glitzfrau: (ueberspod)
[personal profile] glitzfrau
I am not the best authority to comment on the Browne report or the spending review in higher education, but here are my thoughts, anyway:
  • The proposal to strip funding from all but 'core' subjects in the Browne report will necessarily hit languages very hard, and arts subjects in general hard, as we are and will continue to be heavily dependent on teaching funding from the government. It is generally acknowledged that the proposed rise in the fees to a 'soft cap' of £6000 will not cover teaching costs once the government cuts our teaching funding. Departments, faculties and schools will close.

  • There is a myth surrounding arts degrees: the graffiti over the toilet roll holder, saying Arts degrees, please take one. Employers, in the private sector as well as the public sector, love arts graduates, for their critical thinking skills, self-motivation, writing skills, research skills and the rest of the package. Arts graduates are to be found in the most influential positions around the world - Obama, for instance, and if we were to go through the UK cabinet present and past, the number of arts graduates would be very high. Arts skills are essential to the economy, but so far employers aren't prepared to fund them, in the way that they are happy to cross-fund science graduates via industry collaborations with universities. So when departments, faculties and universities shut, unless industry and public sector bodies start funding the arts students they desperately need, the economy will lose a proven, essential high-skills resource. Very foolish.

  • Apparently, free fees in Scotland haven't widened participation; free fees have widened participation mildly in Ireland; moderate fees in England have widened participation significantly. So there is a case to be made for fees. However, the premium promised to graduates at present is only £100,000 increase in earnings over a lifetime, an unlikely figure in any case, and this will shrink as more people have degrees. Further, once students graduate with £50,000 in debt, the attractiveness of that premium will shrink. So I cannot see how this massive hike in fees will not dissuade people on low incomes, and condemn them to a life at the bottom of an economy that, increasingly, relies on graduates, not unskilled or low-skilled workers.

  • Further, has anyone gender-proofed this proposed fees hike? Men may earn enough to pay off their debt and realise a profit; women, who earn less in general and in particular once they have children, may well not.

  • Finally, as Jonathan Freedland said, the entire argument for raising fees is an individualistic one that sees a degree as a commodity, and a university as a service provider for a rational, discriminating sixteen year old consumer. (I have yet to meet this sixteen year old, but if you know the one who does patient, disinterested research into their degree without being influenced at all by their family, class and social group, please let me know.)

    But a degree is a social and personal good. We provide free primary and secondary education because society as a whole could not function without them; increasingly, the same is true of tertiary education, and every other European country subsidises higher education for this reason. Eastern Europe has poured money into higher education in the past ten years, Germany is stepping up its investment; they will reap the rewards, and English young people will be left crushed by a choice between unemployability or massive debt that Czech and French young people will never need to be worried by. This does not strike me as the way to ensure national prosperity.

    Further, higher education provides a cultural resource for a society, of a graduate cohort who have engaged with and created cultural and scientific knowledge, who bring that knowledge into their careers and families and use the skills they have learned at university to better society and the economy. That seems irrelevant to the government, too.

    I am beginning to think that the only way to sell an arts degree to a student in future will not be in terms of value for money - because no non-professional degree will be able to guarantee value for money at £50,000 a pop - nor in terms of employability, but more in the good old-fashioned terms of higher education: the three years at university are valuable in themselves as a wonderful time spent developing the mind. I genuinely believe that this is true. Unfortunately, in the future it looks as though only the very, very privileged English will be able to afford it.


Me, I'm happy to emigrate, as are many other scientists and academics. And I suspect many students will begin to do the same. Why would an English student pay £50,000 for a British degree when they could do a degree at Ghent or Uppsala, in English, for a fraction of the price?

Es wird nichts so heiss gegessen wie es gekocht wird; we will see what will really happen. But these new suggestions are ridiculous.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-15 12:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] biascut.livejournal.com
if you know the one who does patient, disinterested research into their degree without being influenced at all by their family, class and social group

Jimbo did! Well, obviously not really, but he certainly didn't discuss it with anyone in his excessively-university-literate family.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-15 12:57 pm (UTC)
ext_37604: (Default)
From: [identity profile] glitzfrau.livejournal.com
I was thinking of Jimbo! Wise child. And yet, was he not influenced by his class background in believing that he should study something that he was interested in, rather than a subject with a clear and lucrative career path?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-15 12:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] biascut.livejournal.com
Oh, absolutely. And I very much doubt that he would have opted for university if he was in a family where the well-paying trade-qualification was the norm.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-15 01:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] antepacem.livejournal.com
My PMS has lately been channelled into academic rage, and this post only underscores the need for it. You can do cheaper arts degrees in Canada in English, too. That is, if there are any left in fifteen years. BLARGH.

On another note, I also researched and chose a university separately from my family, but of course, yes, I was influenced by the whole "you can do anything you want!" thing.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-15 01:07 pm (UTC)
ext_37604: (Default)
From: [identity profile] glitzfrau.livejournal.com
Ha, I am not going to claim that this post is not influenced by PMS, either! But yes, Canada seems a wiser option, too.

