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[personal profile] nmg

Well, the previous post inspired some interesting discussion, as did [livejournal.com profile] andrewducker's related poll. [livejournal.com profile] ahnlak asked for the source of some of the figures that I'd quoted, and this got me looking. I'd wanted to be able to give some more detailed figures initially, but was surprised (given the current funding debate) that they weren't that easy to find.

Using the data on the number of graduating students from the Higher Education Statistics Agency and population demographic data from Office of National Statistics, I put together the following table:

Graduating UK domiciled FT students (first degree) by year
YearStudents21 year olds% of 21 year olds
1994/1995194,275733,30026.4%
1995/1996205,805708,10028.9%
1996/1997206,081685,00030.1%
1997/1998206,389659,70031.3%
1998/1999210,176669,20031.4%
1999/2000212,340711,80029.8%
2000/2001215,425745,30028.9%
2001/2002216,230749,40028.8%
2002/2003220,905727,40030.2%
2003/2004229,250749,80030.6%
2004/2005237,735787,10030.1%
2005/2006241,100826,80029.2%
2006/2007244,195830,10029.4%
2007/2008256,830836,10030.6%
2008/2009253,720855,60029.6%

Sources: HESA qualifications obtained, ONS population pyramid

There are several assumptions in these figures:

  • I only consider full-time students graduating from their first degree. This is what people typically think of when they think of university students, and full-time students greatly outnumber part-time.
  • HESA don't publish enrolment figures, only graduation, so this underestimates participation by assuming that no students drop out. That said, the drop out rate should be largely constant.
  • In order to map graduate numbers onto the total population, I've assumed that students all enrol at age 18 and graduate at age 21. Given that the UK population is growing, that bachelors degrees are a minimum of three years, and that the majority of students enrol at age 18 or older, this systematically underestimates participation.

There are some interesting observations that we can make from this data (and the supporting data in the sources above):

  • The number of UK part-time students is typically less than 12% of the total number of UK students each year, and the proportion remains roughly constant.
  • Over the period from 1994/1995 to 2008/2009, the proportion of full-time overseas and EU students (compared to the total number of full-time students) studying for a first degree increased from 8% to 15%. This is a direct consequence of the reduction in per capita funding for UK students (see below), and is the main reason that UK universities survived the expansion of the 1980s and 1990s.
  • The number of full-time UK students graduating with a first degree from a UK university increased by roughly 25% between 1997 and 2008. However, the proportion of graduating 21 year olds has stayed roughly constant at 30+/-1%

Of course, after I'd put together these figures, I then found that BIS (as DIUS) had published the data I'd wanted in a report (DIUS SFR02/2009) on a corner of the DCSF website. Not where I would have looked, and probably not where the report will be after the new lot finish obliterating all traces of the old lot. If you want to take a copy of the report (here) do it now before it disappears.

This report estimates participation differently; it takes enrolment rather than graduation (the Higher Education Initial Participation Rate), and does not make the simplifying assumptions about the ages of students that I do. Consequently, my figures systematically overestimate the population who could become students, and underestimate the population who are students (in part because I only look at FT students).

On the other hand, my intuitions about retention and drop-out are broadly correct; the drop-out rate remains static at roughly 8+/-1% over the period 1999/2000-2006/2007.

The report gives FT HEIPRs that vary as follows:

YearFT HEIPR
1999/200034%
2000/200134%
2001/200235%
2002/200336%
2003/200435%
2004/200534%
2005/200637%
2006/200734%

Not a great deal of variation, I think you'll agree. The HEIPR for FT/PT combined - which is what New Labour wanted to rise to 50% - stayed in the 39-42% region in the same period. Hardly the increase that we're being lead to believe by our new masters, or that is being raised as a justification for cuts on certain right-of-centre on-line forums. The big increase in student numbers happened between 1980 and 1997, not under New Labour (various sources, including Gombrich and Greenaway and Haynes [mirror] - and you can just see the tail end of this expansion in the first table above).

