in the end we dont go out and get jobs. I know you are against that way of tinking, but you must understands that jobs contribute to the economy, as an employee for a firm you contribute to the country's GDP and you pay taxes to support various functions of the government including education. If we all came here to study and then did not get a job, the system would collapse! 74 to 77% of UK's GDP comes from the service sector, as much as you may hate people who want a career in banking, the fact is they contribute a lot to the economy. Personally I prefer a more satisfying job (working for Oxfam maybe) but that does not make any other job less meaningful.

    Cara – you make a valid point, nobody comes to uni with an intention of slacking off, and as you have said extra corricular activities are crucial to enhancing your CV. Although there are other reasons for pursuing them as well (such as a hobby or to learn something not usually taught in your home country)

    Mathew – if it were as easy as you say it is then yes -end of debate. But there are too many other factors such as the right amount of funding, the quality of education, of research, the fees of professors, the amount of taxes…..... It may wel be a public good to educate people but up to what elevel? GCSE is where I think the responsibility of the government stops. After that we are mature enought to make our own decisions. At most up to A levels. I mean why stop at undergrad, why not also teach masters and Phds.?

    20 Jan 2006, 00:41

  41. Matt

    GCSE is where I think the responsibility of the government stops. At most up to A levels. I mean why stop at undergrad, why not also teach masters and Phds.?

    We don't stop funding at undergraduate level. Recruiting enough PhD students is also considered a public good. That is why, over the last few years, the government research councils have nearly doubled PhD students' salaries: paid for by the tax payer.

    Paying more people to head to university is an effective subsidy to businesses.

    That is an odd way of looking at public services. You could, similarly, claim that the NHS is an "effective subsidy to businesses" as it prevents them having to pay for health care for their workers. Or that the road network is an "effective subsidy to businesses" because it lets them transport their goods around very cheaply. Or that the police force is an "effective subsidy to businesses" as it prevents them having to employ security staff.

    Most people prefer to think of public services as public services rather than "effective subsidy to businesses", but I suppose they are functionally equivalent. Either way it is not an argument for removing state funding.

    20 Jan 2006, 09:28

  42. Either way it is not an argument for removing state funding.

    In itself, no. That's why the rest of the comment explained why it's a subsidy that could be reduced. That something comes under the banner of a public service doesn't make it an automatic good. The primary reason government provides the NHS, roads and a police force is because it’s felt that in its absence outcomes would be morally reprehensible or clearly suboptimal. I don't think that's he case here.

    20 Jan 2006, 10:33

  43. Matt

    The primary reason government provides the NHS, roads and a police force is because it’s felt that in its absence outcomes would be morally reprehensible or clearly suboptimal. I don't think that's he case here.

    So why does the government tell us that the country needs 50% of school leavers to go to university? Regardless of what you think, the government clearly thinks that the absence of higher education would be "clearly suboptimal".

    20 Jan 2006, 11:34

  44. Regardless of what you think, the government clearly thinks that the absence of higher education would be "clearly suboptimal".

    The fact that it is government policy doesn't mean it's the best way of meeting a given goal. Changes in policy over time illustrate that government can be wrong. There may well be info and analysis lurking around on why 50% is the target rather than 40%, 60% or 70%, but it seems arbitrary to me.

    20 Jan 2006, 12:40

  45. Historically the figure was that only 30% of people were intellectually capable of going to university… Either we're getting smarter (unlikely) or standards are falling to meet targets. Personally I feel a 50% target, or indeed any arbitrary target of numbers, is a bit of a silly move and only serves to devalue the worth of a degree.

    20 Jan 2006, 13:54

  46. This debate supposedly on top-up fees has taken a strange turn

    nonetheless Christopher, i would say that is quite discriminatory to say only 30% of the poplation should enjoy higher education just to keep the value of your degree higher.

    20 Jan 2006, 18:09

  47. This debate supposedly on top-up fees has taken a strange turn

    Not really. To answer the question of who should pay for tertiary education one must first address the question of what tertiary education should be.

    nonetheless Christopher, i would say that is quite discriminatory to say only 30% of the poplation should enjoy higher education just to keep the value of your degree higher.

    I don't think that that's what he said. He said that he believes that historically, 30% of the population was capable of the work that's required at university. (I'm not sure that historical figures are worth much, but there you go.)

    It's not discriminatory [in the sense that you mean, anyway] to discriminate by competence.

    20 Jan 2006, 20:16

  48. So you dont want more people to go to the workforce than 30%? seriosuly you don't think thats discriminatory????? No matter what tertiary education is limiting the number of people who should be allowed to go to university is not an answer to the problem. Why should anyone pay taxes if their children will not be allowed to go to university upon not making the required grade…...As of now you can go to uni even if you get a CCC, and believe it or not a lot of successful people and even brilliant people did not do well initially. Of course its discriminatory!

