Monday, 18 October 2010

Tuition Fees 2

Tuition Fees 2

Let me try again. On 'Any Questions' on Friday, Ed Vaizey (a Minister in the Coalition Government) said that there was no evidence that high tuition fees would put poor students off going to university. Well, it would put me off, so there is a little bit of evidence. I am beginning, though, to think that the withdrawal of direct public funding for the universities might have some benefits. Perhaps the sector will decline from its present grossly hypertrophied condition. Perhaps half, or more, of the present stock of universities will close. Perhaps 2-year and 1-year courses will finally be introduced, instead of being merely talked about for decades. Perhaps the Government and Industry will realise that they and the country need a supply of graduates mentally trained in specific skills, and sponsor candidates directly, paying all or part of their university fees. Other youngsters might gain entry to apprenticeship schemes, and learn a craft, which is of course much more than a manual skill, but which is not best taught by lecture or practised merely by thinking. We might even evolve by stages till we rediscover a system like that we had in my youth where 10% - 15% of school leavers went to university, funded by the state as National Assets, while the rest of our youth learnt a manual-based craft. Let us go forward, for it might be the quickest way of getting back.

(Dear Minister, while I have your 'ear' may I suggest that we do not want to know each summer which school-leavers have achieved grade A (whatever that means); we want to know which students fall in the top 10% of candidates, as was the system in the sixties, before it was "fixed". Admittedly the proportion taking A-level has changed considerably over the years, but it has now got so high that it can hardly inflate any more. Ability is presumably rather constant. In any case, if universities are built to take the top 10% they cannot take 15% in the event of more candidates presenting with grade A.)

Occidentis, MORPETH, UK.

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