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Higher Education Funding Debate Re-opens

Oct 09 2007 00:06
Andrew Holland
The HE funding debate has re-opened, with Richard Sykes calling for higher interest rates on student loans, while ICU has given up on the idea of free education.
Worth being in debt for the rest of your life?

This evening saw the first ICU Council of the year, where ICU has taken the decision to abandon all current policy on higher education funding and re-open the debate. A paper, proposed by DPEW Kirsty Patterson, described the idea of free education for all as unrealistic and incompatible with the government's goal of sending 50% of 18 year olds into higher education. Instead it called for a new debate, looking at how higher education could be funded by the government, students and business.

It will then make people think twice before they go off and do damn silly courses that are no good to them
Sir Richard Sykes in the Sunday Telegraph

Meanwhile, in Sunday's Telegraph Sir Richard Sykes called for students to be charged higher interest on their student loans, in order to deter students from taking "Mickey Mouse" courses. The rector also called for fees to be raised from the current £3000 per year to £5000, when the payment system is reviewed in 2009. Sir Richard?s comments are seen as being in direct contrast to the government's aim of having the majority of school leavers going to university within three years, but is in line with many senior officials of the top universities, who are alarmed by the rise in the number of degree courses such as golf management and surfing, when combined with the decrease in the number of applicants for science.

"The system has to change," Sir Richard is quoted as saying in the Telegraph. "It will then make people think twice before they go off and do damn silly courses that are no good to them and won't get them a good job at the end of the day. It would mean university is not just a nice four years off."

Last November Sir Richard commented on the folly of lifting the fees cap for all universities, preferring an alternative where only the "top" universities could charge what they liked to fund bursaries for poorer students.

Currently, the government only gets back £65 for every £100 it lends to a student, due to the interest subsidy, costing the country £1.2 billion a year. The NUS said in August that debt was forcing graduates into taking the first job they were offered, and told that jobs that graduates were taking did not match their "aspirations". It could be read that some degrees are not worth as much as students thought when they chose to take them. The thought of more debt may put people off taking "Mickey Mouse" courses, but at an increased risk of turning away the next generation of science, technology and medicine graduates.

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Discussion about “Higher Education Funding Debate Re-opens”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Oct 09 2007 09:24

Surely if the idea was to actually deter people from taking "Mickey Mouse" courses they should only charge more for those particular courses.

This kind of differential funding already happens for PG courses: the government offers studentships in areas they want research to be done (PhD) or more skilled people (MSc).

Perhaps, this is just another guise to get more money and force students into more debt so they simply have to take the first job that comes along!?

I know I'd have enjoyed being able to study science funded by all those people doing media studies with 4hrs a week!

Oct 09 2007 10:27

exactly! mathemaniac has it exactly right! Unis need a lot more money, considering we're the best engineering school in Europe its amazing how c**p our buildings are, and its not like lecturers get paid properly either.

If people want 4 years off, fine but they gotta pay! If a person actually takes a proper course he should be subsidised.

Oct 09 2007 10:36

Over the next few months we want to run some opinion pieces on funding models for higher education. If you'd like to write something, email .

It would be good to have a variety of different of views to try and present a balanced debate.

Oct 09 2007 11:23

"....preferring an alternative where only the "top" universities could charge what they liked to *fund bursaries for poorer students.*"

That sounds like the US model to me. Little wonder the Rector is a great admirer of the US HE system. In some top US private universities, up to 55% of the students are in some form of "financial aid".

But other than just looking at how the top US private universities (HYPSM) function, can we draw any lessons from the very successful public ones like UC Berkeley?

5. Seb   
Oct 09 2007 12:10

Um, since when have we been bound to the idea that we should see 50% in higher education (as opposed to further education)? More to the point, since when have we been bound to the idea that all higher education should be funded by the government equally?

6. Ant   
Oct 09 2007 14:01

Going to agree with Seb here. The underlying issue is the constant and ridiculously unfounded belief that 50%(or more!) should be going into higher education.

Nationally we have skills shortages, both in Graduate areas and outside, but the "50%" idea is not helping these shortages. What our education system needs is more appreciation of an individuals skill and interests when advising them on the path to take rather than the present 'numbers' mentality and 'one size fits all'.

Oct 09 2007 15:32

Ant - The UK will find this out in the near future when we run out of UK-produced tradespeople such a plumbers and electricians because some of the people that would have done the old apprenticeship courses are being told they should go to University and do "a degree", all to fulfil this ridiculous 50% quota.

Oct 10 2007 23:11

He Who Knows All- Agreed. The apprenticeship system is a good system for producing and training technicians. Training a plumber is absolutely better than getting another bloke do a "degree" in "watersport".

Oct 10 2007 23:17

Unfortunately, as logically-sound argument as it is for getting more money into Dickie Syke's business, it would also deter other students, such as me, from taking the longer non 'mickey-mouse' courses such as medicine (vet science, dentistry, etc).

As always, ideas for improving the state of higher-education act against those middle classed english people who are not poor enough to get grants and not rich enough to pay crazystupidcash.

Tescos pays well nowadays doesn't it?

Oct 11 2007 21:49

Re: Victoria Gibbs

Speaking of english people... Having arrived in Imperial for a week now, there is just something that strikes me very hard - there are just too many Chinese at Imperial College for good.

I attended a club introduction event just yesterday ( won't name which club, but it's career-orientated) and to my horror, everyone in the executive committee is a Chinese. I'm not remotely racist but it has reached such an extent that it doesnt look good anymore.* Also, the Chinese (for the UGs) tend to mix amongst themselves in the library lectures and JCR instead of reaching out to the english people and I hardly think this is healthy for the college.

*And the joke was: the chairman actually introduced a local British as "he's *from* the UK..." Imperial College Beijing. Cheers.

Oct 11 2007 22:33

If you haven't seen it yet, check out the interview with the Rector:

One of the questions is regarding the "influx of international students" (search for that phrase to find it in the transcript).

Oct 11 2007 22:37

I kind of agree, though don't really want to start a debate on whether there are too many Chinese people in Imperial or not because we are the minority and have no right to say! There are Chinese societies, Indian societies, ones for every country under the sun apart from England, because to have an English society would be deemed racist, even though we are the ethnic minority here!

But anyway back to the topic! I think Sykes should stop making up lame ideas and excuses to try and get more ca$h off students and into his business.

I really do not believe that those young people that CHOOSE to study for 3 more years at uni (whether it be media studies or watersport science or w/e) are the members of society we need to worry about.

It's the Chavs - school drop outs that are the problem in society, the ones that hang around in train stations and harrass and attack people. But obviously Dickie is not interested in solving this 'problem' because it provides no financial incentive to him.

And I do not care that there are not many english plumbers/carpenters. Polish people work hard too and need money just as much as English people do and I don't think stopping people studying at Uni is the way to train more plumbers! A totally different set of people!

Oct 12 2007 01:41

So we import a few hundred thousand Eastern Europeans to do manual jobs that school leavers would have, in days of yore, taken as apprenticeships? Then the UK has a large (and growing, some families will join them) migrant population that will send money back to the "home" country to any remaining relatives because they can buy a lot more than if the wage-earner had stayed over there. It also means there are fewer jobs for the UK workforce, and, as you have spotted, more people who think "I can't be a**ed to do that job, I'll just hang about, do naff-all and claim benefits", namely chavs (as you call them). If you got those dropouts doing the manual jobs that UK people seem not to want to do, you will slash the welfare cost to the country (which comes out of your taxes anyway), reduce UK unemployment (why should we create jobs for foreigners in the first place?) and hopefully decrease anti-social behaviour because they'll be working instead of hanging on street corners at nights!

As for "I do not care that there are not many English (capital letter, please) plumbers/carpenters", if the fopping liberals in Westminster and Brussels hadn't evaporated our borders, there would be a marked decrease in available plumbers and carpenters around, so what would you do if your pipes burst and you couldn't get a plumber for love nor money? In the words (almost) of Lord Vader, "I find your lack of foresight disturbing".

Oh, and for my tuppence-worth, why not bring back capital punishment, the cane and convict ships to Australia?

Oct 12 2007 04:31

I meant I do not care that there are no english plumbers over eastern eurpoean ones.

fair and valid point about our money going away to poland to the relatives. My point was more in reply to:

"Meanwhile, in Sunday's Telegraph Sir Richard Sykes called for students to be charged higher interest on their student loans, in order to deter students from taking "Mickey Mouse" courses."

Suggesting that these people, if not studying a less well respected degree, would still not be doing plumbing/other skills apprentiships, because it is a different type of person to do those to the ones who elect to study at university.