    23 Jan 2006, 11:52

  49. There's to many people going university already. In my school, most were going because they basically nothing else to do. They were thick as shite, of course. That didn't really matter, they were still off to do business or whatever the fuck. I continue to be astounded at how many really really thick people are at university doing doss degrees, even at a university like this which is supposed to be quite good. It's a disgrace altogether. Fact is, not that many people are that clever, and not that many jobs need a degree in something. It's gone far enough already. 50% is ridiculous. There's not 50% in this country that can tie their shoelaces. I fear any increase will not come from people who would otherwise have not had the money, but an increase in ignorant country people getting a real kick out of being in an area that has post office.
    I found the whole top-up fees debate missed the point. It was all how we are going to fund something, rather than, actually do we actually need something. Student opposition to fees never did anything for me. Oooooh, I wonder why NUS is saying that? Not much thinking being done. If they thought about it they would realise that there is no need to have 50% of the country in university education. Fine if they don't want to go work a dead end job first or whatever, but don't be suggesting that a media studies degree from Hertfordshire Regional is worth anything, or they deserve state subsidising at all. As far as I'm concerned, these joke courses can fuck off to somewhere else and leave proper universities alone.

    23 Jan 2006, 13:23

  50. Well even Cambridge offers dumbed down degrees for students less academically oriented. But if you have been following the argument, university is also a place of learning according to some which is why I guess the government wants to push for more entries. Also most companies require it as a minimum and therfore it is not surprising that many want to go to uni. Lastly I don't think its fair calling people stupid if they want to pursue higher education, going to university when having no clue what to do is a hell of a lot better than dossing about at home doing nothing, in fact it is a wise decision.

    23 Jan 2006, 15:31

  51. Sean Kelly

    These people have already spent 13 years in formal education. If after this amount of time they still haven't decided what they want to do with their lives, then adding another 3 years to this number will not change anything. If they didn't go to university they would not be 'dossing about at home' but rather they would be in full time employment. Here they would be making money (as opposed as going into debt) plus they would be, for the first time in their lives, be living in a completely new environment (a practical one, not an academic- or indulgent sports- one). This new environment will, more likely then not, give them a new perspective on life, and hence give them the answers which evaded them in formal education (indeed remember: why should formal education be necessarily better then informal education for everyone?)

    23 Jan 2006, 16:46

  52. D

    I don't really agree with the article, most UK universitys receive huge amounts of non-government funding and sponsorship, also in my opinion the standard of education at British universitys is better than American, take a look at Harvard's courses, most of it compares to A-level/first year modules.

    23 Jan 2006, 17:13

  53. AJ

    I wonder, at what point in (recent?) history did we decide that University should be for everyone, and not just for the academically elite? (Weighted language? So sue me.) Standards of education in this country are dropping, to the point that many companies who include a degree in their qualification requirements now insist on an upper second class or above, in addition to consistent good results in GCSE and A-Level equivalents – qualifications dating back six or seven years! What do all those poor sods getting lower seconds, thirds and passes from Universities a lot less well-acknowledged than this one do?

    By all means, free education for all up to 18 (and in fact, enforced until 16). This is a good thing, it ensures – allegedly – that even the most hopeless parents can churn out kids capable of spelling their own names and adding 2 to 2. University, however, should not be for everyone, it should not be a way for people who have "nothing better to do" to spend three years of their lives. In my opinion, universities should teach those who are capable, those who deserve it, and those who can achieve.

    And yes, let's charge money for it. As Udayan said, "if it is an investment worth making, you are bound to attract students." Let's elevate our institutions higher and higher on the international tables, let's show people what our country can do, and why we should be recognised. But only if we're going to mean it.

    23 Jan 2006, 18:38

  54. For I think the first time on record, I find myself tentatively agreeing with Vincent and Max!

    Udayan: "So you dont want more people to go to the workforce than 30%?"

    Not at all, I want 100% of people in the workforce, but you don't have to have a degree to be in the workforce regardless of what you might claim. If business is demanding degrees without reason at the moment then it is business admission policy that should alter, either that or there should be no complaint on the part of business when it is asked to pay for increased expenditure putting students through university via policy to encourage sponsorship of degrees etc. The fact remains that setting arbitrary targets is devaluing to the qualification.

    23 Jan 2006, 18:41

  55. yep.

    23 Jan 2006, 20:09

  56. Well I certainly did not know what I wanted to do when i graduated, I took up PPE because I thought it would be something I might like, I was not 100% sure about it. If a student does not know what to do , and does not want to become a cashier person at Tescos what does she do?

    25 Jan 2006, 11:31

  57. Stuart Coles

    If a student does not know what to do , and does not want to become a cashier person at Tescos what does she do?

    Apply for McDonalds?

    25 Jan 2006, 15:48

  58. "If a student does not know what to do , and does not want to become a cashier person at Tescos what does she do?"

    Well how about try some jobs other than retail and see whether they get along with them, experience the world of work a bit and find out what they are and aren't into… A degree when the student is unsure of their future is a far greater risk as the subject they take greatly influences careers available and future earnings; and if during that time the student decides that a career in that path is not for them, then there is a massive debt that still has to be repaid.

