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Degree Costs A Burden On Taxpayer, Says David Willetts

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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/10278662.stm

The cost of degree courses is a "burden on the taxpayer" and the system of funding is in need of "radical change", the universities minister has said.

David Willetts' comments in the Guardian are being seen as his strongest hint yet that tuition fees in England could rise from £3,225 a year.

And in a speech later, he will say universities need to find cheaper and more flexible ways to teach.

The National Union of Students said many already graduated with huge debts.

Current fees are £3,225 a year and graduates only pay the money back when they earn a salary of £15,000 or more.

A review into the future of university funding is under way, led by former BP chief executive Lord Browne, and is expected to report some time in the summer.

Conservative Mr Willetts told the Guardian he did not want to pre-judge the outcome of the review, but said the current system was "unsustainable" and the cost of hundreds of thousands of degree courses was a "burden on the taxpayer that had to be tackled".

He said students should see repaying tuition fees "more as an obligation to pay higher income tax" than a debt.

But he goes on to say that: "My view is that it is not a matter of simply changing the fees.

"The system doesn't contain strong incentives for universities to focus on teaching and the student experience, as opposed to research."

Flexible learning

Mr Willetts is due to give his first major speech since becoming universities minister in Oxford.

He will say that the current further education system was made "for the good times" - which are over.

He will say that students should be able to study for a degree at any university in England, but attend lectures at their local further education college.

This will help meet rising demand for degrees and improve access to courses for people who cannot afford to leave home, he will argue.

The model the government has in mind is that of London University.

It says it has 45,500 students studying by distance and flexible learning in 180 countries. Another 6,000 students in the UK do the same.

Will this be the end of the polytechnics that became Uni's? I mean why attend some tin pot University when you can attend some tin pot local College and get a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, that's if they decide to sign up for it but I suspect the most VC's will see this as a good way of boosting revenues.

Perhaps the old polys will get taken over by the up market Uni's to provide degrees to the local populace. You could have all the Russell group Uni's providing course's in the old polytechnics?

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Would that be the same David Willets who before the election was Boomer bashe no1. He must of course be referring to the millions of post 50's taking degree courses being subsidised by the taxes of the young. :lol:

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Would that be the same David Willets who before the election was Boomer bashe no1. He must of course be referring to the millions of post 50's taking degree courses being subsidised by the taxes of the young. :lol:

Article quotes "And in a speech later, he will say universities need to find cheaper and more flexible ways to teach."

Maybe he will look to slash the pensions of professors who only teach twice a week......

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I've always struggled with the idea that the simple fact of getting a degree is good for your prospects..... if for example we had diploma courses ( covering the same stuff) in some of these areas, I can't seee how suddenly having the same course at a university with associated higher costs is necessarilly going to help your prospects.

Equally many more seem to be being encouraged to go to unviersity and then are dropping out... what possible use is that.

And at the same time we have universities getting into the grade inflation game to ensure it appears everyone has been properly educated at the end of their course.

I am sure theres an argument that there are too many university places, many should just go, others be replaced by cheaper to fund diploma courses.

Finally I'd like to propose a slightly odd appraoch which is that as a country we should define those areas where we will need more graduates to lead industry forwards and actually fund those courses.... I am sure we need more engineers, we might need more chinese speakers, we might need more science and maths graduates, we might need more geologists, we might need more IT graduates etc etc.... I'd argue that we should target funding at those areas that will boost our economy... so maybe these course charge only 20% tution fees and then we get rid of a whole lot more and ask those who want to read other topics pay full whack..... the point being theres little point investing money in universtiy education unless we get a return and we should target what assistance the state can give at those courses which will deliver the best graduates to help the UK move forwards.

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Given that a lot of degrees seem to be 3-year con tricks to get the young to fund their own unemployment, would it really be any cheaper to scrap courses when the kids on them would then end up claiming social security?

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How did we get to this from when if you were fairly smart and worked hard you could get a free or subsidised university education?

What have they done? It's a sham and a shame.

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We appear to charge a little more than some state universities in the US for in-state residents (i.e., if you live in Utah and go to Utah State University, the tuition fees are $3,378pa), but a fair bit less than out-of-state residents (at $10,878).

Go up a level (University of Utah) and the in-state/out-of-state tuition fees are $4,298/$13,371 respectively.

