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Zaranna

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  1. That's nothing on my bargain of the week: http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-19155096.html (Though this is also in with a shot at the title. Hope Street indeed. Nice pictures....! http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-17352342.html)
  2. This is the Cambridge process. The Oxford process is as described above by MongerofDoom -- it differs in that candidates for Oxford may be asked to interview at two (or sometimes more, depending on the chosen subject) colleges at the same time: the first and second choice colleges (and sometimes an additional college) may see the candidate during the same 2-3 days, and if the first choice college does not wish to make an offer the second choice college may do so. Oxford does not operate a 'winter pool' system as Cambridge does.
  3. Well, they're not paying for plush facilities here. Your first statement is bizarre.
  4. It is top 10, in fact: we just don't like to blow our own trumpet I'm glad you've posted this as it shows just how far UK HE is a globally competitive brand, even against institutions with endowments many times greater than any of ours have. And we do do this on a shoestring. The vast majority of the North American universities in this list have absolutely huge endowments and investment income to fall back on: they don't run themselves on their student fees alone as we're going to be asked to do. Not even Oxbridge here has enough money to compete in that respect: in fact many Oxbridge colleges are struggling to stay solvent because the amount it costs to teach the students vastly exceeds the income they receive from fees and government right now, never mind when the teaching grant has gone. A lot of the proposals for universities haven't even sunk in yet in the media. The rise of fees is the most obvious of them: but what about the proposed removal of all state funding apart from STEM subjects that comes with it? But an increase in conditions around widening access. So the state removes almost all funding, yet retains the right to interfere in university admissions? (The retention of the medicine funding is key here.) Universities will be forced to take their costs from students yet put up with a state that has abdicated its responsibility for funding HE meddling in how admissions are run. Not a particularly liberal policy (int he true sense of the word). No central funding but still the dead hand of more central regulation? That's not an efficient market. In any case, the state funds are going to be removed before the fee increase starts, to sharpen the urgency with which universities will have to charge their students. Result: one of our most efficient and well-regarded sectors, one are of the economy in which we really are still world class, is hobbled at a stroke. What happens if the students don't want to go? We have a globally competitive HE sector with no students, then no money for research, then no HE sector at all? Just a few FE colleges doing 2-year degrees? (BTW the 2-year degree idea isn't workable for most, especially the best and most globally well-regarded institutions, who depend on the summer in order to do the research that they will then teach to the students, and for the time to write the grant applications to bring in more money to help pay enough staff - not to mention needing the summer research period in order to rent out the buildings and lecture halls for commercial and business conferences and events, in order to subsidise the teaching costs during the rest of the year). We may well end up, as many universities are building into their future planning (immigration caps allowing) having to take a lot of overseas students from the US and China etc., and educating them at higher fee rates just to stay running, thus turning us into an industry that educates the elite students of other countries and sends them abroad so their own countries get the benefit of their training, whilst UK students cannot afford to go to university despite the fact there are vanishing numbers of low-skill jobs in this country for them. (Hey - maybe we can export all the UK kids that taxpayers won't pay to educate, to become low-skill workers in factories in China, whilst importing wealthy Chinese students to fill the university places here and do our graduate jobs. This isn't so far off what might actually happen.) The big claim of the fees/loan proposals is that students won't pay upfront costs and poor students will get grants again. But who yet has noticed that maintenance loans are going to be withdrawn from those with a family income over 60k? Those students will get the double whammy of near 30k tuition loan debts at punitive rates of interest; BUT their families will also have to pay upfront maintenance costs for which they won't be able to get a loan. The real reason behind this, of course, is debt servicing and interest. The US student loan system is one of the most profitable sectors of the US debt market. Hitherto, however, it's a potential market that hasn't been available to banks and lenders in the UK apart from the Student Loans Company. And unlike mortgages or credit card debt, US student loans can't be discharged through bankruptcy. Whatever you think of how far HE benefits the individual or society (or employers - it isn't an accident that over the last 15 years employers have lobbied government for greater HR expansion: there's been a long-term trend towards employers outsourcing the cost training of the they used to provide on the job to the taxpayer and the individual); the students who will graduate from university in the future are already going to be paying a large amount of tax and servicing a large amount of debt. They are the tax cow middle classes the economy depends on to fund the whole system. Without even getting into questions of fairness or morality, how far is burdening them with even greater debt an efficient thing to do for anyone apart from the banks and bankers? Have a look at this link for more on where we're headed: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/29/your-money/student-loans/29money.html
  5. Well, I'm not at Southampton. You'd probably be a lot more shocked if you knew where (hint: it's in the global top 20; and after the spending cuts not likely to remain so unless we go completely private).
