Friday, 10 December 2010

Didn't students used to be intelligent?

Dai Cameroid has stated that all those who caused damage in the latest riots should be caught and dealt with most severely. Well, yes they should. Defacing statues, abusing a cenotaph, setting fire to things, that is not a demonstration. That is a tantrum.

What are they demonstrating about? The fees they believe will deny them university places. No, they won't. Nobody pays a penny up front. Nobody pays anything back until they are earning £21,000 a year and if you earn that much, you're not poor. You can still go to university as a pauper, get a bursary to help you out, and none of it, including fees, is repayable until you're earning £21,000 a year.

Ah, but what if you leave university and never earn that much? How do you repay the debt then? Simple. You don't. If, thirty years later, you're still not earning enough to start repayments, the debt is written off. You owe nothing.

Vandalism, violence, arson, and for what? Nothing at all. Nobody will ever have to find nine thousand pounds before they set foot in a university. Nobody will have to turn up with identification and a clean credit card. If you sign up for a course in organic knitting or politically correct origami enforcement and then find nobody has any use for you at all, you'll end up unemployed and never pay a red cent back for that course. That is why fees for bizarre courses are likely to be high. The universities know that most of those graduates won't ever earn enough to pay the fees back. Especially those on the 'how to live like a 14th century peasant' course.

No, nobody will be denied a university place because of those fees. That's what the students are shouting about but that's not what the organisers behind it are fighting for. They know that the fees are no problem for the students. That's why they didn't kick up a fuss when Labour introduced them. Labour made them uniform in the name of equality, so all courses charge the same.

These higher, variable fees, and preference given to subjects that are actually useful, are no threat to the students. Unless their degree gets them a well paid job, they repay nothing. If it does, they will be able to afford it. The 'poor' simply don't figure in this at all. They are, and will be, completely unaffected. The poor pay nothing at all.

The threat here is to those bearded and sandal wearing lecturers and professors who run courses like 'sustainable pottery' and 'power station vandalism' and 'setting fire to things to get noticed'. Those courses don't produce doctors or lawyers or physicists, who might be expected to get a decent enough job that they'd actually start paying something back. Those courses produce soap-dodging, entitled, self-important commune occupants who live on the taxes paid by others and then call for the system that feeds them to be destroyed.

Funny thing is, I call for that too. I get no free money from the State so if it falls apart, I lose nothing. Better yet, I wouldn't be paying tax any more. So go on, crusties, bring down Giroland if you like. I don't live there.

Courses where most of the graduates reach high enough earnings to repay their loan will have low fees. Courses where most of the graduates go off into the woods to find themselves and decide money is immoral unless it comes from the dole office will have very high fees. Because very few of the graduates will pay them back. Eventually, universities will notice that nobody from the 'Mud Hut Construction' course is ever paying anything back.

That is what those behind the riots are really afraid of. The useless courses will close, one by one, because they are not getting their funding back from past graduates and because they will scare away new ones with high fees. The more useful the course, the more graduates will get jobs and repay their loans and so fees for those courses will be lower. Oh, the socialists who run the duff courses will insist that the good courses subsidise them. Unfortunately, those are run by lefties too, and lefties don't like to part with money.

They call themselves anarchists, but they are not. They are communists. Anarchy is the absence of government. That is not what these people are calling for. They want to bring down the government, yes, but they want to replace it with their own. A bigger one, even more controlling and intrusive than the one we have now. Anarchy? Hardly.

If real anarchists ever took control of a country, they would immediately relinquish control and tell everyone to go and look after themselves. Real anarchists would not seek to influence any government policy because they don't want any government policies. Real anarchists would certainly not riot in support of State-sponsored education. Communists would. Anarchy does not mean smashing things up to get your way. Those are the actions of infantile minds and if you want to be an anarchist, you need to grow up first. Anarchy means nanny gets fired and you look after yourself.

It does not mean looking after number one to the exclusion of all others. You can be an anarchist and still trade, still give to charities, still cooperate with those around you. What it means is that you don't need permits to do those things. It means you don't have bowler hats and clipboards watching your every move, taking a cut of every transaction, meddling with the minutiae of your life and setting up hordes of diversity outreach co-ordinators and smoking cessation Stasi officers. It means refusing to pay for those things we don't need.

In anarchy, there can still be universities but they would not be free. You would pay or find a sponsor, someone willing to send you there for training so you'd be an asset to their business. Schools would not be free either, but without the bureaucracy and waste of the current system they wouldn't need to be expensive.

No, these are not anarchists. They are big-state authoritarians. Nobody need fear a takeover by anarchists because really, there are very, very few such people. They wouldn't form a political party because it's the opposite of what they want. It would be as ridiculous as atheists setting up non-prayer meetings in a non-church. Don't worry about anarchists. Worry about the authoritarians who hold continuous power.

