Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Universities feel the pinch.

Comments arising from this article perhaps indicate a good reason for raising university entrance standards.

Dodo Broad wrote:
Its law of supply and demand. When you increase the demand and reduce the supply at the same time, the standard has to go up. Hard to explain that to Labour.
Matt Wats wrote (Bold added by Mrs R) :
Dodo Broad i have to disagree. as other wise the most reliable cars and computers and everything else wouldn't be mass produced (usually by the Japanese Chinese or Germans). No to increase quality you must increase both supply and demand resulting in high quality yet cheap products. That is why China is overtaking us. If we return back to the only the elite of the elite are aloud to become eliter then we will simply end up with a great divide of not class but intelligence one that will be greater then any social class ever was.
No we must make everyone reach there full potential not just elite of the elite. I accept that this means not everybody should go to uni many should do good quality apprenticeships or go straight into work But Still many people should be able to go to uni not just the tip top cherry on top cream of the crop.
It would seem that "Mat Watts" might have missed a few lessons on the way through our education system, resulting in a failure to master the complexities of using a dictionary, a lack of awareness of the best practices of either punctuation or capital letters, and an ignorance of tautology.

It's so easy to focus on things like grammar these days, so James Wolfe wrote :
Matt Wats: Based on the simple criteria of expecting potential university students to have a good grasp of basic grammar and to know the difference between 'their', 'they're' and 'there' we could exclude you from admission this year. Don't tell me - you're already at 'Uni' trying to reach your full potential!
Actually Mrs R thinks they're all missing the point, irrespective of their use of English, and are missing it quite widely too.

One of the things we Rigbys were told at pre-University chats was that Universities have to tell government how many students they will take on each course. Failure to meet these numbers results in penalties, and so does exceeding the number. This is pointed out in an earlier Times article which explains that taking too many students is a heinous crime, so much so that  :-
Universities will be fined about £10 million for recruiting too many students last year [2009], and the full-time undergraduate intake could stall this year for the first time in recent memory.
It isn't clear where these whopping 'fines' end up - but obviously the money will be taken from university coffers and moved to somewhere else. (Have we heard that sort of accounting mentioned somewhere else?) The threat of something so dreadful is obviously an incentive to behave properly :
Lord Mandelson told peers that tighter budgets would act as a "spur” to universities to find other sources of money and “focus minds” on teaching and research quality.
Lord Mandelson the unelected is, by the way, the Universities Secretary so presumably higher up the academic political pecking order than Mr Ed Balls who is Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. It is he and his department that have, for the second year running, made the decision to reduce student numbers half way through the admission process - clearly unaware of the problems such a sudden change would cause.

Last year, as a result of those funding reductions and government imposed cuts in student numbers, some 160,000 school leavers failed to secure a place on a degree course. Almost nobody picked up on the problems these 160,000 would cause for those leaving school in 2010, not even when, early in the 'season' they applied for, and secured, places on courses starting September 2010.

The application season opened mid September 2009 and closed on 22nd January. There are various other deadlines that need to be complied with, effectively setting everything in stone. That was fine, until 1st February 2010, when government decided for the second year running,to take away even more funding whilst at the same time ordering universities to further reduce student numbers.

Almost nobody added the new A* A-level grade into the logistical nightmare that is the admissions system. Schools can't reliably predict A* grades because they've never seen them before, which means that Universities have no idea whether their applicants will, or will not, "make the grade" and the students/candidates themselves don't really know what's happening - because they've never done anything like this before and they trust the grown-ups.

Some universities took the decision to ignore the A* grade when making their offers, and that decision may well be their undoing - because they've suddenly been told to reduce the number of students, again, know they will be fined (lose even more money) if they either take too few or too many students and, frankly, it looks as if government can move the goal posts at any time - but articles such as the one under discussion blame the whole sorry mess on the Universities themselves.

Call me cynical, but in the past 13 years there has been an inexorable rise in student numbers - anybody could go to university and get a degree - it's almost a right, not something to be tested or earned.

While at university students are 'employed', even during their holidays - so with fewer student places available, and fewer jobs to apply for, it's likely that unemployment figures will rise later this year.

Such a rise in unemployment numbers will be awful for whoever is in government.


In Scotland, in the meantime, there are worries about that 'massive English cuts' will affect funding via the Barnett Formula
Speaking to The Journal, Ms Manji [NUS Scotland Women’s Officer] said: “Many of the cuts to funding in England and Wales will mean reductions for the Scottish Government’s budgets and so they are very worrying indeed.”
Similar predictions have come from across the Scottish higher education sector, where some fear there could be consequences under the Barnett formula.
The formula is used to calculate the amount of funds distributed to the home nations and takes into account factors from across the United Kingdom, including budget cuts in England.
It must be very reassuring to know that
Universities Scotland has not shared the concerns voiced by the NUS, stating instead that the country's higher education budget seems to be safe at this point in time.

A spokesperson said: “Universities Scotland welcomes the fact that higher education is recognised as a priority in Scotland as demonstrated by the fact the Scottish Government protected the level of funding for the sector in its draft budget for 2010/11.”

No comments: