Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Why not free education?"

Dave Osler mourns the Golden Age of University Grants. Why not free education ?

From my first day as a five-year-old at Avenue Road Infants’ School to my final postgraduate seminar at the London School of Economics, my education was free all the way. Not only that, but for the last five years of it, I was accorded state support at a level comparable to a low-wage job.

That is a large part of the explanation of how the son of a railwayman and a nurse from a two-up two-down eventually landed a well-paid career in journalism. But posh kids got more or less the same deal, save for a reduced level of grant to reflect their parents’ prosperity.

In the 1960s, the 1970s and into the monetarist 1980s, the idea that this way of doing things would ever change substantially would have been unthinkable. Free education was an essential aspect of the social democratic settlement.

Surely that Golden Age never existed, did it? He'll be saying crime was lower next.

Laban feels inclined to chip in, as Dave seems genuinely puzzled as to why we can't afford such goodies any more. He obviously didn't do Advanced Arithmetic at LSE :

You do have to wonder exactly how we got here. Was it conspiracy, or was it cock-up? It’s usually the latter.

1930s – only the top 2-3% could get a free university grant – and many working families with bright kids were just too poor even to get that far. My mother, a very clever girl, and all her siblings had to leave school at 16 to bring some money in. My father-in-law’s folks had just enough dosh to get him through sixth form, and he ended up a senior academic.

But only a small elite got to uni. There was enough money for free tuition AND grants for the poor.

An important difference between the UK and other countries was that “In England and Wales the majority of young full-time university students attend universities situated a long distance from their family homes; this is not true for universities in most European countries, such as Italy or Spain”. This was to have a major cost impact as the number of universities grew, and as teacher training institutions and polytechnics took more and more students who weren’t living at home.

1950s-70s – the Golden Age (which of course never existed). Enough prosperity for a clever working class kid to stay on at grammar school and do the UCCA round as was. A few more universities (the redbricks, Warwick, Essex, Sussex etc) but still only 5% or so went to uni, so free tuition for all, and maximum grants for, say, the son of a primary teacher. Maybe a few more % at Poly or Teacher Training – still enough cash to go round. 10% of school-leavers now?

Early 1990s – the cloud no bigger than a man’s hand, as the Tories discover that new universities are incredibly easy to create – new headed notepaper, a few signs outside the buildings, and Leeds Poly becomes the Metropolitan University of Leeds, while the Breedon Bar in Cotteridge becomes the University of Central England. At the same time – and this is the killer – the Polys, which used to mainly cater for local students, become much more like universities in that they start competing nationally for students.

The 1980s and 90s also saw major expansion in University numbers – for example Leeds in the 70s was I think the biggest UK university with 9,000 students. Now 24,000. All these students were getting fees paid and most had grants pre-1997.

“As the university population rose during the 1980s the sums paid to universities became linked to their performance and efficiency, and by the mid 1990s funding per student had dropped by 40% since the mid-1970s, while numbers of full-time students had reached around 2,000,000 (around a third of the age group), up from around 1,300,000.” The fiscal strain of the massive expansion is beginning to tell.

30% of school leavers ?

1997 onwards – Labour go somewhat insane, proclaiming that 50% of school leavers should be at uni – i.e. anyone over average intelligence. Every teacher training college in the land becomes a university (no longer a live-at-home student body), and the school leaving age is raised to 18. Ironically, the main beneficiaries are the middle classes, who can now get their more average children through Uni. You find former Polytechnics which are now much more middle class than a university was 25 years previously.

As above, the financial strain of this idiotic ‘all must have degrees’ policy finally catches up. They HAVE to introduce loans and tuition fees, otherwise the 50% non-uni candidates are subsidising the top 50%.

And that’s how we got where we are. Utter madness, but that’s what happened. The question is, what of the future? Will any working class youth fancy three years at Uni with a 35K debt at the end of it, and no prospect of buying their own house until they’re 45 – if then ? Will the university bubble burst ?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

In America they have been talking about the University bubble bursting quite a lot in the last few years. Yet instead of learning from their situation, we are now apparently going down a similar route..

Its absolutely ridiculous for so many people to be going to Uni.
This is one of the causes of our financial problem, we have a lot of people who have extremely inflated ideas of how much pay they are worth just because they have a trumped up title.

My Granddad left School in the 30's at 14 years old and immediately started work.
The generation before him left school even earlier.

I don't think a lot of Uni students today are becoming more valuable to society economically than him, many far less so.

Rocket 88 said...

Anonymous - what you overlook is the fact that 80 years after your Granddad left school, there are now far too many people chasing a dwindling number of jobs.

Persuading everybody to go to university appears enlightened but it's simply a means of massaging structural unemployment.

Better still, thanks to the abolition of the grants system, the poor buggers effectively pay for their own unemployment.

Anonymous said...

Some Golden Ages are more equal than others.

Anonymous said...

I don't overlook anything of the kind.

There is not a dwindling number of jobs.