We're not just influenced by our family, as teenagers, though; we want to go where our friends are going, or never to see those high school losers ever again in our lives; we want to go somewhere we enjoyed on a visit, or somewhere that offers a cool lifestyle; we want to stay living at home to keep down costs, or flee a homophobic or controlling community. Lots and lots of reasons, none of them academic.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-15 04:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] antepacem.livejournal.com
Mmmm, never seeing those high school losers again. Definitely ruled my choices. Oh, definitely.

Also: RAGE.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-15 01:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tafagirl.livejournal.com
I've been told that as far as Brno uni goes: Masters in Czech=free, Masters taught in English=tuition fees.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-15 01:11 pm (UTC)
ext_37604: (Default)
From: [identity profile] glitzfrau.livejournal.com
Interesting! A quick search doesn't turn up any amount for the fees, but I am pretty sure they could undercut 6-10K per annum quite easily and still turn a profit.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-15 01:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tafagirl.livejournal.com
I don't know either - I get to know bits and bobs from my fellow Czech class mates. Like the Bosnian and Macedonian guys who are fighting their way through Czech Masters in Economy, not having enough money to pay for tuition. And the Kyrgyz rich kid who did his BA in California and now does an English Masters in Economy here.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-15 01:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lazy-hoor.livejournal.com
(I have yet to meet this sixteen year old, but if you know the one who does patient, disinterested research into their degree without being influenced at all by their family, class and social group, please let me know.)

*hollow laugh*
I spent a year doing law because that's what I was pushed into doing. I'd studied law at a-level and did quite well, but did much better at English Lit. I
wanted
to do English Lit because I knew I'd stand a better chance graduating with something I was really interested in. I did indeed graduate with a Lit degree. I was lucky it was the time of student grants otherwise I'd have dropped out after the first year of Law.

I know I joke about how I'm doing another useless arts degree but it does actually annoy me that people think that there's absolutely no merit in learning about literature, or art or history. It's quite upsetting to think that things are going in that direction.
Edited Date: 2010-10-15 01:26 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-15 04:06 pm (UTC)
ext_37604: (sharp ideas)
From: [identity profile] glitzfrau.livejournal.com
I know I joke about how I'm doing another useless arts degree but it does actually annoy me that people think that there's absolutely no merit in learning about literature, or art or history. It's quite upsetting to think that things are going in that direction.

Thank you! You'll be glad to know, though, that law won't get any extra money either. Just STEM subjects, which will magically produce R&D $$$ for the economy in no time.

You wouldn't have a chance to try a degree and change your mind any more. Not at £10,000 a year. You'd want to hang on for dear life to get your money's worth.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-15 08:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] erotetica.livejournal.com
It's all rather depressing. I am seriously considering doing my PhD in America now. The problem is that I don't like living in America at all! What am I to do?!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-16 02:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aliceinfinland.livejournal.com
The personal experience value of the degree, necessary because everyone else has it and you don't want to miss out, is how it's mainly sold in the U.S. Plus expanding your "network." I don't think people have believed in the salary premium for a while. Personally, I'd institute a two-year mandatory class-mixing public service program after high school, like army service but mostly civilian, and expect young people to be more rational and discriminating after it, but that's another rant.

I was thinking about the Ghent/Uppsala/Brno scenario. As I've said before, many of those degrees are less well taught - many Finnish departments have historically been run largely through "book exams," you read books and take essay tests on them with no teaching contact. We also have a harder time getting top faculty and guest lecturers out here. The other Nordics aren't much better. And foreign students flocked to pay tuition at British universities because of the quality of the teaching and system as well as the prestige.

But if bright British students are squeezed out of their universities and onto the continent, those programs may gradually be driven/inspired to improve. The same sort of thing happened when absurd tuition increases drove bright middle-class U.S. students from choosing private to state universities, which then instituted honors programs and hired junior faculty who didn't get tenure at the name-brand schools. (Chicken, egg a bit but still.)

We have tuition for foreign students in some programs, by the way. It isn't universal yet.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-16 02:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sshi.livejournal.com
You probably have some idea how depressing I find this whole thing, as I have been keeping the emigrating-to-the-UK exit plan in the back of my mind, for when the wheels finally come off the Irish 3rd level education system (any time now...). No recruitment moratorium! Posts being created! Funding for research! Okay, the RAE sounds scary, but the prospect of there actually being a post similar to my current one in the UK has been keeping me going (I've been watching the job ads and there were 3 posts in my field in England in the last year and 1 in Wales, whereas there hasn't been one here for 2.5 years now). Particularly as I'm very likely to be out on my ear in January and hoping to finish the phud this year, so I would have a lot less baggage for moving over (and both of my postgrad degrees are/will be from UK institutions, so it's not like I'm unfamiliar).

So much for that plan - these proposals sound far more drastic than we have been faced with in Ireland for the last couple of years and we're really, really struggling to cope and keep the wheels turning, as it is.

Watch that idea

Intrinsic vs extrinsic value

Date: 2010-10-17 11:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tabouli.livejournal.com
Languages in Australian universities were decimated under the Howard government, and I'm told that the percentage of high school students interested in studying them is in free fall. The Victorian College of the Arts is suffering massive funding cuts too. There seems to be a growing focus on that ol' bottom dollar, and Arts degrees just aren't believed to provide value for money.

Grf. As for the toilet roll joke (made most often by Engineers, as I recall), I've done quite nicely out of my Arts degree...