University fees

Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have all in opposition opposed university tuition fees for some of the time. All in government have signed up for them and increased them.

There is growing unrest about these fees, as people feel £9000 is too much for some courses at some Universities. The answer then, is not to apply there. Governments had hoped there would be a market for university courses, with lower fees for the less well rated places and subjects.  Instead universities decided to all price at £9000. Why signal your place or course is not as good as the best by offering a lower tariff?

In practice employers and the wider community do distinguish between courses and universities, prizing some more highly than others. The Universities might not like it, but they cannot prevent the publication of elaborate league tables showing Oxbridge and the Russell Group as more prestigious  places to go than the names at the bottom of these  publications.  So why then do they  not use price to attract students?

There are two main reasons. Setting a lower price for your course confirms what is otherwise a guess or opinion that that course is of lesser value. The more lowly rated universities can still fill enough places at £9000, so why not keep the prices up?

The truth is some courses cost a lot more than others. Offering a good science course in the centre of London with all the labs,property and equipment must be a lot dearer than offering a humanities  course out of property 200 miles or more from the capital. Some of the cheapest courses to run are ones at the bottom of the unofficial lists of quality, giving to them the highest margin. I read that some in government now object to universities charging too much and making a surplus.

The danger of a blanket cut in the fees is that it damages the great institutions that are world class, who are spending  large sums on facilities and teaching and often cross subsidising UK undergraduates. One of the UK’s  big advantages as we go through Brexit is we have a good concentration of high class universities capable of great research which can have spin off for economic development. This would be an odd time to anger them and to disrupt their development.

There is no easy answer to the imperfect functioning of the university market for UK undergraduates. What we need is more demanding applicants, prepared to ask for better value fees where the costs of provision are low and the ranking of the course below average.

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132 Comments

  1. DaveM
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    The fees aren’t necessarily the main problem. It’s the living costs and the fact that traditional “student jobs” are now largely filled by immigrants from Eastern Europe.

    • Hope
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      JR, sadly there is no truth in the comment you make. If the UK taxpayer can provide free tuition to EU students then it ought to be able to provide free tuition to its own citizens. There is no excuse.

      Blaire started tuition fees because he had a plan to vastly increase student numbers to reduce unemployment, through his mass immigration plan, but make them pay for it. Ever since then each govt has followed suite. Stop mass immigration, cut age to leave school, stop encouraging everyone to go to university when they do not have the academic ability and stop rotten university courses. It was reported Bath university has 60 members of staff on £100,000 per year. Vice chancellors vastly overpaid, despite Some of their claims about the govt.

      There are EU students able to claim the same maintenance and tuition fee costs as U.K. Citizens and never pay back because the U.K. Does not have the capability or capacity to chase them around Europe. Look at the figures and facts and come back to us with sensible proposals. The response I got from one of your ministers was that it only amounts to a small amount of the overall budget, as if it does not matter! Another one of your ministers never had a clue claiming it s the Barnet formula! One of your Lords equally useless when questioned at hustings.

      • Dennis Zoff
        Posted September 19, 2017 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

        Just omit the incompetent and clueless Ministers. Just work with the remaining 5%?

        As a previous Minister once wrote:

        “It is difficult to be stupid in Government, there is too much competition!”

    • NickC
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      I think the interest rate is the most unfair aspect of the system. Why not just stick to the BoE rate and have done with it? Different fees could be imposed for different subjects and/or different universities depending on ranking.

      • Know-Dice
        Posted September 20, 2017 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        Or even BoE +1%…6.1% is theft and unjustified.

  2. Old Albion
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Fees that are imposed upon English universities by a UK gov. that has given the power to Scottish and Welsh universities to offer free higher education.
    Fees that are not charged to EU students that attend Scottish or Welsh universities.
    Fees that are charged to English students if they wish to study in Scotland or Wales.
    Yes! a very fair system indeed.
    It’s about time someone in Westminster publicly humiliated the gov. on this non-democratic insult to England.
    It’s borderline racist.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      Well the EU is by its very nature is inherently racist – if you are an unemployable criminal from an EU country you have free movement within the EU, but if you are a highly qualified person from say India you have to jump through endless hoops.