I also don't believe that the influx of eastern europeans is a cause of our unemployment rates ("It also means there are fewer jobs for the UK workforce"). People choosing not to work due to laziness/benefit culture is not due to the fact that there ARE people willing in the world to do these jobs.

I am also dubious as to how effective a campaign to get the Chavs off the street into plumbing etc would be. I am going to be controversial here :P , and say that times have changed, a lot of the verbal harrrassment/petty drugs/fights-in-street chavs are s**thuman who do not care for work in general whether it be doing a course to be a plumber or working stupid shifts at Boots Exel. I am not generalising this comment to all yobs but a specific group who wouldn't care about the financial future of the country even if it came and offered them a free line on a Friday night.

Oct 12 2007 04:33

ps why do you not expose your identity? Do you feel like people would not take you as seriously if they knew who you were? I think the opposite is true.

Oct 12 2007 14:45

Re Spencer Smith

There is an article in Felix today about "CV clubs", clubs that our set up just for people to add on their CVs, most of which seem to have been set up in recent years. Maybe a solution might be to do something about these clubs, which serve no real benefit to anybody apart from their committee.

As for the unemployment/polish plumbers/university debate: I see it as this. The UK has X number of jobs available which would traditionally have required a university education (doctor, teacher, lawyer). It also has Y number of jobs, that would have required only A levels to do, say general office work etc. And Z number of jobs that require apprentiships, such as plumber or electricity. As more people go to university, a university education becomes a prerequisite for a job that would have required only A levels in the past, as there are so many graduates available. As more and more people go to university, less are doing apprentiships, which means that plumbers can charge more, as there are not as many to choose from. So the Poles come over, and fill the void in the market, which makes the British plumbers unhappy. The graduate who spent three years at university ends up having a reasonable job, but one that 15 years ago would have only required A levels. So (s)he feels let down, after having the idea that they would be earning megabucks, after being fed the idea of a degree being the best thing ever. And so the cycle continues.

That got a bit rambling!!

Oct 12 2007 16:29

It might also have something to do with employers discontinuing their apprenticeship schemes...

Oh, and as for my identity, it is not completely anonymous, others do know who I am. I just prefer to post under this alias rather than my IC name.

Oct 12 2007 22:24

To He Who Knows All

I really can't see what justified your level of aggression towards Victoria Gibbs in reply #13. I feel you should apologise.

Oct 12 2007 22:56

Re Andrew Holland

Well I read the article on Felix but that's not related to my point in the last post so I guess you misunderstood what I said. The particular club that I went to seems to be functioning really well - it is definitely not an "inactive/fake" club. The (very very) bad thing about that club is that everyone in the executive committee is Chinese, which really deters "english minorities" (in victoria's words... which is kind of true in imperial ) from running for office or get involved in the society.

I don't think I'm racist but to me a university in england should have its fair share of Browns, Smiths and others rather than Wangs and Lis.

In the particular dept that I'm in, I'm highly interested in carrying out a tally on how many Chinese (mainland China + HK born) there is compared to white-British. My gut feeling is shouting to me that the "white-British" would be the minority in this case.

From what I know, good US universities like Cornell are not flooded with Chinese (mainland China + HK born, not American-born). Apparently, they have a cap on the no. of admits from any one country so that the university would not look "bad" (like the horrible experience that I had with the above-mentioned club). May be Imperial should do the same? But Sir richard needs his money so...

Oct 12 2007 23:06

Re Ashley Brown

Yes I have seen it before. I spent loads of time on Live! before coming to Imperial and it's always the best source of news around. Comments: Way too many mainland Chinese students for comfort. May be the rector should channel his zeal from raising finance to cut down on mainland/HK Chinese numbers?

Oct 12 2007 23:18

Re Victoria Gibbs

Re the societies: I know as a matter of fact that a no. of Chinese are not really "Chinese". A certain amount of them actually falls under the Malaysian/Singaporean category and is just tenuously related to the "Chinese" being discussed here.

I would love to have an English society in Imperial.

PS: There was a news article abt 2 weeks ago in Metro where the title was something like "where the minority is the majority" - regarding the schools.

Oct 13 2007 11:34

I see it that any club which is "career orientated", is joined/founded by people who just want to put it on their CV.

Oct 13 2007 19:04

Re Andrew Holland

That club is about careers. It basically organises meetings and talks with the employers. It is functioning well with some corporate sponsors so it is not a "fake" club for the CV.

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