    25 Jan 2006, 19:25

  59. Well you seem to seriously underestimate the value of a degree from a decent university. If I decide to work in MacDonalds full time as opposed to going to university to study the subject I liked most at high school the only progress i can make is at best to store manager, whereas after graduating with any degree I can work in the management. Most firms higher students from any discipline including some engineering firms (shortage of staff), and their pay is a hell of a lot more than macdonalds.

    25 Jan 2006, 21:07

  60. If you want to become a manager, do a degree in management! Or a degree in the sort of area you want to manage e.g. for a manager of an engineering company an engineering or technical degree. Just having "a degree" doesn't really prove much at all in my opinion, it's what you got the degree in that demonstrates your skills and abilities. Why employers aooarently value irrelevant degrees I have no idea, if I were in recruitment I'd be picking people qualified for the jobs they had trained for. I wouldn't give an engineering job to a psychology student any more than I'd give a french teaching job to a physics student, etc etc… It makes no sense.

    25 Jan 2006, 22:56

  61. I don't believe that by 17 an intelligent person hasn't figured out broadly what section of academia they wish to persue. Maybe we all have dilemmas other two subjects at some point. But sort it out. End of. No excuse for pissin about with stupid degrees.

    25 Jan 2006, 23:48

  62. Well said! No fannying about, responsibility is important. Just pick, for the sake of it. Enjoy your degree? Well, I think economics is rubbish. But I do it anyway, could be a LOT worse…could be doing something useless like history or english…

    26 Jan 2006, 02:30

  63. …if I were in recruitment I'd be picking people qualified for the jobs they had trained for. I wouldn't give an engineering job to a psychology student any more than I'd give a french teaching job to a physics student, etc etc
    … It makes no sense.

    The majority of graduate jobs don't specify what you need to have studied, since for the majority of graduate jobs it's all about the personal and interpersonal skills that you've learned whilst studying. Obviously for technical jobs one needs an appropriate training, but for "pen-pushing" jobs? I think that the value there is less clear.

    26 Jan 2006, 09:03

  64. (coming very late to the debate, but finding it interesting)

    Why, fundamentally, does one need a degree at all for "pen-pushing" jobs? Are people who went straight into employment at 18 really fundamentally incapable of speaking normally to customers, colleagues and managers? Or incapable of picking up more about the company's field of operation in a few months on the job than in three years of academia?

    Companies demand graduates because so many young people have been to university and it's an easy way to filter out applicants. The premise is that only the brightest young people – all of the brightest ones, and nobody else – manage to get a degree. However, I can't imagine that everyone who didn't go to university is less capable than the kid who went to, say, London Metropolitan Uni with two Ds from their A-Level retakes – far from it.

    Rather than insisting that everyone follows an academic route to validate their "success" and aptitude for a job doing data entry, or form-filling, or whatever, more consideration should be given to those who didn't need to cost the state and themselves thousands of pounds doing Tourism Studies in preparation for working in a travel agent's or as duty manager in a supermarket.

    26 Jan 2006, 09:53

  65. … This is not to slate those who go to (decent) universities to study a non-technical/non-'vocational' degree, such as English or History. The employment market demands a degree, so those who have no interest (or reduced aptitude) in, say, Medicine, Engineering, Economics or whatever go and get a degree.

    Those who study for the love of the subject, in any discipline, are contributing to the sum of human knowledge and finding new techniques, cures, associations, facts. The argument over those doing postgraduate study in this way is completely separate from the one relating to undergraduate top-up fees.

    On the other hand, although I don't agree with Max that culture stems exclusively from universities – I'm sure only a tiny minority of history's famous artists had undergraduate degrees – university certainly has many non-financial societal benefits, including the opportunity of social mobility for young people and the sizeable benefits a university can bring to its host town.

    26 Jan 2006, 10:04

  66. Well I believe it is possible for a person to get a low grade in A-levels and do well in university if he/she suffered in Alevels due to may be taking further maths…. Or just because people might want to work harder in university when they realize that they want to do better…. As Max says most jobs dont need a specific degree but a 2:1 in any degree, so it really is worthwhile. I dont know many people who would rather be a cashier than a high paid executive, or any other decent paying responsible job. Even charities prefer uni graduates

    26 Jan 2006, 15:22

  67. "I dont know many people who would rather be a cashier than a high paid executive, or any other decent paying responsible job."

    Your arguments for higher education seem to be based around the fact that this arbitrary figure of, say, 50%, are all capable of both the intellect required to make a good manager or other professional job, and also that they have the other necessary skills for those jobs (organisation etc). I find it hard to believe that such a high percentage of people are capable of being competent at that level, and further that there are anything like that percentage of well paid jobs available. The world would be great if we could all have interesting and fantastically paid jobs, but at the end of the day in a non-communist society there is a hierarchy of pay, dictated by supply versus demand. Highly competent people are in relatively short supply compared to demand, so therefore they can command a higher salary. If everyone had a degree and was competent, there'd be no pay differential!