  6. Rubbish. The vast majority of staff in my institution (Russell Group, area of the SE where it costs over 200k just for an ex-LA one-bed flat) are paid about 32-35k. This is after ten or more years of training, including a PhD, several fixed-term contracts moving anywhere in the country to keep working, and years of additional training including the now obligatory PGCHE or similar HE teaching diplomas. I'm still on a fixed-term contract and can expect to be so until I'm about 40 - that is if there are any posts available then. Payscales are national so not much opportunity to advance (or for your employer to pay you more if you perform well) and in my institution we haven't had a cost of living rise for two years and several people's jobs are under threat. We don't have many managers or admin staff, either - all the HoDs and their assistants are working academics as well and we currently have just four full-time support and admin staff (one manager, two secretarial and admin assistants, and the receptionist who doubles as a janitor) for a department of well over 70 people. (We just have to do all the admin ourselves.) People double up several times to an office when they're teaching and work from home when there's no space. There are no jollies - we have no money for them. Well, there was an annual 2-hrs Christmas drinks party of cheap 4 quid a bottle wine and some peanuts, but it got cancelled (cost saving!) - everyone stopped coming after the HoD started making us give research presentations on rotation to each other about the grant applications we'd submitted that year and why they had or hadn't got the money before we were allowed to get to the drinks. There might be the odd overpaid VC or senior professor (and we all wish those would push off to be honest), but the vast majority of us are horribly overworked (I work 65-75 hours a week during teaching term and outside term nearly as much just to keep up on essential admin, teaching and lecturing prep and research and grant-writing that I simply can't fit in within term - long leave is a complete myth, as are the other perks you describe.) In fact we have huge amounts of staff illness and mental health problems due to stress and overwork. Everyone I know is trying to get out to the US or any other country as fast as possible - we lose seriously good people to the US and SE Asia, Canada, Germany etc. all the time because we can't offer competitive salaries for lecturers. My department has only about half the number of staff we really need to do the teaching we have to do, but there is no money and we're all working at our absolute limits, so to keep costs down a huge amount of the teaching is done by postgraduates and postdocs on hourly rates (which don't take preparation, marking or admin into account, so they can end up earning less than minimum wage for what is actually very high-skill specialised work). You have it completely wrong about academia. It's one sector in the UK economy where people manage to deliver a globally competitive product on an absolute flipping shoestring, and most of us put up with appalling pay and conditions for the love of the work. The cuts to the teaching budget are an absolute disaster for this country. The result will be far more crappy degrees in media studies with golfing management, because that's what students want and that's what will attract them in with their huge mortgage style fees, and far fewer decent academically rigorous courses. And academics and graduate students will just leave in droves to go to countries who are not playing silly buggers with the fate of their education system and their young people.
  7. Reposted from the Guardian thread, but I probably should have posted it on this one instead! You people are thinking about this all wrong! Ask yourself: why would a Tory chancellor want to incentivise people to earn less? Why would he want to create a downward pressure point on wages just below the higher rate threshold? Why would he be interested in inserting that kind of subtle (but powerful, since it plays on middle earners' fears of losing a benefit they currently have), disinflationary wage pressure into the economy? Think about it. We know that the thresholds are frozen for the next three years. If you were earning, say, 40-43k, and had children, what incentive would you have to ask for, say, a couple of 4 or 5 percent cost of living wage increases before 2013? Even if inflation was running at 5 percent or more? And the beauty of making it dependent on single rather household income is that if you have two earners in a household with children you've managed to cap two people's inflationary wage demands at once rather than just one. Because you're not really interested in the total household income; you're interested in dampening individual average salary costs and demands. How much of a coincidence do you think it is it that it comes along with the start of another campaign against unions' wage demands and striking rights? Only this way you also encourage the middle classes to restrain their own wage creep, whilst painting it as a redistributive measure that you can simultaneously hold up to the unions as "even the middle classes are taking their share of the pain". It's so neat I'd admire it if I didn't hate it so much It's almost as if someone's going to try for a bit of controlled inflation whilst still seeking to allow employers to keep a lid on wage increases. Oh, hang on.....
  8. You people are thinking about this all wrong!! Ask yourself: why would a Tory chancellor want to incentivise people to earn less? Why would he want to create a downward pressure point on wages just below the higher rate threshold? Why would he be interested in inserting that kind of subtle (but powerful, since it plays on middle earners' fears of losing a benefit they currently have), disinflationary wage pressure into the economy? Think about it. We know that the thresholds are frozen for the next three years. If you were earning, say, 40-43k, and had children, what incentive would you have to ask for, say, a couple of 4 or 5 percent cost of living wage increases before 2013? Even if inflation was running at 5 percent or more? And the beauty of making it dependent on single rather household income is that if you have two earners in a household with children you've managed to cap two people's inflationary wage demands at once rather than just one. Because you're not really interested in the total household income; you're interested in dampening individual average salary costs and demands. How much of a coincidence do you think it is it that it comes along with the start of another campaign against unions' wage demands and striking rights? Only this way you also encourage the middle classes to restrain their own wage creep, whilst painting it as a redistributive measure that you can simultaneously hold up to the unions as "even the middle classes are taking their share of the pain". It's almost as if someone's going to try for a bit of controlled inflation whilst still seeking to allow employers to restrain wage demands. Oh, hang on.....
  9. Too many people have no idea about what "free speech" actually means/is: this isn't a free speech or censorship issue at all. Having the right to free speech only means that the state cannot, unless in specific and well-defined circumstances, prosecute you for exercising your right to free speech. This does not mean (and has never meant) that you have the right to say whatever you like free of consequence (libel action, for example). Free speech applies to freedom from oppression from the state: but private individuals and companies are entitled to "censor" (and this is a metaphorical use of the word, as strictly censorship means censorship by the state or a state official or representative) anything they like on boards or print publications or whatever they own. It's not only bad taste to link this topic to state oppression (communists etc.) but also a category mistake as well.
  10. I really miss sparring with Casual Observer and Orbital about whether I should buy a nasty 2-bed terrace in Luton for a quarter of a million pounds. Where are they now....?
