Thursday, November 04, 2010

University degrees haven't suddenly got more expensive - but they do need to get more effective

Its worth remembering that all the current fuss is about funding, not buying.

I have to confess to being uneasy about how the middle class is being set up as the fall guys for some of the provisions required to bribe the Lib Dems into coming along to join the rest of us on planet fiscal reality.

But in principle those who chose degrees and study them should also pay for them. After all who else will or should pay ?

What worries me is that I suspect many top Universities are really charging rent on the names and the access to top employers those names provide ( combined with the self reinforcing alumni effect in recruitment ).

Could better University level degrees be delivered at lower cost and in a shorter time ?

Yes of course ! ( no pun intended. )

However would those degrees perform their real function as the sorter for the next step on the career ladder ?

As things stand probably not. And that is the problem with these reforms.

Like the split between rail track and operating companies a similar split is required for tertiary education if its performance is to be improved in academic terms, rather than as a form of ensuring that certain groups hold access to the top careers and jobs. ( Though I should say that I refute that its just a zero sum game here - better use and education of our population in relevant fields will improve the lives of everyone and the economy ).

For example, it should be possible for anyone to sit Oxford degree level exams - without having to pay for their tuition. Perhaps someone else can provide that part better and at lower cost.

Indeed the exams should be arranged so someone could finish an Oxford degree in two years rather than three - if they are able.

This is the truly radical reform, and perhaps one I've heard hinted at if not directly mentioned by David Willets before !

But without this reform the effectiveness of our education system won't improve and some people with ability and drive won't get their chance ( aka social mobility will stall yet further than it did under Labour ).

See also some reflection on the second great change in University funding - Labour's student fees by GuyTheMac. ( The first was of course student loans ! )


That's News said...

It already happens, so why not more of the same?

Man in a Shed said...

@That's News - interesting. Thanks for the link.

I've been trying to figure out how you could be innovative with University education and allow other providers to compete. The big barrier to entry isn't academic standards, but reputation and the non-academic selection issue involved in getting into a University respected by blue chip employers.