What there is, is a dwindling number of jobs people would 'like' to do as opposed to going on benefits.
Partly due to higher expectations of employees, but also largely to do with government over regulation and vastly higher taxes than there used to be.

If my Granddad had left school at 14 and demanded a job at the equivalent to todays minium wage it most probably wouldn't have got a job.

Anonymous said...

Interesting - I did Brunel from 83-87 and considered myself one of the nearly elite. Your point about poly/tech inflation is something I'd regarded as a 90's thing. Just shows.

bored and drunk observer said...

Can I be tangential?

Enough prosperity for a clever working class kid to stay on at grammar school...1997 onwards – Labour go somewhat insane, proclaiming that 50% of school leavers should be at uni – i.e. anyone over average intelligence.

Hmmnn...

I don't know who this gentleman is, but his blog states: aims to cover current British and international politics, economics, industrial relations and historical questions from an unorthodox Marxist standpoint.

For me, the interesting bit about the bits I've quoted at the top, is that despite his perspective, he seems to acknowledge that some kids are cleverer than others and quite possibly there is a way of sorting them.

I'm an ex-leftie in the tribal sense. I didn't go to uni when I was 18. I voted labour because I was an oik and Labour were the party for oiks. The whole feminist/anti-racist/politically correct new left thing has utterly alienated me.

But the point is, the mores and ways and whys of middle class political correctness at times seem mysterious to me, and no doubt mysterious to many people who didn't go to uni when they ere 18. Or in other words, most people.

I understand sometimes you can acknowledge stuff like IQ and at other times you can't, and that it seem to be a context thing. But like, I expect most people, that is people who didn't go to university when they were 18, I am sometimes unsure of when.

We all have to pretend to believe in lies, knowing all the time, that those who will denounce us for not pretending hard enough, themselves don't believe in the lies. But we haven't had the training that they have had, and so it seems oppressive to me.

But doesn't the bullshit and hypocrisy and lies ever get to these people?

Because it certainly messes with my head. But I guess, like most people, that is people who didn't go to uni when they were 18, I haven't had the special training.

The bits I've quoted suggest that Dave Osler secretly agrees with much of what Steve Sailer says. But you can bet your house, Dave Osler would condemn Steve Sailer.

Steve Sailer has many times blogged of how American SWPLs will condemn anyone who talks about IQ and claim that IQ is nonsense - except where their kids are concerned.

He often uses and compares different articles in the New York Times to prove his point.

But I digress...

A society built on this much bullshit and lies, which everyone knows is bullshit and lies, is surely too unstable to last?

But then the Borgias became popes, so maybe not.

Laban said...

bored and drunk - you'll find that outside the HBD (Human Biodiversity) blogs (GNXP, Sailer, Bruce Charlton etc), there's an iron rule.

The higher the intelligence of the blogger, the less likely they are to talk about IQ. Crooked Timber, Blood and Treasure etc never touch it. Yet intelligence is what those blogs are all about, and you only have to view their comment threads to see how important intelligence (and the ranking thereof) is to them.

alex zeka said...

I found it amusing that you've chosen to close the comments on the entry directly above. Single mothers with bad kids and Mao as the biggest mass murderer - what could be offensive or provocative about those topics?

I am accustomed to the direction of your sensitivities, so it becomes something of a game to guess which might be exercised by those two topics. My guess at the moment is that 'Mao killed the most people' might lead to discussions of how many other famed mass murderers might have killed, in particular comparing the size of their loads to Mao's, and wondering why Mao, in conventional discourse, is ranked below, say, Hitler, in the mass murder rankings. Do i get a cookie?

Anonymous said...

Education is a civil and human right. It should be free at all levels to all paid by the Government (except for private schools, university level schools) and no one should be kicked out because they are having academic difficulties passing ---failure is not an excuse at any level of education. A person should be able to go from the American status of grammar school to post doc without every having to pay a fee of any kind. The rationale is that free education at all levels benefits society and helps eliminate poverty. True not everyone should go to College or University but that choice should be that of the individual. However, no one should graduate from the equivalent of an American High School without ever aquiring a real life skill or trade to support themselves ---even if they do intend to attend University.

Anonymous said...

The business of IQ should be made illegal all over the world. It began, borrowed from Imperial Chinese Civil Service exams, in France in the late 19th and early 20th century as a means to discriminate against those who did not come from the upper classes or the right side of the tracks--even though these folks might be highly intelligent---they would never rise above the class that they were born into based on how well they performed on the so-called IQ tests.
Testing is a fallacy of what one knows. We learn and know all kinds of things that you will never find on an IQ test. Just because you scored 100% on a French Language exam does not mean that 20 years from now that you can read let alone write or speak French. Even if you can, at that time, and never have been to France or listened carefully to a native speaker---will a French citizen be offended by your heavy accent---well probably. Now if you truly know something--generally the subject matter will never leave you. How many Einsteins, Beethovens and other greats never got beyond the lowly status that they were born into because of discriminatory testing? We will never know because genius unfed and undeveloped dies on the vine never to be resurrected in that person again.