The current debate on HE funding and the nigh-inevitability of cuts assumes that there are gross savings to be had. The problem with this is that the big expansion in the 1980s and 1990s was largely unfunded; student numbers went up and total funding stayed the same, or to put it a different way, per capita student funding went down. This post-1980 expansion was bankrolled by the increase in overseas students noted above. Greenaway and Haynes (p. F152) give a drop of 50% in real terms per capita funding during 1980-1999, while this briefing by Universities UK to the House of Lords (para 4 in the PDF) tells a similar story for 1989-2010, but then goes on to note that i) our spending on HE as a percentage of GDP is less than the OECD average (1.3% compared to an average of 1.5%) and ii) more than £1 billion had already (as of February 2010) been cut from spending on HE committed in the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review. The new government added an extra £200 million to that, and now we're being told to prepare for cuts of up to 25%.

If UK HE survives this, whatever is left will be unrecognisable.

Date: 2010-07-18 06:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] drdoug.livejournal.com
Thanks for getting all this together - very useful.

This [expansion of non-UK students from 8% to 15%] [...]s the main reason that UK universities survived the expansion of the 1980s and 1990s.

It was a very helpful factor but I don't think it's the main reason. The teacher:student ratio has shrunk dramatically over that time too, and my hunch is that this is the main factor - especially if you combine it with the shifts towards the US system of graduate teaching assistants.

Date: 2010-07-18 08:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
Granted - from 9:1 in 1980 to 17:1 in 1999, according to Greenaway and Haynes. I suspect that both are contributory factors.

There are other factors. One that I wasn't aware of was how the *research* postgraduate market in the UK has expanded between 1995 and 2009; I knew that the biggest expansion was in PGTs, but I hadn't realised that full-time PhD numbers had increased tenfold.

1994-19952008-2009
TotalOverseasTotalOverseas
PGT Total39400 12900 123,300 67700
PGT FT 14200 6300 90100 60400
PGT PT 25200 6600 33200 7300
PGR Total7600 2600 17700 7700
PGR FT 1400 600 14200 6800
PGR PT 6200 2000 3500 900


So, PGT numbers increased threefold overall (sevenfold for FT PGTs, tenfold for OS FT PGTs), and PGR numbers slightly more than doubled. Full-time PGRS increased tenfold - both UK and OS - while part-time PGRs declined by 50%.

Edited Date: 2010-07-18 08:27 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-07-19 05:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] drdoug.livejournal.com
Wow. Blimey. Just like you, I knew there'd been an expansion but not the magnitude.

Date: 2010-07-18 11:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tlrmx.org (from livejournal.com)
“If UK HE survives this, whatever is left will be unrecognisable.”

What happens if the government redirects funds to the OU? I'm assuming here that putting an 18 year old through the accelerated 3 year OU degree courses is both practical and cheaper than sending them to a conventional university, particularly for hands off subjects which don't attract many foreign students.

I see that other countries have open universities with literally millions of students.

Date: 2010-07-19 05:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] drdoug.livejournal.com
The OU wouldn't be cheaper on that model. Part time students get a (modest) premium in funding on a pro-rata basis - ie part time students are worth more per full-time equivalent (FTE).

It would be more efficient to run existing PT courses as FT. Some of the premium is to account for fixed per-head costs: you have to do a certain amount of admin per student per year, regardless of whether they're doing a FT year's worth of study that year or a twelfth of it, the library has to pay per enrolled student for access to electronic resources, etc.

But you'd be losing the main benefit of PT study which is that most students studying that way not only don't need a semi-subsidised loan for living expenses, but are in employment and actually substantially contributing to the Exchequer through income tax amd NI.

