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A 'Free' University education in the UK ?

Roger · 24 · 2551

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Offline Coolkorat

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"The degrees which are most likely to result in a high earning job are in business, computing, law, economics, and maths from Oxford, Cambridge and University College London. So what about all the other 1.3 million students not studying these subjects? Yes, in normal years they will be making lots of friends and enjoying social events."

She is right. But those 1.3m students will go on to find jobs, and not everyone can get a high paid job. We've relied on imported labour to do jobs 'the yoof' consider menial. About time 'the yoof' began to recognise that having a skilled trade is a great career choice.


Online Roger

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I thought this was spot on and IMO the UK has a major problem here :-

"Beware a politician in hot pursuit of a legacy, for they are liable to say and do stupid things. Reading about the latest bridge to nowhere, or a leader signing up to some teeth-clenchingly expensive and binding national commitment with little discussion of cost of practicality? Chances are we’re in legacy-hunting territory. It often means defending the indefensible. And earlier this week, Tony Blair doubled down on one of the worst aspects of New Labour’s inheritance – the target for 50 per cent of school leavers to attend university.

At the time, his Panglossian acolytes insisted the policy would boost the national skillset and turbo-charge social mobility. Many assumed you could dramatically expand attendance without diminishing a degree’s value. Instead, the intervening years saw higher education morph into a bloated basketcase; with millions more young people drowning in debt, paying ever-more eye-watering interest rates for a lower and lower return on their investment. When you’re in a hole, stop digging, as the saying goes. Fat chance. This week it was reported that Blair had upgraded his target to 70 per cent of young people entering higher education by 2040, from the 53 per cent it is now.

A growing body of thought now recognises that the original target was a mistake – right down to Blair’s son Euan, an apprenticeship entrepreneur who amassed a £160 million fortune by ignoring his father’s wisdom. Yet given the weight of opinion, remarkably little has been done to reverse the effects of the current system. The reason is simple and depressing – it is just too difficult to confront the appalling incentives and vested interests which underpin the status quo.

Between Blair’s target and the Cameron-era removal of the cap on student numbers, we’ve somehow achieved the unthinkable: creating a system in which it is rational, even financially prudent, for universities to recruit as many students as they can, ideally to full three-year degrees, as cheaply as possible. The explosion of unconditional offers and low entry requirements are two obvious symptoms of this trend, while the neglect of non-university courses has sparked a shortage of vocational skills.
"

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2022/04/20/trapped-tony-blairs-university-nightmare/
''If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough'' - Albert Einstein


Offline Coolkorat

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The explosion of unconditional offers and low entry requirements are two obvious symptoms of this trend, while the neglect of non-university courses has sparked a shortage of vocational skills

This isn't our experience of the system, which my son is going through at the moment.

- In demand degrees at good universities are very difficult to get places on (he is applying for Law). He passed the entry tests, law tests and got to second interview stage with Oxford but not an offer, was rejected by UCL and is waiting to hear from LSE. He has two offers from 'banker' universities. He is doing the International Baccalaureate which is points based: the maximum possible is 45, and he is predicted 43 which is three A* passes at A level.

- Covid meant that a very large number of kids deferred entry so he is fighting for places that are limited.

- An increasing number of his friends are doing in-work vocational training, particularly accountancy. The accountancy firms much prefer this - they get fresh, trainable staff whose development and qualifications they can mould. The same is true for Compliance where skill shortages mean salaries are exploding. Companies need specific qualifications (not degrees) so there is no benefit to doing a degree. Increasingly it is qualifications like STEP that are needed, although in Asia a degree is still an absolute must-have.

- UK universities like foreign students. They earn vast amounts from them. Parts of Manchester have transformed into Korean / Asian enclaves because there are so many students. These students tend to come from rote-learning cultures and have high entry scores.

The whole university process is stressful but if you want to work for an international company there is not much choice. Universities are also money-printing factories; the vice chancellor of Bolton University drives a Bentley and has a salary of £322,000 p.a. Not bad for running a glorified school in a post industrial northern city.


Online Roger

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Hi CK your reply was very interesting. Wishing your Son well - I'm sure it's a hard fight to get into the 'top' Uni's for the best degrees and there must be some sort of covid 'hangover'.

In your later comments, you mention 'glorified schools' and it seems many of the old Tech Colleges became Uni's with the pay of the Vice Chancellors and all, an absolute scandal. The Uni industry seems to have boosted itself with subjects of doubtful worth and lower entry requirements in some cases with hordes of foreign students (Chinese in particular) to fund the project.

The DT article I linked concludes : ". . . it is hard to see how to reform the system without inflicting ever-greater pain on students. Soaring loan interest rates seem shockingly unfair when young people have already been so comprehensively clobbered by the broken housing market, tax hikes and the impact of lockdown. But if this sorry affair makes a few more school leavers think twice about going to university, that might be the one silver lining to a very considerable cloud.

Any radical change to the system will involve the sacrifice of numerous sacred cows, such as the idea that some universities are “too big to fail” or the limited kudos attached to non-academic routes. Sadly the termites have spread too far, and dined too well for that – so perhaps doubling down is the only thing for it. We are all living Blair’s university dream now
."

I agreed much with the Minister who last year said this : ""Too many youngsters are going to university, the Education Secretary has said, as he rips up the 50 per cent target. Gavin Williamson said that there are "limits" to what we can achieve by sending increasing numbers of school leavers into higher education, adding that it is "not always what the individual and nation needs".

Just to recap degrees on offer as posted earlier : degrees in "'Horse Whispering', 'Puppetry', 'Yacht Operation', 'Floral Design', 'Surf Science', 'David Beckham', 'Viticulture and Oenology', 'Horology', 'Circus and Physical Performance', 'Hand Embroidery' and let's not forget, 'Lady Gaga and the 'Sociology of Fame'. And more commonly, 'Performing Arts', 'Media Studies', Graphic Design', 'Dance', 'Choreography' and maybe 100 more from the UCAS list."

''If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough'' - Albert Einstein