What will the riots achieve? Aside from enormous cost to the very taxpayer the students demand pay for their education, damage and destruction of property, injury (no deaths yet but that is sheer luck so far), what have they won? Nothing. They have not solved the problem because no problem exists for them. If they don't earn enough to repay the loan it gets written off. No bailiffs, no prison, no fines, no community service, nothing. If they earn enough to repay it, they won't be poor.

How does this price the poor out of university?

There will be more riots. Those instigating them must try to get this policy reversed before the next academic year.

That's when the students will realise that they aren't having to pay to get in after all.

The real issue for the students is not the fees but the application of them. There are fees riots in Glasgow, but Scottish students in Scottish universities pay no fees, so how did they find enough rioters? Scotland does not follow the fees system of England and Wales. Wales should but won't. No, the fees are not the issue for the students. They should be demonstrating against the racist application of the fees to English students only but they're not. They don't seem to have even noticed that part.

The indoctrination runs deep, doesn't it?


Dick Puddlecote said...

You won't believe the WordVer for this is treei so I took a screenshot.

As Mark Wallace points out, the students decided during their wisdom to set fire to the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree.

Now, the Cenotaph can take it, but the tree shows that the kids have no respect whatsoever. It's given each year as a gift to the country for our help in fighting Nazism in Norway. It's as much a symbol of freedom and anti-authoritarianism as anything else in London.

Yet they torch it.

Up yours freedom. Up yours Norway and your gift. Up yours tourists and Londoners. Students are the be all and end all.

Great that they have the temerity to protest, yeah. Pity that they have no idea of how to do it within boundaries ... and on subjects that are actually worth protesting about (it's clear that most don't understand the workings of the bloody system at all).

subrosa said...

Whilst I agree with your solution LI, it doesn't go far enough or quickly enough. It will take years for the average student to notice they're paying vast sums for the 'How Not To Shove Your Granny Off A Bus' course.

What should have happened prior to upping the fees, is that the HNTSYGOAB course should have been reduced to one or two years - still at the high fee rate.

We need to get some balance with courses. A Business Studies course currently lasts the four years an Electronic and Communications Engineering course does in Scottish universities. Of course the latter course requires far more work from the student yet they cost the same.

Just today the Scotsman is reporting government advisors are suggesting tuition fees here:

As for the Glasgow protest, I understand they were 'out in sympathy with their brothers and sisters in England'.

Leg-iron said...

Dick - I had forgotten the significance of the tree. That, the Winston Churchill statue, the cenotaph... it doesn't sound like a protest about fees at all. It sounds like something the Nazis would do.

Leg-iron said...

Subrosa - it'll take a long time to remove Labour's 'entitled society'.

The Glasgow protest was in sympathy with their brothers and sisters? Trade unionism transcends national rivalry?

It explains why there were no such protests anywhere else in Scotland. Just in Labour's primary locus. I'll bet few of those protesters were actual students.

JuliaM said...

"As Mark Wallace points out, the students decided during their wisdom to set fire to the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree."

It was pointed out on a police blog, somewhat gleefully, that they did these despite the fact that some students had climbed it...

I think that answers the question!

Gordon Is a Moron said...

I hate it when people express my thoughts clearer than I.

There was a great moment on 5-live breakfast last week when they got a "mortgage expert" on to discuss how the loans would effect the student's ability to get mortgages/loans later in life. The preenter was gutted when his response was that because of the structure of the loans, most would end up with lower payments & hence be able to get larget mortgages.

Living in the North East, and working in a unionised workplace, I am loving this at the moment, the cries of indignation at the unfairness of everything is a joy to behold.

Phydeaux said...

Leg-iron, I think you misunderstand.

The universities are paid in full by the Student Loans Company (a quango), the Student Loans Company is paid back a fraction of what it has lent by private entities which buy the revenue streams from the government, and the students' payments go straight to these private entities.

So by what mechanism will 'lesser' courses close? They have the full backing of the enemy class. Universities receive full payment. Sorry, they're here to stay.

Rand Hobart said...

Bye bye humanities. Bye bye arts. Bye bye intellectualism. Bye bye British culture.

Great civilisations are remembered through their cultural legacy, their arts, their architecture, their writers, their poets, not their businessmen, their BMA graduates, their moneymakers.

Britain is to become the biggest office block in Europe, the world, and will leave nothing but tales of bureaucrats on the river bank

Learning for it's own sake is clearly anathema to the billionaire money-counters who have rolled the clock back two decades to pick up where they left off in the destruction of society, community, identity.

Richard Allan said...

Rand, "cultures" don't exist, in fact the very concept is uncomfortably racist. And why should we care about how our "culture" is remembered? What I care about is the material welfare of the people around me. Once that's taken care of I think those people can look after whatever they consider "culture" themselves. Until them I'm not prepared to take money off them to pay for things that *I* consider culture. Or are you one of those people who believes that poor people aren't taxed?

This is even ignoring the fact that these reforms won't touch "culture" in any way. They won't affect the universities' budgets in any way, all they will do is free up the taxpayers' money to be spent on other things (or returned to them, fat chance). There's no reason why they should affect course choice or anything else.