  11. Of course this "counter-cyclical" argument is rubbish. This is the reason why: The argument only works if you assume (erroneously) that rental yield is the product of a causal or direct relationship between prices and rents rather than a mathematical relationship between prices and rents. In fact this relationship is more complex: as has been pointed out on here many times, rents are a function of wages (what people can afford to pay every month), whereas prices are a function of wages+credit (since, of course, you cannot borrow to pay your rent, whereas prices are reliant on the amount of credit a lender will give you, and only related to wages insofar as lenders use salary multiples as PART, but not ALL, of their decision to lend.) One of the reasons we have been able to tell that the housing market was in a bubble is that the ratio of rents to prices has diverged from historical norms -- i.e. that ratio showed that whilst rents were still a function of wages, the credit component of prices had become distorted. In simple terms: that house prices were no longer related to sensibly to wages. All of this means of course that if prices fall, YES the mathematical "yield" rises, even if rents don't change. But this doesn't mean that RENTS themelves rise, because rents are still a function of wages. And if one effect of the credit crunch, rising food, energy, petrol costs, etc. is that people have less to spend each month, and wage inflation is low or insignificant, then how are people going to pay increased rents? It's actually more likely that rents will FALL -- as disposable income contracts, people will be looking for cheaper rents on the market, whcih will drive rents marginally DOWN, not up. This will, of course, benefit long-term landlords with no mortgage who can afford to cut rental prices, at the expense of mortgaged BTLs. The key thing to remember when you explain this argument to others is that *you can't borrow to pay the rent*. Thus when incomes are stretched, rents don't tend to go up, because people simply can't pay them. And in a climate of increasing costs (I got a shock this week opening a letter from Eon telling me my energy bills are going up by 60 percent, for example), when people are looking to rent, they won't simply accept inflated rents and shrug their shoulders because "that's just what it costs for a nice newbuild flat", as BTLers have been able to rely on until recently; they'll actively seek out somewhere cheaper instead -- somewhere less plush but that's a little cheaper and with a more accommodating landlord. That's how the market works...goodness knows there is not undersupply of rental anywhere near me, and I assume that's true across most of the country! The fact that there is a lot of BTL about compared to the last crash will only have the effect of (in the MPC's teminology) "bearing down on demand", ie. bearing down on rent price rises. It's perfectly possible for both prices and rents to fall at the same time.....to imagine they're necessarily causally inversely related is a delusion, mostly held by those with little understanding of mathematics (or economics)! Just because you can express something as a ratio DOES NOT mean that there is a causally inverse relationship between the two terms. Back to primary school for anyone who thinks so!
  12. NOT AT ALL like that case, in fact. If you do some research into that case you'll find that those two elderly sisters were in fact both very wealthy, and simply wanted to keep the entire value of two additional properties worth over 300,000 (as well as their primary residence, which was already valued at 550,000) rather than have to sell it to pay inheritance tax. They could in fact easily have afforded to pay the value of the inheritance tax on the primary residence: they just didn't want to. The media painted it as two poverty-stricken old ladies who were battling to save their home, but that was very very far from the truth! Arguing that they were equivalent to a marriage or a civil partnership was totally unjustified IMO, and they deserved to lose that case.
  13. Oh HELLO, Orbital!! Haven't seen you for a while
  14. Similarly, I was looking around on Rightmove last night and saw a house very near me that had dropped in price (the mad effect of the bubble is that it seemed quite reasonable compared to the prices these houses -- definitely nothing fancy! were selling at last year.) So I used the nationwide and bbc calculators to play around with the figures. Nationwide would still lend me about 220k at reasonable IRs, and I have a decent deposit. I even started -- for a moment -- thinking about buying (sacrilege! I know ). But when I looked at the monthly repayment figures -- well, foook me! 1500 a month! And identical houses in that street, nice refurbed ones, rent for 850 a month! Well, of course it's a no-brainer. Why on earth would I buy it when I could rent an identical one for nearly half the monthly amount? (Fellow HPC-ers, you'll be glad to hear that my moment of almost-buying madness swiftly, and sensibly, evaporated.) So I started playing around with the calculators to see what the house would have to cost, with deposit, for the current rent to reflect mortgage payment + v. small leeway, c. 50 pounds per month, for costs/maintenance. The answer -- exactly as you found -- was EXACTLY HALF of the house's current price......... The lesson is: hold your nerve, people, and wait.....
  15. I'm a lecturer in an economics-related field, so pretty much yes! edit: in response to Prescience's post below: those are the comments (by EG) that I refer to! Only those with an interest in economics and public policy would probably have seen them -- though they were briefly reported on Sky news's internet site and (I think?) v. briefly on the BBC. But largely ignored.
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