    26 Jan 2006, 15:38

  68. Udayan, you missed my point. As I said in my previous comment, most companies want a 2:1 degree only because they assume every good candidate for their job has been to university.

    This means that people who would otherwise be fully capable of leaving college and going into exactly the same job are forced to go to university, despite not needing or sometimes even wanting to. Three years of not earning money, not contributing to the economy and not gaining work experience – in fact, three years of costing themselves and taxpayers a lot of money.

    26 Jan 2006, 17:06

  69. Stuart Coles

    Well you seem to seriously underestimate the value of a degree from a decent university. If I decide to work in MacDonalds full time as opposed to going to university to study the subject I liked most at high school the only progress i can make is at best to store manager,

    Quite simply, that is not true. At the age of 18, I was offered a full-time salaried management job at the esteemed golden arches. I had been there for 2 years part time. The hierarchy is not limited by a university degree, the area manager who offered me the job had not been to university, and neither had his boss (the head of the South East region). As it happens, I turned it down, because I do actually see the value of a university degree. I would go so far to say that most managers in the system at McD's have worked their way up the company from bottom (cooking the chips) to the top (pushing the pens).

    The reason I was working there in the first place – that would be to be able to afford to go to university. If I had to pay more than I already did (I was in the 1st year of tuition fees), then I would not have been able to go to uni. Simple as that. Financially I struggled. I also got a 1st from one of the top 10 universities in the country – which makes me think that I am exactly the type of person that universities want to be including. Having to pay more fees would put many people like myself off from going to university. I agree that funding does have to be increased, and tertiary education should be paid for, but I don't believe that up-front charges are the way forward. I also believe the whole system needs to be looked at – and isolating one problem such as top-up fees will not find the solution.

    26 Jan 2006, 18:55

  70. martin king

    I think top-up fees are a great idea. If it was down to me, I would charge £10,000 a year or more to get a place at Warwick. That way, we'd keep the riff raff off of our Campus and use the cash we'd generate to fund a polo team.

    27 Jan 2006, 17:16

  71. ok….not getting your point really. Top up fees dont work unless all of the top unis charge them and whats polo got to do with it? unless u were being sarcastic of course in which case I do apologise

    To Stuart – well I agree that if someone wants to work for mac donalds then yes if they have the potential it is possible to make it, but if I get a 2:1 in uni I skip straight to management.

    27 Jan 2006, 19:45

  72. "if I get a 2:1 in uni I skip straight to management."

    … Which is exactly the problem! With respect to you and your ambitions (and I do view your ambition to succeed and do well in life as a marvellous and unfortunately rare thing), getting a 2:1 at university doesn't make you a good manager. It proves that you are capable of academic study to a high standard (we'll leave the slip in standards debate for now). This doesn't mean that you possess the skills for management, or the training. The best managers I find are the ones that work up through the ranks from the bottom, because they have a much better grasp of the business and it's function, and are able to manage much more practically and effectively.

    27 Jan 2006, 20:17

  73. no no I am not trying to boast about my ambitions, I'm just saying that regardless of how good you are at managing a company if you read any subject at any decent university and obtain a 2:2 or a 2:1 or a first, you will be taken in at a good position. you may not be as good as the hard working chap who worked his way up, but you stil get a head start in life.

    27 Jan 2006, 20:53

  74. if you read any subject at any decent university and obtain a 2:2 or a 2:1 or a first, you will be taken in at a good position.

    You're quite simply wrong. All the major graduate recruiters operate assessment centres to select graduates, where you will be competing against other people who have all got the same qualifications as you. Get over it, already.

    27 Jan 2006, 23:50

  75. Oh for gods sake!!! I never said it was a guarantee! How do you think all major companies recruit their employees?? do they go to GCSE students? (school leaving age) do they go to colleges (A-Levels) No – at least not even close to the number present on campuses. A-levels is sufficient enough to get you into a good job only if you are supremely intelligent and lucky and I do mean a job at companies such as an investment bank or accountign firm or a law firm, which like it or not a lot of us want to work for because they offer high wages and good returns on the money spent on education. Of course everyone is not guaranteed but average students at Warwick (78% get 2:1 or above) can expect to such a job within 6 months of graduating.

    Yes you will compete with other people, but you are already well ahead of any GCSE or A-Level candidates and coming from Warwick is also a big advantage,..... so even though there is competition just like everything else in life, if one keeps their cool and uses their education wisely they will definetely benefit as opposed to not doing so.
    You get over it already

    28 Jan 2006, 00:02

  76. Oh for gods sake!!! I never said it was a guarantee!

    Oh, I'm sorry –

    if you read any subject at any decent university and obtain a 2:2 or a 2:1 or a first, you will be taken in at a good position.

    That's a statement of fact – so you are cetainly talking as if it's guaranteed.

    And you go on

    Of course everyone is not guaranteed but average students at Warwick (78% get 2:1 or above) can expect to such a job within 6 months of graduating.