      It is absurd to give loans and free places (in Scotland) to EU students who are very likely never to repay the loans.

      • Timaction
        Posted September 19, 2017 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        Sorry LL, you miss the point. In Scotland and Wales students get free University education as do EU students. Only ENGLISH students are charged yet its ENGLISH taxpayers that pay for this largesse through complicated unbalanced formulae like Barnet. Therefore Scottish/Welsh citizens get more public services e.g prescription charges, hospital car parks not charged via English peoples subsidy.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted September 20, 2017 at 8:04 am | Permalink

          I did not miss the point, I just made another one!

          • Hope
            Posted September 22, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

            It is racist and I will tell you why. At AS level stage students apply for university. Scottish universities balance out what international students pay against Scotss no EU students paying nothing.

            Scott’s and international students are given unconditional offers whereas English students are given conditional offers based on grades. This balancing of finance is based on race. To do is racist. Westminster has done nothing to stop it or help English students. When English students see their EU and Scottish friends paying nothing while they have a life time of debt it is no surprise they get angers. If that was not enough one of the vice chancellors at a Scottish university was a former Lib Dem leader whose party claimed to scrap tuition fees. Why do MPs think the public will not be pissed off?

    • rose
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      Very well made points.

      The other is that 50% now go to University and want the full subsidy 3% had in the past. We can only do it one way or the other.

    • Beecee
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      And the Barnett Formula ensures that the English Tax Payer stumps up the cash!

      Our Government runs scared of both the Scots and the EU – in fact they seem to be scared of everyone except the stupid English who voted them into office and lets them get away with it.

      What a pathetic lot we are.

      • Bob
        Posted September 19, 2017 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        @Beecee

        “Our Government runs scared of both the Scots and the EU – in fact they seem to be scared of everyone except the stupid English who voted them into office and lets them get away with it.”

        That’s why I stopped voting for the establishment.

    • Man of Kent
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Yes – I have a daughter who went to Edinburgh .
      While there she bought a flat [courtesy Bank of M&D ] in the belief that she would then be free from tuition charges plus having a nice place in which to live .

      No such luck – the ruling was that as she had applied from an English address that was it for the whole course !

      Fortunately the flat turned out well – so easy to sell in Scotland – so that the tuition fees problem remained as a relatively minor resentment.

      But I know of English families living in Scotland who have recently sold up to get away from the SNP . What a ghastly lot – and we English are supporting them !

      • fedupsoutherner
        Posted September 19, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        Yes, we’re one family selling up to get out!!

    • Dennis Zoff
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Isn’t this why John Redwood has this blog?

      Promoting: protecting the English interests etc? ……

      ….though actions speak louder than words!

    • Mockbeggar
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      I understand that Scottish universities are favouring English students over Scottish because their fees bring in more money than the Scottish Govt. provides.

    • Yossarion
      Posted September 20, 2017 at 12:02 am | Permalink

      Borderline, No Blatant, That’s why the English will never have equality whilst they have No Parliament of their own for the whole of England including its Usurped Capital.

  3. Turboterrier.
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Similar problem to the NHS. It not what or how you get the money it is all about how it is spent.

    How can fees be justified when the some heads of universities it is reported are a tad shy of
    £500k and are claiming expenses for their grace and favour accommodation?

    Something akin to guns and feet comes to mind.

    • NickC
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      Yes, student farming is the most lucrative business to be in.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Indeed the state sector is rarely efficient. Though they can be at issuing parking tickets and operating bus lane & hatched junction mugging cameras sometimes.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      Indeed the state sector is rarely remotely efficient not often is it even trying to do anything useful.