AND you've yet to advance any evidence that government funding of universities by grant (as opposed to funding of universities by fees) has anything to do with "culture" in the first place!

Leg-iron said...

JuliaM - it does indeed.

Leg-iron said...

Gordon - so the structure means lower mortgages? That's beyond my economic abilities so I'll keep out of that discussion.

Leg-iron said...

Phydeaux - there might still be an effect. Labour's fees system (which caused no riots) was the same fee for all courses. Now, there can be different fees for different courses.

Those companies buying the debts will notice that some universities are a better bet for getting a return than others. They are likely to look at the differential fees charged by the universities and might refuse to take some debts on.

"They're charging £9000 a year for a course on phlegm weaving? We'll never get that back." These companies are financial, not educational. They only have one interest.

It'll feed back through the system.

Leg-iron said...

Rand - culture does not come from university. It's the social structure of the country. If you have to be formally taught something, that's not culture. That's education (or indoctrination).

Also, you can't make money by filling the country with accountants. There has to be someone producing something for those accountants to count.

Architects, artists (I hope to make something out of writing, one day, and I'll be taxed on it if I make enough), scientists, historians, yes we can use them all but we don't need thousands of them. They pay the taxes, the accountants add it all up, the accountants get paid and then pay taxes too.

Diversity consultants, media studiers, social change enforcers, we do not need. That's not 'culture', that's enforced eradication of culture.

I repeat, the universities are not the source of any nation's culture. The people are.

I'm afraid the argument of 'culture' is irrelevant here.

Will said...

a completely free market in education is whats needed. no regulations, subsidies or protections for the universities. then maybe we could finally see what the true cost and indeed value of a degree is. why, in this day and age, does the idea of residential study remain unchallenged? isnt the main cost not the fees but traipsing across the country and renting when most would otherwise live rent free with their parents? the open university has been managing with such dissuasive technologies as physical postage of materials on paper, audio and video tape cassette and early morning television broadcasts before anyone could even record them. with email, downloadable books, video and audio of lectures and telecom interactive seminars and discussion groups why do we still do it the same expensive way we did in the nineteenth century?
i know some subjects require physical presence in a lab for example but even this could be done remotely. simply rent some lab space at your new local educational pay as you go lab (utopian futurology alert).
i graduated within the last 10 years and my course should not have taken 3 years. i could have completed the required material and work within 12 months given the reading list and possibly access to a university library. even that physical access was largely unnecessary as the majority of academic material required was to be found in journals which were, even then, available online. students who missed lectures didnt ask to borrow physical notes written by a human who had transcribed the lecture they would go online and download the professionally compiled lecture notes from the department site. many actually preferred the information in this format.
for example ive been following some political lectures from harvard law school online in HD. HD for godsake and it is completely free even from harvard. universities can charge the fees they do (the full fees that the tax payer subsidises around 30k per student i believe) precisely because the state encourages a completely unnatural demand. this evil cycle is completed by employers for any job under the sun demanding a degree because now every applicant has one. so now every school leaver knows they need a degree and the whole mess snowballs.
this Rand guy upset that there will no longer be study simply for the sake of learning. that will never end. i have read far more since leaving university than i ever did when everyone else was paying for me. even if i wanted this to be formally administered i should pay for such a luxury myself. public libraries are still free and even in my anarcho capitalist utopia carnegie would give em away free.

Anonymous said...

I work for a university, and for a while now I've had a little idea going which technologies are starting to make feasible. Back when I was a spotty undergrad all those years ago, I lived at home with my parents. I didn't get much of a grant then, but then my costs were very low. What I did find was that most if not quite all of the books that we undergrads were recommended to purchase were next to useless.

Well, not useless per se, but the sort of thing you'd buy, read a few times then not need to look at again. The cost of the book, therefore, was largely a waste of money yet the same texts were not available in the library since said body didn't have the money to afford half a dozen copies.

So, why not use ebooks instead? Well, the main problem here is that when you say "Ebook" to a publisher, they think "Oh bugger, that'll end up torrented and we'll lose the copyright hold we have on the text".

I think the solution to this is fairly simple. Apply something like the Amazon Kindle DRM software to each book or text, but apply it in such a way that texts are effectively rented out to each reader software instance, not sold. Sufficiently strong DRM will prevent most illicit copying, and rental will be cheaper than purchase for everything save really useful books; for those you can buy hard-copy if you see the need.

The reading device would be an internet tablet of some sort; an iPad would be ideal but cheaper Android tablets, especially ones with colour e-ink displays (which are apparently in the pipeline now) would be even better.

The final advantage here is that for courses which don't require lab-work, a student could mostly study from home, downloading course materials as needed to their individual tablet device or home computer. This makes taking a degree cheaper in terms of living expenses, and likely faster if the student can cope with a more rapid pace; it also makes the whole enterprise a lot more economic to run.

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