    So, you think that 78% of our students should have a "graduate" job 6 months after graduating? Yet again, you are wrong. (link). 56% of our graduates have jobs after 6 months, and that includes the significant number who are doing non-professional jobs (working in shops, clerical work etc). A further 14% are undertaking study whilst employed.

    And so I shall withdraw from this discussion. It's clear that you are not taking the time to properly read the comments that others are making, or to research the points you try to make. Bullshit only gets one so far in life.

    I genuinely wish you the best of luck with your career. The most important thing that students should get from university is perspective, and a clear rationale for thought. Currently your perspective is limited, in my opinion. If you think that coming here to study has already set you up for a great career, you will be disappointed. If, as I sincerely hope, you take the opportunity to devlop whilst here – then you will be in a good position.

    28 Jan 2006, 18:08

  77. martin king

    Max, be careful! Judging by his surname, Udayan is the heir to a steel fortune ;)

    28 Jan 2006, 19:13

  78. To be honest, Warwick is just a posh polytechnic nowadays.
    I don't see why anyone should judge someone for wanting a lucrative career after a degree. The same way I don't think its right to judge someone for wanting to follow the academic route. (There are a lot of people who want to do research degrees because they enjoy being students and generally bumming around) People want different things from a degree because their circumstances are different.

    Max, you may value the ability to think and analyse, but I agree with Udayan here that it is no use being able to think and analyse if you're not going to use it for something – be it in the commercial world or the academic world. There are some extremely clever people here who can think and also choose to become bankers etc because they came to university to be able to live a good life later on. (Max, just in case you nitpick again I am not saying that university automatically leads to a good life).

    Top universities like Cambridge are far from just academic institutions – they create entire business and science parks around them. Times are changing. It's about time academic purists like some on this blog post take their heads out of their arses and realise that you can't look down on someone for wanting to become a investment banker or wanting to be recruited by the multitude of firms coming to our campus. Business and academia go hand in hand.

    (Prepares for abuse)

    28 Jan 2006, 22:32

  79. To be honest, Warwick is just a posh polytechnic nowadays.
    I don't see why anyone should judge someone for wanting a lucrative career after a degree. The same way I don't think its right to judge someone for wanting to follow the academic route. (There are a lot of people who want to do research degrees because they enjoy being students and generally bumming around) People want different things from a degree because their circumstances are different.

    Max, you may value the ability to think and analyse, but I agree with Udayan here that it is no use being able to think and analyse if you're not going to use it for something – be it in the commercial world or the academic world. There are some extremely clever people here who can think and also choose to become bankers etc because they came to university to be able to live a good life later on. (Max, just in case you nitpick again I am not saying that university automatically leads to a good life).

    Top universities like Cambridge are far from just academic institutions – they create entire business and science parks around them. Times are changing. It's about time academic purists like some on this blog post take their heads out of their arses and realise that you can't look down on someone for wanting to become a investment banker or wanting to be recruited by the multitude of firms coming to our campus. Business and academia go hand in hand.

    (Prepares for abuse)

    28 Jan 2006, 22:32

  80. Kunal: not abuse, just some points I'd like to make…

    Firstly, I don't know what you mean by your statement "just a posh polytechnic", but from the context I take it to be a tongue-in-cheek insult. However, it points at one of the major failings in Higher Education in the last 20 years: the snobbishness that has seen polytechnics become "universities" and move away from vocational courses to offer undergraduae degrees, occasionally in dubious subjects. Polytechnics and the skills-based courses they offered were and are very much needed, and a much better (and more fulfilling, enjoyable and even lucrative) career option for thousands of people every year who are now, instead, pushed towards doing something, anything, to be able to claim "a degree".

    Students who do research degrees don't do so because they "enjoy… generally bumming around" – postgrads do a lot of work for marginal pay; their motivation cannot be generalised or pigeonholed but often includes the desire and ability to contribute, as I said earlier, to the sum of human knowledge in the subject of their choice. In this manner, Max's study isn't for its own sake, or just to avoid the commercial world; he is using it in the academic world.

    Warwick is also a top university with many, many business and science links, so I'm not sure what your point was in singling out Cambridge.

    While there's a body of opinion at Warwick – as at any higher education institution – which is socially/economically left-leaning to the extent of looking down on any private-sector job for which one is rewarded with more than an average wage, it's not fair to say that this opinion has been (explicitly) stated in this particular thread. Max et al have simply said, repeatedly, that a career investment banking etc. etc. is not the only possible reason for going to university.

    28 Jan 2006, 23:09

  81. I'm sorry if I didn't state it clearly – by no means do all postgrads bum around!!! But having said that, many do, just like many undergrads (even at Warwick) think its OK to get wasted every night. I respect anyone who has chosen to enter into the academic world; but what I find extremely irritating is the fact that some of these people think they have the right to disrespect people who go into high paid private sector jobs. It just shows how naive they really are – a Warwick graduate starting out at Goldman/Merrill/etc may well be a venture capitalist funding a Warwick start-up in 20 years time – business and research going hand in hand.
    Whilst this opinion hasn't been explicitly stated in this thread, the tone used by some people has brought it across.

