Thu, Feb. 10th, 2011, 07:03 am sensaes: The social strings attached to higher fees...
...and why everyone seems to think that Nick Clegg and Simon Hughes are complete idiots.
"Universities in England could be stripped of the power to charge tuition fees of more than £6,000 a year if they fail to admit sufficient numbers of students from poorer backgrounds. And those setting higher fees could face large fines for missing targets. Under the government plan, they would also have to help fund a National Scholarship Programme, which would give at least £3,000 a year towards poorer students' fees or living costs. Critics say it does not go far enough."
Full story, including Aaron Porter's "angry response" to Clegg, here:
Incidentally, the Million+ group, briefly referenced in the article above, issued a press release earlier in the week featuring the full text of Chief Executive Pam Tatlow's letter to Simon Hughes. Worryingly, it read a bit like a Bluffer's Guide to the Browne Review, and included this (hopefully) easy-to-comprehend distinction between research funding and teaching funding. However, see if you can spot the glaring omission:
"The Browne Review of fees and funding was never a review of research funding and Browne did not take any evidence on costs related to research funding. In fact research funding is an entirely separate stream of Government funding determined in different ways from teaching funding. Research funding was significantly expanded by the previous Government and universities in receipt of the majority of this funding benefitted hugely in terms of additional revenue and capital resources. Under the current Government, research funding has been ring-fenced although this will mean reductions in real terms." - http://www.millionplus.ac.uk/press/million-writes-to-simon-hughes-ahead-of-access-agreements-publication
That previous Labour government's highly unpopular ditching and replacement of the RAE doesn't get a mention anywhere in the text...
What's infuriating is the spinelessness of the Russell group - I really, really don't understand why they don't just admit that in order to make an undergraduate degree cost £6000/year they would have to cut teaching and facilities. Why don't they just say it? "OK, sure, but our degrees will be a bit crapper, is that fine with you?" I know Oxbridge haven't been bolder on this front, but there has at least been the 'leak' - punctuation 100% appropriate - of Cambridge's plans (uh, in place and practice as of last month) to cut supervision and reduce the number of lectures per paper.
I mean, I'm pro the better standardization of the degree across universities, but I'd sure as hell rather we did it by levelling up than levelling down.
Oh, I assume she was the blah blah on Today this morning. Willetts' caveat was interesting though - we're not talking about class/income access, we're just talking about 'underrepresented groups'. Which includes, for e.g. disabled students. I'd suspect making the appropriate allowances for students with mobility issues is a hell of a lot cheaper than those with educational issues.
Unfortunately, British universities have been spineless for four decades. It wasn't likely they would change now. Pissed off as I am about it - I wish Oxbridge, the only ones that have the money and clout, had stood up to it and refused to charge. Though given that the Establishment appear to regard Oxbridge as a finishing school wherein one meets the right people*, and don't give a shit about teaching and particularly about research, I doubt it would have done any good.
*Much easier to do if the others aren't around clogging up the system.
I know - I work at Oxbridge. And I want to keep my job, too, but that's an explanation, not an excuse. And at my half of it I'd like to have seen a lot more actual action, and a lot less resignation to the assumed to be inevitable. Discussions in the Senate and Congregation let off steam, but I've heard no e.g. serious plan put forward by senior management as to what might be done _not_ to raise fees. But UUK has historically been spineless - or not cared - which is why I'm totally unsurprised by the response to university fees in England.