      Though they can be quite efficient at issuing parking tickets and operating bus lane & hatched junction mugging cameras sometimes to pay their gold plated pension with.

    • stred
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      The vice chancellor of a Westcountry university was on the radio recently trying to justify his huge salary by puffing about the prestige of their wonderful courses. I happened to meet two German postgraduate business studies students two years ago, who took a course at his university on the Eureka programme, at great expense to taxpayers. They rented my flat for a year but left after 2 months. The reason was that the course had very little lecturing or tuition and depended on a long list of book study, which they could have done at home. They thought the university was operating a scam. So much for prestige.

      My son obtained a 2.1 in business at another university which has one of the highest paid VCs. It was interesting to hear him tell his girlfriend that it was a waste of time paying for a long course and that he could have learned everything on his 3 year course in 6 months. He is borrowing on easy terms from family to finance the degree in order to avoid the extortionate rate of interest applicable to similar mugs.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Dear Turbo–Assistant Heads earning fortunes is a sick joke–In charge of Admin one reads–What tosh–Does anyone think they do the Payroll or indeed anything much at all commensurate with what they earn?

  4. formula57
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    “What we need is more demanding applicants, prepared to ask for better value fees …”! Some hope as 18 y.o. persons are not going to beat the cartel of high charging universities whose offer is to transform their life chances.

    And those vice chancellor emoluments have to be paid for some how.

  5. Roy Grainger
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    “In practice employers and the wider community do distinguish between courses and universities, prizing some more highly than others.”

    However, some employers like Deloitte and the BBC actually hide from the recruiters all information on which schools and universities applicants attended, so in that case that removes the market incentive you mention.

  6. Dame Rita Webb
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    You forgot to mention greedy management i.e. VCs who pull in more than the PM especially those who are employed by former polys or colleges of further edu. This just another example of leaders of public institutions running the place for the benefit of themselves rather than the staff that work under them or the public who have to use them, see also the NHS especially in this regard.

  7. Sir Joe Soap
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    You’re looking through a different periscope at this situation, compared to the majority of 18 yr olds.
    1They’re being told by Clegg (and many other politicians) that the cost of University doesn’t matter because they’ll only pay for it if they earn large amounts later.
    2 They will only pay for it in its entirety if they earn large amounts over their career-many will take a break, not earn and so the cost is irrelevant
    3 The main imperative at that age is to go away to do a course which is interesting, not one which leads necessarily to a highly paid career.

    The answer of course is partly to reduce dramatically the number of humanities etc courses, make getting on to them meritocratic and offer maintenance grants.

    • Dennis Zoff
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      …..oh, I thought it was to reduce unemployment levels…or am I being cynical?

    • matthu
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      “They’re being told by Clegg (and many other politicians) that the cost of University doesn’t matter because they’ll only pay for it if they earn large amounts later.”

      Completely ignoring the fact that the debt remains as an ongoing cost to be met either by future taxpayers or future students?

      Certainly not by current politicians who baked up the sorry mess in the first place.

      • lifelogic
        Posted September 20, 2017 at 1:03 am | Permalink

        Exactly and many of the degrees are virtually worthless.

  8. Peter Wood
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Lord King and now Lord Lawson – prepare the country for WTO terms. Time to pay attention to the adults and get the government plan B moving at full tilt to put the nation in the right position on 30th March 2019.

    • NickC
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Correct. We could even leave in 12 months on WTO terms and get the benefits of being outside the EU sooner. However, since we are leaving anyway, and the Remains know it, their aim is to get us as bad a deal as possible. The Remains hate the idea of us being independent.

      • Chris
        Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

        It is quite incredible how the Remainers are apparently being allowed to get away with this, and even within the Conservative party. All due to weak leadership and direction, in my view. Why do the Conservatives seem to choose such weak, and consequently dangerous, leaders? (Dangerous for democracy and for Conservatism).

  9. stred
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    How is it justifiable to charge students 6% interest rate, when HMG borrows at near zero and prints money to cover some excess spending?