    I in turn find it very depressing that some individuals on this blog entry find it depressing that a person's major motivation for attending university is to secure a high paying job. Why do international students pay over £10k a year to get a degree in, say, engineering at Warwick? For the love of the subject? To further the advancement of their subject? I doubt it. I'm sure there are some who do want these things, but I am pretty certain that the vast majority want to go back home and be employed in a well paid job that will provide them and their family with a good life. Not everyone lives in a cushy developed nation with free services like the NHS. I find it shocking certain individuals don't understand it. And I'm sure its a Warwick thing – people I have spoken to at Oxford/Cambridge/Harvard completely understand the concept of job first, joy of learning second.

    Back to the subject of top-up fees, I think, when it comes to vocational degrees such as engineering/medicine/business the government should sponsor the entire cost of the degree depending on the skills shortages that are present in the country at the time. Other subjects should definitely have a means tested top up fee.

    I also truly feel money should be directed towards more "useful" research that will generate revenue for the university than research such as this: link , which in my humble opinion is a waste of time and money.

    28 Jan 2006, 23:55

  82. "Back to the subject of top-up fees, I think, when it comes to vocational degrees such as engineering/medicine/business the government should sponsor the entire cost of the degree depending on the skills shortages that are present in the country at the time."

    Why though? The problem with looking at university education from a job skills perspective is that you are then looking at it from an economics/business standpoint entirely. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with this. But in order for a business system to run efficiently, you need to couple supply with demand, and customer with consumer. To draw a parallel, this is the principle problem with CAP - it promotes inefficiency because the government intervenes with subsidies instead of the farmer solely working to maximise efficiency for the customer. Of course there are other reasons why subsidies may be right in agriculture, if we look at things such as countryside stewardship and not just agriculture as a means of providing food. But going back to education, if it is jobs that university is here for then it is business that should pay, because then business will set down what percentage of which type of graduates it needs and dispense with unneccessary subjects and expenses. Other subjects which are of no direct benefit to business will need a different approach, but from the polytechnic perspective of degrees for employment, it is business that should fund the system in order to improve funding and efficiency, not to decouple employer from employee by means of government subsidy.

    29 Jan 2006, 12:28

  83. Chris, it doesn't work like that. The market cannot dictate the supply of graduates from each discipline, mostly because there's a five year lag between choosing one's degree and getting a graduate job. In fact, realistically, the lag is much nearer a decade, as such companies need competent managers rather than fresh new graduates. This is far too long to project into the future and disseminate information to schools about career-long salary prospects and promotional paths. Companies can't just wait 10 years for the right graduate to come along – they will happily take on a graduate from an alternative subject, or with a lower-class degree, and process them through the trainee scheme in just the same way.

    And in any case, who chooses their degree solely on the basis of salary? What a soulless existence that would be. (This, incidentally, is one reason the differential top-up fee is the worst concept behind the new higher education funding structure – the most expensive courses to run are arguably the most "useful": engineering, medicine, chemistry, etc.).

    As we've established, university is certainly not here for just one thing (and if it was, historically, it would be for academia and research – but let's not go back into that argument). However, I would say in reponse to both you and Kunal, there is no such thing as an objective assessment of the value of a particular subject. There is no black-and-white in terms of the degree to which subjects are vocational/"useful" (Kunal) or (Chris) "of direct benefit to business". No subject is entirely useless to everybody – especially, but not only, if one includes more than purely money-generating end results – and, equally, one can't say that a business degree is always useful and should be entirely subsidised. If anything, tongue-in-cheek, I'd suggest business should be the only course with a £10,000 annual tuition fee, as it will teach budding entrepreneurs to think carefully about cost-benefit analyses!

    Regarding the countryside (we're getting really off-topic here), CAP as it's structured is a horribly ill-fitting system, but abolishing all food subsidies on the spot would instantly kill off 90% of British food farming: the price of fuel being what it is, and the national food chain being dictated by Tescos et al, a massive amount of food would be imported. Farmers are hard-pressed enough as it is by the big supermarkets; if you removed CAP, they wouldn't suddenly pay British farmers commensurately more. But that's a different argument entirely.

    29 Jan 2006, 13:42

  84. Devina Shah

    The Student's Union sent out a leaflet today about 'Free Education is fair education'. I agree with Udayyan Mittal regarding the fact of compromising graduate competitiveness. If education was free, it would be undervalued by both tutors and students. The leaflet also quoted 'There is a benefit from a country with an awesome education system pay…its called TAX' Good strategy, easy to implement by the government, easily accepted by us graduates? 'Yes!' you might say…But its easier said than done. Ask your parents how much they pay in taxes currently? (That amount including indirect taxes would be a minimum of 40 – 50% of their income)And if education is so undervalued, and graduate competitiveness is deteriorating rapidly, future expected graduate incomes will not be high, so either you end up in debt for your education for the rest of your life or universities will not be able to meet their costs and may close down?