In actuality, the OU (and Birkbeck) were facing a funding cut in 2013 of something of the same order as Departments are being asked to spec out, as a result of the ELQ (Equivalent of Lower Qualification) funding cut. The detail is complex and still under some negotiation, but essentially from then the Govt won't pay for a student to study a degree if they already have an equivalent or higher qualification.A substantial proportion of PT students are like that. Even worse, they tend to be cheap-to-teach students: they tend to do pretty well and not need huge amounts of support, so the financial impact is potentially even larger.

On the other hand, Cameron chose to give an important speech at the OU, and said it had "a huge huge role to play" in dealing with hte current economic woes, so maybe the coalition has sonethig up its sleeve here. But maybe not - Brown gave two speeches at the OU and introduced the funding cut.

(I work for the OU. I should stress this is my personal view, not an official one.)

Date: 2010-07-19 07:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tlrmx.org (from livejournal.com)
It seems like you've answered a completely different question about converting full time students to part time and then used that as a springboard for an unrelated rant.

I will make an effort to make my question clearer:

How much does it cost the OU per (full time) student compared to at a conventional university. Does this cost scale the same for increased "class size"?

Date: 2010-07-19 08:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] drdoug.livejournal.com
Sorry - I was bashing out a reply on a mobile device while distracted, so I wasn't very clear. I was trying to answer your question, but I'll put my hands up to getting stuck in to a tangential rant about funding cuts. Apologies.

Taking your first question: The bottom line is that OU costs more per full-time equivalent (FTE) student than a conventional university.

I don't have the figure to hand, but from memory the Funding Council premium for part-time students is of the order of 25% more.

There's also the fees paid by students, which are different from tuition fees at conventional universities in many ways (including the fact that you can't get a loan for them and have to pay up front, but there's a more generous financial assistance scheme for low-income students). Again, I don't have the figures to hand, and it's hard to make a perfect comparison, but from memory they're about the same order of magnitude as fees at a conventional university.

And your second question: The cost would probably reduce for increased "class size", but not profoundly. We're already operating at scale (we have of the order of 150,000 undergraduates studying with us), so the cost per student isn't a long way off the marginal cost for extra students.

Unless, of course, there was a really huge expansion, and/or a substantial increase in average study density (i.e. how great a proportion of full time study each student is doing each year). We do have fixed costs per student on our books, as well as costs per module studied, so if each student is on average studying more modules in a given time, our total cost per FTE would go down.

This would happen if - hypothetically - the Government decided to get people to do OU degrees in three years instead of studying at conventional universities. Our costs would be considerably less for those students than they are now. My guess is they'd come down to a bit below those for a conventional university. Enough to make a difference to the number of students the UK system could have for a given cost, but not a huge one.

Fiscally, it would make sense to pay for more OU part-time study. One of the points I was trying to make above was that although the OU costs more per FTE to teach, the students are significantly more economically active, so the net cost to the taxpayer is considerably less than conventional education.

It's not a silver bullet though. For one thing, it's not at all clear that 18-year-olds would be able to juggle their first full-time job and part-time OU study. We do have increasing numbers of 18-21 year olds studying with us already, and their completion rates are worse than any other age segment.

I'll stop there because I'm drifting off your questions again - but I hope I've at least answered them this time! Let me know if not.

Date: 2010-07-19 09:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tlrmx.org (from livejournal.com)
“OU costs more per full-time equivalent (FTE) student”

Yes, you said this already. It's because the OU _currently_ has a huge number of part time students. Which is irrelevant. "I don't know" was an acceptable answer, the real world is more Math Olympiad (negative points for wrong answers) than GCSE multiple choice.

"Unless, of course, there was a really huge expansion"

So, the topic in hand is the case you don't consider. Brilliant.

But OK, it sounds like it wouldn't work because of the following dialog

Student: I've signed up full time
OU: Part time, yes
Student: No, full time
OU: You get the same degree, it just takes longer, part time
Student: No, full time. Three years.
OU: Part time, six years, yes
Student: ...

Date: 2010-07-19 10:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] drdoug.livejournal.com
For the record, it is currently possible to do an OU degree in three years, and some students do. There are also other students who study with us at the equivalent of a full-time load for less than three years. They are a small proportion of the total, though.

The average time to get an OU degree works out longer than six years, because more students take a break in study, or study less than 1/6 of a degree a year.

Date: 2010-07-19 11:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tlrmx.org (from livejournal.com)
"For the record, it is currently possible to do an OU degree in three years"

I know that, that's sort of central to my thought, which is why it was frustrating to get FTE numbers back. I was beginning to wonder if _you_ knew that. "Full time" and "full time equivalent" are only "equivalent" under a bunch of assumptions that do not cleanly apply to the idea of adding tens of thousands of 18 year olds doing a degree in three years to the OU student population.

It is quite possible that nobody has figures for just the OU's full time students (I believe that would be those taking ~120 credits per year) but the FTE numbers are no substitute, leaving us with "I don't know". If you in fact do find numbers for just full time that would still be interesting.

Date: 2010-07-19 09:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
Actually, I think that he was answering your question, in as much as the OU doesn't really have FT distance learners; the comparison with the equivalent PT is relevant.

As for the cost of an OU degree, look at http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/explained/expect-to-pay.shtml This only considers fees payable by the student, however.

In 2009-2010, the OU received £183m from HEFCE for teaching (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/table/2009/mar/05/university-funding-research-england-table). This corresponds to roughly £1200 per student (assuming total enrolment of c. 150,000). By comparison, Southampton received £56m from HEFCE for about 17,000 students, or about £3300 per student. The cost to the taxpayer (excluding the costs of student loans) is less at the OU than at somewhere like Southampton.

Date: 2010-07-19 10:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] drdoug.livejournal.com
Of course, to do a proper comparison you need to know how many FTEs the OU teaches. From our accounts we had 78,110 FTEs in the year to 31 July 2009, comprised of 251,639 actual students. Of course, that includes postgrads and our pre-degree level programme, so it'll be a bit misleading, but should be of the right order.

The headline figures for income are £233.7m from funding bodies and £141.6m from tuition fees and education contracts, giving a total of £375m. (Ignoring research, investment/endowment and other income - about £45m.) Taking away the modest surplus (£9.6m) gives £365.7m.

That works out at about £1500 per student, or £4700 per FTE.

Date: 2010-07-19 10:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
Thanks for the correction. Not that far off the per capita for traditional universities, then.

Date: 2010-07-19 10:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] drdoug.livejournal.com
You're welcome - and thanks again for all this, it's very useful to have solid numbers here.

Have realised I forgot to do the taxpayer-only cost, the £4700 includes tuition fees: the taxpayer pays £233.7m/78,110 = £3000 per FTE.

(Another caveat: tuition fees at the OU includes fees paid by employers, and the NHS and Social Services Departments are major customers, so some of the 'tuition fees' chunk comes out of the public purse.)

That works out less than your figure for Southampton, which isn't what I thought. It's entirely possible our mix of subjects is different, though, which skews the figures. My impression is that Southampton has above-average STEM enrollment (including a medical school) - we have no medical school and - I would guess - slightly below-average STEM coverage. Also if we have fewer postgrads.

I'll see if I can talk to some of my colleagues who do these sort of sums for a living and dig some stuff out. It's almost certainly in the published literature and/or on our FoI site but I don't have the time to go digging myself.

Date: 2010-07-19 06:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
Millions? Really? Even the University of Phoenix only has 400,000ish students.

Date: 2010-07-19 08:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tlrmx.org (from livejournal.com)
Supposedly (consulting Wikipedia's list of universities by size) Allama Iqbal Open University in Pakistan has three million students enrolled.

I was a little surprised not to see China prominently on the list, having a single huge university providing distance learning material in Standard Mandarin would seem very "One China". But evidently it's not a priority for the present Chinese government.

Date: 2010-07-19 05:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elseware.livejournal.com
Teaching is an odd thing, in that innovation generally only improves the quality of teaching, rather than reduces the cost.

There may be some give by shifting to many more OU style students, but ultimately the only way to reduce costs is to either reduce the number of students or the quality of degrees.

Date: 2010-07-19 08:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jorune.livejournal.com
If the govt/dean/suitable authority figure said that most degrees would now be done in 2 years rather than 3 what do imagine the consequences would be for:
a) Teaching staff
b) Students
c) Researchers
d) Employers
e) Uni Admin
f) Conference seasons during traditional old holiday periods

If the majority of students were directed to their local uni (save on accommodation costs) rather around the country what consequences would be for:
a) Teaching staff
b) Students
c) Researchers
d) Employers
e) Uni Admin
f) Conference seasons during traditional old holiday periods

Date: 2010-07-19 08:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
Two year degrees are an incredibly bad idea, but there's a substantial part of the public that believe that, because students aren't at university during the vacations, university staff must be twiddling their thumbs at the taxpayers' expense at those times.

For research-active academics, two year degrees would be disastrous; the vacations are when we get on with our research, attend conferences to disseminate our results, and apply for funding to support our future research. Oh, and take the holidays that we can't take during term-time (I still have over ten days leave that I need to take before 1st October, and that's after I've figured in my main summer holiday).

For researchers (not academics), there's less of an issue; they mostly don't have much contact with the undergraduates.

I could see the university employers being forced into employing part-time teaching fellows over the summer to try and free up academics. This could have a negative effect on the quality of teaching that the students receive.

There's a *huge* issue regarding the recognition of two year degrees. At present, our degrees are grudgingly recognised at Bologna-compliant by the rest of Europe, where bachelors degrees are typically four year affairs, and we do some creative counting when it comes to calculating student effort. Under Bologna, a bachelors degree is between 180 and 240 ECTS credits. One ECTS credit is supposed to correspond to 25-30 hours of work by the students (including contact hours), but in Southampton we're assuming a lower figure of 20 hours. Move to two year degrees, and this becomes even more problematic.

On the other hand, you could probably call a two year degree a diploma or possibly an ordinary degree.

On the university accommodation side, year-round students means that you couldn't get in the more lucrative conference trade (unless you build dedicated facilities, as have Warwick). We already have a lot of year-round students as it is (we call them MSc students), but filling halls to capacity with undergrads would mean that we couldn't do the residential outreach courses for sixth formers that we do now. So, overall negative.

Date: 2010-07-19 11:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jorune.livejournal.com
I'm aware of the following trick:

Business Analysts see the grand strategy as consolidation; Cut down the number of sites you have and centralise, thus decreasing costs, increasing efficiency, etc. They submit carefully worded questions and proposals to the technical staff/operations people in the remote sites expecting answers that will then justify the closures.

The reports come back that what they want is unachievable and generally a bad plan all round. Oh how tragic the business analysts say, this means that we must consolidate, make mass redundancies, close down sites because they cannot deliver on the grand plan.

So if I hear of leaks and rumours of centres of excellence in particular subjects, of sites closing down topics then I will wonder how if it will occur.

Splitting staff into teachers or researchers, compressing the time it takes to do a degree, getting more assistants in to help with the work load. These all sound like classic plays from the Project Management handbook of 'Sweating Assets for Pleasure and Profit'. I'm sure the idea of students working a regular 35 hour week in preparation for the 'real world' would be a big Thatcherite tick in the box for the Daily Mail reader.

The interesting twist is that it is Vince Cable who is the man with the say on this. Good luck to him.

Date: 2010-07-21 06:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ang-grrr.livejournal.com
For administrative and support staff:

1. There's the holiday issue: we're more flexible as to when we can take time off but we are still not supposed to take leave during term time.
2. Academic staff with more time on their hands come to us with innovative ideas, or for help in writing grant applications, or to sort out a problem they've put up with for 6 months because they are teaching.
3. Term Time Only. Universities cut costs by employing some support staff (as well as demonstrators/teachers) for nine months rather than 12.
4. Rollout and testing. New hardware, new software, new procedures, end of year accounts and the rest all happen from June to September. Then there's the exam result period when lots of admin staff help and the degree week with support staff working in the ceremonies and receptions.

Two year degrees have space issues. Not so much for lectures (the rooms sit unused for a lot of the summer APART from the aforementioned conferences) but examinations and practical classes. We rationalised our practical classes a number of years ago and in the first year run two all day sessions: these take a whole day to set up and clear down (class runs from 9-5, staff work with some flexibility). Management see laboratories sitting empty for half the week: I think it's fairly certain that staff are going to be asked to split into early and late shifts. Not many people want to do the late shift due to the car-parking issue. Then there's the extra equipment required, where do you store it, etc. Which begs the question: why do practical science anyway?

(I worked a Monday/Tuesday afternoon practical for a couple of years. Being microbial in nature I often had to come in on a Sunday to put in an overnight culture and my then manager would ask if it was strictly necessary. Yes, the clue is in the name. They had to pay me overtime, see. Lack of equipment also meant that we had to clear down, wash and sterilise for the next day but I was lucky that the demonstrators helped me clear and one of the wash up ladies was prepared to stay late).

We're on summer break and I'm finding myself doing longer days than I did during term time!

Date: 2010-07-19 09:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ahnlak.livejournal.com
I think it's pretty lazy to disregard any argument for a reduction in the proportion of people entering HE as the "certain right-of-centre on-line forums" - we simply don't require anything close to 35% of the workforce to be graduate level; while it's certainly desireable to have a slight excess of graduate level people, if funds are not infinite then it's just daft to waste them on over-training.

And the thing is, funds aren't infinite. We're spectacularly broke, and the trouble with refusing to consider cuts because a given area is "important" is just an argument for doing nothing, because every area thinks it's important. If we had billions of surplus then sure, it would be a worthy exercise to university-educate everyone who was interested and capable.

So I guess the real question is this - given the financial situation, what do you consider to be a reasonable and realistic HEIPR to aim for? And which other public services are you willing to slash disproportionately to pay for it?

Date: 2010-07-19 09:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tlrmx.org (from livejournal.com)
Slightly intrigued why (you think) we don't need graduates

Is this going to be like us not needing people who can type in the 1970s? "Not everybody's going to be a secretary dear, you won't need that skill".

So far the trend for our society (and not just "in Britain") is toward not just mechanisation but automation. Supposing we believe the anthropologists* that a nomad hunter/gatherer society is a highly skilled population then we're the far side of the curve. We're past the point where innovations eliminate mostly unskilled labour, and onto eliminating semi-skilled and skilled jobs.

On the early railways you'd have five men on a train of just a few hundred passengers, plus a signalman every few miles. Today it's two men on the train, up to about 1000 passengers, plus one guy sat at a desk controlling signals for hundreds of miles. But, Siemens has some jobs for graduate electronics engineers to design the next generation Eurobalise compatible ATP system.

* My dysnomia is getting worse, it took two Google searches to find that word, even though I used it conversationally yesterday.

Date: 2010-07-19 10:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ahnlak.livejournal.com
I never said we didn't need graduates. I don't, however, believe that fully 1/3rd of all jobs require graduate level education - especially entry level jobs - and I don't expect that it is going to hit those levels any time soon.

Even if we accept your theory that we've all but eliminated unskilled and semi-skilled jobs (which is, respectfully, fanciful), that doesn't mean the workforce needs to be educated to graduate level. On the job training is a far more effective (and a lot cheaper) way of getting workers with the skills that are actually required; your average graduate may be more highly educated but is not, outside of academia, any more "skilled" than your average school leaver.

Date: 2010-07-19 11:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tlrmx.org (from livejournal.com)
If you understood me to claim that we've already “all but eliminated” these jobs then perhaps I didn't do a very good job of explaining myself. We have however reduced them as a proportion of the workforce, and I see no reason why that trend would stop on its own, nor why we'd want to intervene to stop it.