Move up another level and UCLA, for example, has tuition costs of $27,066pa, and total costs of $43,600 for tuition, books, dorms, health insurance, etc. Harvard would cost you over $50,000 per year.

The up-side for the US system is that there are a number of grants etc available to students (you don't have to be an athlete to get them, either :) ), whereas the UK system isn't as well-endowed, I think.

Compared to other EU countries, a quick Google search shows the university of Heidelberg in Germany charges €1,200pa for tuition and €2,200-3,000pa for dorms, although I think a lot of EU countries are struggling with the same problems of funding.

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Finally I'd like to propose a slightly odd appraoch which is that as a country we should define those areas where we will need more graduates to lead industry forwards and actually fund those courses.... I am sure we need more engineers, we might need more chinese speakers, we might need more science and maths graduates, we might need more geologists, we might need more IT graduates etc etc.... I'd argue that we should target funding at those areas that will boost our economy... so maybe these course charge only 20% tution fees and then we get rid of a whole lot more and ask those who want to read other topics pay full whack..... the point being theres little point investing money in universtiy education unless we get a return and we should target what assistance the state can give at those courses which will deliver the best graduates to help the UK move forwards.

+1

But as for the Chinese speakers, fat chance of getting many of those from natives.

So many kids won't even bother with French or German GCSE because they're too 'hard'.

BTW I saw a prospectus for Solent Uni (Southampton) the other day, where among other things they're offering courses in Extreme Water Sports. Good fun no doubt for those who like that sort of thing, but subsidised by the taxpayer?

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Finally I'd like to propose a slightly odd appraoch which is that as a country we should define those areas where we will need more graduates to lead industry forwards and actually fund those courses.... I am sure we need more engineers, we might need more chinese speakers, we might need more science and maths graduates, we might need more geologists, we might need more IT graduates etc etc.... I'd argue that we should target funding at those areas that will boost our economy... so maybe these course charge only 20% tution fees and then we get rid of a whole lot more and ask those who want to read other topics pay full whack..... the point being theres little point investing money in universtiy education unless we get a return and we should target what assistance the state can give at those courses which will deliver the best graduates to help the UK move forwards.

No we don't, the country has far too many, that's why their pay is so low compared to other professions.

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If what he wants to say is that the Open University model is better than mad expansion of the polys, then he's right.

Hopefully we can put a stop to McDegree nonsense, focus on real centres of excellence (something like the present Russell Group) for traditional university education, and reform the rest to focus on lower-cost education to run concurrently with employment.

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BTW I saw a prospectus for Solent Uni (Southampton) the other day, where among other things they're offering courses in Extreme Water Sports. Good fun no doubt for those who like that sort of thing, but subsidised by the taxpayer?

Tempting. Where do I apply?

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Do not be taken in by the Russell Group rhetoric. They are not as wonderful as they say.

The whole sector has been peddling substandard education and LIAR DEGREES for too long.

That is not to say that all academics are a waste of time, rather that the good ones are obscured by an out of date, self regarding and unregulated system.

Value added should apply here as anywhere and the prejudice that some institutions are just wonderful needs to be examined.

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It depends what we are churning out and trying to sell to make our way in the world.

I've not heard anyone in Germany say they have too many (high quality) engineers.

Our review should be as fundamental as saying - how on earth are we going earn a living and change acordingly.

Thats because the Germans still make things.

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How did we get to this from when if you were fairly smart and worked hard you could get a free or subsidised university education?

What have they done? It's a sham and a shame.

It's called 'class warfare'..

Essentially, it is where those from the middle-upper classes make sure that any bright working class kids that might compete with their offspring face a massive set of financial obstacles (never mind the social/contact obstacles). Hence most of the 'competition' will be forced into taking second best (staying at home for uni, taking the first job they can find to pay the bills, etc).

Oh, and as a part of that you will constantly see emphasis on those who do make it against the odds. Somehow the fact that a few people succeed despite the system shows that the system is not unfair..

On the OP, I have no idea how any hands on degree could possibly work in this way; even humanities degrees should depend on things like face to face tutorials and discussions.

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>The cost of degree courses is a "burden on the taxpayer" and the system of funding is in need of "radical change", the universities minister has said.

The cost of health care is a "burden on the taxpayer, let everyone die" the health secretary said.

I would have thought that degree courses overall produce a return for the taxpayers and are no burden at all.