    This is just an idea, but can universities be partially funded by both the private and public sector? Best of both worlds so to speak? Easier said then done, but not unachievable?

    29 Jan 2006, 17:01

  85. The benefit of a University education shouldn't be just that it leads to a better paying job. And the mere fact that it does doesn't mean students should have to pay for it much like private health insurance. Accepting the argument that institutions might need more money and likening higher education to a luxury is two different arguments, and should really be kept separate. The linking by the Government of university education to a job and not to the acquiring of knowledge and life skills is what changes the perception of the rest of society towards it too, and as such should be vehemently opposed.

    Even in India, which is a developing country, a basic degree in something likes humanities or maths in even Delhi University, as far as I know, doesnt cost more than Rs 500 a year, which is really nothing, and allows students to come from remote areas of the country where they wouldn't otherwise get a good education, based on merit. Granted many specialist institutions charge a lot more, but at least a basic education and degree is available to those who cannot afford prohibitive fees. For a country like the UK to be treating education not as a necessity but as a luxury portents a dangerous future where people's priorities are reversed.

    29 Jan 2006, 22:49

  86. Hero

    Without wanting to take on all the arguments here, I think what has to be addressed in the UK is the unbelievable prejudice and fear UK academics have of money/industry/corporations and even 'acting in a corporate way'. We are OK with rich people giving donations, but not with people becoming rich people so they can make large donations – its nuts!

    I have sat at the table with educationalists (ex-teachers) who were running a business, with a guy who wanted to spend £10,000 that day on advertising and sponsorship, and had academicy types virtually talk him out of spending the money by telling him how he could achieve the same thing for free by 'sending in ideas for articles'. I eventually had to end the meeting because the £10,000 was walking away even as we talked. That business was on its knees because of a fear that accepting money turned you into Nestle or something, and yet they didn't know how to say' yes, thanks, that will allow us to pursue our aims for a bit longer.

    The stupid thing was is that although they wanted to be anti-capitalist (and not accept money) they forgot that in being anti-capitalist, they were forcing themselves to be evil employers because they had to underpay people to survive, and sack people at short notice becuase they were blissfully unaware of finacial planning (because it was a 'dirty' skill)

    I am sure that the same attitude is there in education. Warwick has a massive offer of expertise to all sorts of industries, but academics seem to get all shaky and nervous when you say 'this could generate money that we desparately need to do x', instead they would rather spend three years totting up grant applications to the government, rather than simply building something that generates money.

    Crazy.

    30 Jan 2006, 09:40

  87. Max – the link you have given shows 56% employes but 19% studying further , and 14% studying and employed and only 4% looking for employment, hence I am not that wrong in claiming that at least 78% are employable….. So in case you still might be reading this (for fun????) I dont think its fair to put down my arguments just because I dont agree with you, after all this is a debate and not a general agreement session.

    Martin King (cool name) I only wish it were true!!! but unfortunately I dont know Sunil Mittal, so my fortunes are somewhat limited…..

    Kunal – Thanks for agreeing with me (god know I need someone to!) You are right, university is becoming more of a polytechnic, I think that is why many students find the need to undertake a masters degree, just to attain that degree of specialization that an undergraduate degree fails to deliver. I dont think it is right for Max or anyone to as you say abuse anyone just because they want to get a job afterwards, I think his perspective is outdated, people do want jobs, we have to face it that monetary security is important to anyone. And I think you have raised an extremely extremely valid point, research and the business worls MUST go together, just like in the states where professors along with their postgrad students compete to win grants funded by companies for essential research, proffs in UK must do the same. As you say it is hypocritical to argue against those wanting a job after university, we need much closer ties with the business community and they must also realize the potential universities in UK have.The link to the research article shows how much professors are wasting time here

    Hero????? nice name….. What you say is true, we are bing hypocritical, but at the same time it does not mean we should allow unethical companies such as cigarette firms or Nestle to fund us….thre are a lot of options out there and not all are unethical.
    Simon Young – Its true what you say mate, Iliked your arguments. I really dont know why we are such a leftist university, when majority of people end up doing non "socialist" jobs..or activities. In fact I would say most people here vote labor or social democrat – unfortunately I dont know how leftist they are in their thinking but labor seems to be quite less so…...It is strange.

    30 Jan 2006, 10:40

  88. In what way is this university leftist? I havn't noticed in myself. Where have you noticed it?

    30 Jan 2006, 13:59

  89. Current leftist policies include the ban on advertising for some companies and also the prohibition of those companies to sponsor sports and societies clubs (most companies have their own policy specifically for their banning, policy 487 also covers this), policy 468 "The danger of GATS", policy 494 "Campaign against the arms trade", policy 542 "Education and the oil industry"... Some of the policies that I would personally consider to be representative of the leftist attitude of the students union and most of those that partake in union "Democracy". You can view the list in full here. I'd like to add that this is rather off topic and I don't think we should spend too much time on this entry debating the stance of the union!