The lag from new policy on tertiary education to the end of someone's working life is about 50 years. People who left secondary school in the 1960s are retiring now. A policy for tertiary education today will affect workers available from 2015 to 2060 or so.

“your average graduate may be more highly educated but is not, outside of academia, any more "skilled" than your average school leaver.”

If it was even possible to assess some arbitrary "skilledness" measure I don't think it would be helpful to compare. We do know for sure that employers _don't_ teach the skills that universities teach, and that what they do instead is hire graduates. Maybe that could be changed, but it's quite a leap.

Date: 2010-07-19 04:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ahnlak.livejournal.com
"We do know for sure that employers _don't_ teach the skills that universities teach"

That's certainly true; none of the training I've ever received from employers has had anything to do with what I learned at university.

On the other hand, I'm virtually unique among my professional peers in that I have actually used two small bits of knowledge I gained during my university education(*) - the vast majority of people never touch it once they graduate.

(*) I use plenty of knowledge I gained during my time at university, but very little that was part of my course.

Date: 2010-07-19 09:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
I think it's pretty lazy to disregard any argument for a reduction in the proportion of people entering HE as the "certain right-of-centre on-line forums"

Possibly, but no more lazy than the people on (eg.) the Daily Mail forums who are complaining about the growth of 'meeja studies' degrees and student numbers under 'New Lie-bore', when under New Labour the proportion enrolling in HE has stayed roughly constant.

Date: 2010-07-19 10:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ahnlak.livejournal.com
That's largely NL's fault, after spending the last decade loudly trumpeting (a) their 50% target, and (b) how great a job they were doing investing in education and hitting targets. They did a fantastic job of giving the *impression* that student numbers were ballooning, so to now complain that people are left with that impression is rather comical.

Given that I suspect none of us are particularly avid Daily Mail readers, however, it's probably a little unproductive to argue against them.

The fundamental problem appears to be that, for the current student levels, there isn't enough money to go around. There's only really two directions you can take to address that - more money, or less students. And last time I checked the figures, we're not exactly looking for ways to spend money.

Date: 2010-07-19 05:16 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-07-22 09:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ruthj.livejournal.com
The current debate on HE funding and the nigh-inevitability of cuts assumes that there are gross savings to be had. The problem with this is that the big expansion in the 1980s and 1990s was largely unfunded; student numbers went up and total funding stayed the same, or to put it a different way, per capita student funding went down.

Many ministers went to Oxbridge and they therefore have very little idea about how the majority of universities operate.

The sector can make savings, but only by cutting entire departments or whole institutions, not by making lots of further 'efficiency savings' as these have already been made.

RuthJ

Date: 2010-08-10 09:32 am (UTC)
ext_21022: (Amelia Rumford archaeologist)
From: [identity profile] purple-pen.livejournal.com
Hi! I came to this post via [livejournal.com profile] matgb, and would like to keep track of whatever else you might post in future about HE funding, since it's an issue which is deeply affecting me at the moment (I work for a Classics department which is currently under threat of closure because of the squeezes to HEFCE funding). So I am about to friend you, and thought I should introduce myself and explain why.

Anyway, many thanks for putting in the work on this and sharing it here. The conclusions are not exactly cheering, of course, but better to know what's really going on than not. Along similar lines, I have heard from people who work in University admin that student numbers are projected to fall from about 2016, all other things being equal, because there will be a fall in the proportion of the population at the appropriate age. This doesn't seem to be anything that policy-makers are planning for or taking into account - but it will have quite a profound effect on departments like mine (if it still exists by then, of course) which are heavily dependent on teaching income.

Date: 2010-08-10 03:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
Glad you found the post useful (if depressing). I suspect that I'll post more on this subject when the next comprehensive spending review comes around.

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Nick Gibbins

August 2010

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