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>The cost of degree courses is a "burden on the taxpayer" and the system of funding is in need of "radical change", the universities minister has said.

The cost of health care is a "burden on the taxpayer, let everyone die" the health secretary said.

I would have thought that degree courses overall produce a return for the taxpayers and are no burden at all.

Yes indeed. A study examining the economic contribution to the economy made by the University sector for 2003-04 found that whilst £17bn was put in to the Universities in terms of funding, etc. they generated £45bn for the UK economy.

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I have an idea.

The Universities borrow the money to lend to students.

The students pay the Universities back when they earn sufficient to do so instead of to the government.

If the courses are worth nothing, the Universities will quickly stop supplying them.

That's a rather good idea, actually!

I can just here the screams of objection coming from the 'lifestyle choice' degrees as I type though... ;)

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It's called 'class warfare'..

Essentially, it is where those from the middle-upper classes make sure that any bright working class kids that might compete with their offspring face a massive set of financial obstacles (never mind the social/contact obstacles). Hence most of the 'competition' will be forced into taking second best (staying at home for uni, taking the first job they can find to pay the bills, etc).

Oh, and as a part of that you will constantly see emphasis on those who do make it against the odds. Somehow the fact that a few people succeed despite the system shows that the system is not unfair..

On the OP, I have no idea how any hands on degree could possibly work in this way; even humanities degrees should depend on things like face to face tutorials and discussions.

Mass access for poorer students peaked in the 1960s, with the UCCA serving as an instrument of social policy facilitating access and taking the "it's not for the likes of us" factor out of applying.

Of course, grants helped. But they were always subject to social engineering (means-testing), which still picks arbitrary winners and losers today (my own experience 30 years ago and my nephew's today are surprisingly similar). For me, the "elitism" was just as important, but it was the elitism of meritocracy: coming from a huge comprehensive school, Cambridge was a well-earned prize. And one that remains equally open to anyone who can secure funding - meaning the advantage remains with those who qualify for the means-tested grants.

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Weird.

I grew up in France, and the idea of kids taking out loans to get through uni was anathema... parents would scrape together the money required, no matter what.

Then again, it did mean that "Peace Studies" courses were almost unheard of :) It was "something useful, or get down the job centre".

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Mass access for poorer students peaked in the 1960s, with the UCCA serving as an instrument of social policy facilitating access and taking the "it's not for the likes of us" factor out of applying.

Of course, grants helped. But they were always subject to social engineering (means-testing), which still picks arbitrary winners and losers today (my own experience 30 years ago and my nephew's today are surprisingly similar). For me, the "elitism" was just as important, but it was the elitism of meritocracy: coming from a huge comprehensive school, Cambridge was a well-earned prize. And one that remains equally open to anyone who can secure funding - meaning the advantage remains with those who qualify for the means-tested grants.

Mass access for poorer students as a proportion of the whole may have peaked in the 60's, but not in absolute numbers. More poorer students go now.

And to say that the advantage for Oxbridge entry lies with those who qualify for the means-tested grants is nonsensical and against all the evidence. The easiest access to funding remains as it always has been - with the wealthy elite with their privileged offspring hothoused in public schools who secure the majority of places as they always have done.

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Yes indeed. A study examining the economic contribution to the economy made by the University sector for 2003-04 found that whilst £17bn was put in to the Universities in terms of funding, etc. they generated £45bn for the UK economy.

This

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That is not to say that all academics are a waste of time, rather that the good ones are obscured by an out of date, self regarding and unregulated system.

Hardly. The amount of regulation is what has got me to move out of academia recently, that and tripling my salary. <_<

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Mass access for poorer students as a proportion of the whole may have peaked in the 60's, but not in absolute numbers. More poorer students go now.

Go to what though?

And to say that the advantage for Oxbridge entry lies with those who qualify for the means-tested grants is nonsensical and against all the evidence. The easiest access to funding remains as it always has been - with the wealthy elite with their privileged offspring hothoused in public schools who secure the majority of places as they always have done.

I can only speak from my own experience, which was that only a small minority of people I knew were from public schools.

True, quite a few were from 'privileged' state schools: the grant-maintained sector, as it was called at the time. But comprehensive plebs like me were never made to feel out of place, or any such crap. It was simply not an issue.

Unlike in later life, when having been to Cambridge evokes class envy, inverted snobbery, and an assumption of privilege :angry:

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  • 259 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

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