    30 Jan 2006, 21:49

  90. Education should be free for all up to the age of 18, without question. Thereafter it is reasonable to appreciate that there will be some costs of higher education, but it should remain state subsidised for all those who are able enough to pursue it.

    31 Jan 2006, 22:01

  91. Rob Ray

    All this should be bearing in mind that the figures for post-uni work are significantly skewed because they only count the replies to those ridiculous questionnaires that get sent out. I was unemployed when I left university and got that letter, so I threw the thing away. It tends to be very much a Friends Reunited thing – people will mostly reply only if they've done well for themselves.

    Incidentally, pay rates are also massively upped by the mere fact that all of the top few percentile of rich/wealthy people in this country, with their excellent connections/early schooling, go to top unis, garunteeing that the top earners of each generation will pull up the averages. The vast majority do not reach such heady heights.

    In terms of the US model, it should be noted that the vast sums of cash pulled in by the top universities through bursaries/corporate 'donations' etc which allow them to provide a token system of sponsorship to a (tiny minority of) poorer students are largely reflective of America's massively powerful elite and corporate interests in the places. While marketable university enterprises have recieved funding, it's notable how many 'undesirable' subjects have been comparitively bounced off the curriculum (eg. Cancer/AIDs cures, as opposed to blockers). It's debatable how wise it would be to mimic a system so fundamentally sold-out to big business interests.

    01 Feb 2006, 12:36

  92. The US system is not only sold out to corporates, as I have mentioned in my article there are more than $24 billion dollars of alumni donations, that is a hell of a lot of money to spend on research not required by corporate america. I dont see any problem with companies sponsoring research, that is how it should be, what use are professors if their research does not contribute positively to society? And as I said there are government funds and private donations to facilitate research in lots of other fields.

    Regarding the skewness of the pay data – I would have to agree it is true to some extent, but not to such a great extent, even on the lower paying jobs over their lifetime graduates will earn more and probably also rise above the ranks faster. But as it has been pointed out the worth of degrees might be falling and therefore so might the graduate advantage

    02 Feb 2006, 11:30

  93. Saii

    You're being naive. Donations are rarely given without something being kept in mind for them, whether it's directly from a corporation for a specific bit of research, from an NGO looking for a specific result, to individuals hoping to gain influence at the top levels (these being potentially the most dangerous of all, major US donors in the past have included creationists, white supremacists, the anti abortion lobby etc etc). If you have any business nous at all you should be aware that you get nothing for free, particularly from those with deep pockets.

    The problem directly with companies having control over the purse strings is that if something doesn't have the potential to make as much profit as something else, it doesn't get funding. This has been true, as I said earlier, in the case of research into cancer cures, finding a cure for AIDs and various other diseases when it's a great deal more profitable to fund suppressing drugs which have to be renewed daily/weekly, funding for open-access wireless networking projects etc.

    This also applies to the direction funding takes on an ideological level, for example today, under a governmental system of funding, you would be able to take on some surprisingly left-wing historical/social research topics. If you were being funded by corporations, there would be enormous pressure to come up with the 'right' answer (in fact it has been remarked on by many different people around the world that the US has a spectacularly narrow field of views in such areas). Same goes for the likely direction of all future research. Biggest research topic in the US is arms – deeply useful for a healthy society I'm sure you'll agree.

    I don't know whether you noticed the furore surrounding the George Fox Six in Lancaster? Dragged out of the room and prosecuted for daring to list the crimes some of the potential university donor corporations had committed? In any reasonable circumstance that should have been considered a public duty, making sure the top bods knew the ugly and manipulative background of the people they were dealing with, but money talks and they were silenced for their attempts. That's the problem. When you become compromised in such a way, you are no longer able to operate independently. State funding isn't independent either of course, but its own agenda is bound up at least slightly with the wellbeing of society as well as cash profit.

    On pay data, again I'd say outside of the top-ranking universities the 'graduate advantage' is non-existent. I've never met anyone who didn't go to a red-brick who has said they got their job through their degree (in fact, mine was a liability, despite being from a university with one of the top courses in the country in that subject, because it wasn't a red-brick). I eventually got mine through sheer determination and a hell of a lot of work experience. You'd do as well to take up a vocational course in most cases.

    02 Feb 2006, 19:45

  94. Lucinda

    Matthew can you explain to me how higher education is clearly a public good? There is not a missing market for higher education therefore it is a merit good and not a public good?

    06 Feb 2006, 12:36

  95. good point.

    07 Feb 2006, 00:23

  96. lilybett

    i hate private education in every sense.

    a university education should only be for the brightest: if every idiot who fancies it can go to uni, degrees lose their value and higher education becomes impossible to fund.

    basing university admissions on intelligence is hardly unreasonable; basing it on your ability to pay IS.

    11 Feb 2006, 21:14


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