Monday, 11 October 2010

Funding - or how much exactly are we prepared to pay?

Well, as you might expect, I really can't let the issue of funding of higher education pass me by.  Over the past couple of days, the media has been full of stories regarding the fact that higher education is going to cost us students a lot more than it does at the moment, whether by increasing the interest rates on student loans, or be increasing the level of fees paid at the point of purchase.  Purchase?  Well, yes.  We're all consumers now...  Have we stopped being students?  Sometimes it feels that way.

Like all other students I am very nervous about what a rise in fees might mean for me.  Currently, my postgrad fees are broadly in line with those charged for an undergrad course, and I fear that should this Uni decide to raise fees, that I could be faced with a bill for £7000 next year.  As I'm self-financing - with no support from grants, or scholarships or the like - this could potentially be catastrophic for my financial well-being.  But, I know that I shall find the money somehow - I'm committed to what I'm doing.  Or maybe I should just be committed.

Regular readers of this blog may well be aware of my feelings towards the degree qualifications of the present - I think that the enormous increase of degrees and degree subjects has led to a dilution of standards across the entire higher education estate.  I have enormous sympathy with the 18-21 year olds who feel that they HAVE to go to university to get a degree or they might not get a job.  I was 18 in 1983 - the country was in a similar financial mess and unemployment levels were high - it's maybe this, amongst other pressures, that led me to embark on a college course that ultimately I found so inappropriate for me that I dropped out half way through. I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of this generation of students may feel the same way that I did.  No wonder some of them choose to study courses such as "Popular Music".  No, really.  The University that I attend, offers a BA in "Popular Music". 

I think that it's time for the whole of the HE system to be examined in detail.  At home, if something's getting too expensive for me to resource properly, I have to think carefully about what I'm spending, and then stop buying what I really don't need, or find an alternative manner of doing something.  If we stopped resourcing some of the more questionable degree courses, maybe there would be more money left for those which are worth resourcing. 

And, to be clear, I don't necessarily mean that we should concentrate only on those subjects that have a vocational bias, I mean that we should concentrate on those subjects that demand and develop intellectual rigour.  Let's start breaking the link between vocational and operational training and degrees - there never was anything wrong with training nurses, police officers or physiotherapists - we didn't need to give them a spurious degree qualification.  Everyone knew that if a nurse had the status of SRN, they knew what they were doing and were unlikely to kill you, or that a fully trained police officer was competent to uphold law and order.  Employers too, were savvy enough to be able to recognise this level of training without the need for a batchelors level qualification. 

No, I'm sorry - it's time to look at the system as a whole - the time for patching things up has gone.  It's not rocket science - it's a big job, but if done properly should enable the HE sector to run within the financial constraints available, and more importantly, should raise the standard of all HE courses.

It's no good, the time is coming when I'm going to have to take charge...

4 comments:

  1. I agree...
    tho if the prices went up for me, I might not be able to continue unless I still had the bursary. Without it, my folks will say 'nope sorry', and the loans they give to postgrads (at Natwest in any case) is 8,000 total... :S

    you know what, I think it's about time you did take over.... :)

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  2. Exactly - and it would be a real tragedy if students were unable to continue.

    The time for revolution is nigh, methinks!

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  3. I am currently in the 4th year of a 5 year part time degree. I stupidly dropped out of my first degree (Engineering) on the offer of a job, thinking that a year out wouldnt hurt, I ended up taking 12 years to get back into education.

    Currently the cost isnt prohibative, studying 1 day a week costs about £2000 in fee's. Last year I studied from 0900 to 1930 one day a week, this year its a much shorter day but much harder topics, but also had to hold down a full time job and a young family.

    If the costs were to rise, I would fight on to afford my final year as I have come this far, but raising the funding for a 5 year commitment and holding down a full time job with the prospects of much increased fee's would mean that the window of oppertunity would now be closed for me and obtaining my qualifications would be exponentialy more difficult.

    So, please, sign me up for the revolution.

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  4. I'll see you on the barricade brother.

    Keep the faith.

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