    • a-tracy
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      It’s not justifiable and the Conservatives are going to get punished about it at the next election by that generation.

  10. Lifelogic
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    The Market is rather distorted by the cheap loans the government foolishly provides (from other workers taxes). Over half of this money is never repaid anyway so it is, in effect, just a grant. A three year course with living costs is likely to leave you a debt of £50,000 + plus you have lost three years of potential earnings. Most degrees are not worth this.

    Perhaps the largest problem is that about half the university courses are in rather pointless subjects and of a very low standard too (this even at the better universities). The government should get out of the education business in general perhaps only subsidising some expensive and much needed courses such as engineering, physics, biology, science, medicine, architecture, maths, construction skills, chemistry and other sciences.

    With modern IT there is little reason why most humanities and hobby subjects (and indeed maths) should not be taught (almost for free on line) in people’s spare time while they are holding down a full time job.

    If the country really wants to increase productivity encourage people to learn how to produce. We need more builders, engineers, doctors, nurses & scientists and fewer lawyers, HR consultants, humanities graduates, historians and bureaucrats.

    As usual the government is largely the cause of the problem.

    • Dennis Zoff
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      Hear, hear!

    • Cliff. Wokingham.
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      One possible answer would be to put up graduate’s tax codes so they pay throughout their working life. They would have had a few years or so at university without paying income tax, whereas a non graduate, would start work straight away and start paying income tax straight away . To me, it is so obvious but, hey ho, what do I know other than what I learned in the university of life.

  11. agricola
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Decide what the market place of work requires and offer courses at zero or lower rates of tuition fees. I would guess that the requirement for doctors, engineers, scientists, and teachers is much greater than that for media studies or anything to do with politics. Even though the latter offers a career with no experience of life. At present you are asking that university entrants pay fees that are the equivalent of a public day school or thereabouts just so they can be of benefit to the country on the cheap. The military does not see fit to charge recruits at any level who chose to devote their lives to the defence of the country, why should the medical or teaching profession comprising dedicated people accept that their recruits have to pay. The only people paying for courses at English universities should be those from countries who do not offer free courses to English students. As an afterthought too much importance is given to universities as the only route to a remunerative career. Apprenticeships combined with on the job training are more suited to the majority, and can lead to self employment, which is a course in life in itself.

    Do not dare tell me that the country cannot afford such a route to further education. The benefit of leaving the EU does not all have to go to the NHS, and half the OA budget would go a long way to funding it.

  12. ferdinand
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Too many people attach excessive importance to a university degree. In the past a management trainee scheme for bright people was a very good option to all but the Russel group universities. Perhaps a grading of degrees with a maximum fee attached might work but any serious interference in the market is to be abhorred.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Dear ferdinand–Reverse all changes and bring back Technical Colleges if you ask me

  13. Lifelogic
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    MP’s are fond of saying that graduates earn more over their lifetimes. As usual they are confusing cause and effect (a favourite activity of MPs and T May in particular). Graduates (especially in the past) tended to be brighter than the average and indeed from better off families this is why they won places at university and could afford to go – this is the main reason they earned more and not their actual degree training.

    Though it is true that in certain well paid and well protected professions (medicine, law, dentistry and similar) a degree is usually needed for entry.

  14. Bryan Harris
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    If government has set the fee at £9,000, cannot they do this on a different basis – by having a lesser fee, as basic, say £4,000, and universities would have to justify higher rates by being higher up this chart mentioned.
    Overseas student should of course pay double.
    Perhapd post-BREXIT we will be able to spend appropriate money on universities from the public purse, that doesn’t leave people with a huge debt – Five years after leaving Uni, my son still has a £26,000 debt, which, if typical, for many would be crippling.
    It was the wrong way to go about the whole subject of funding universities, and should be scrapped!

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      6% interest set by the government on student loans (from the first day of tutoring too) is plainly unfair. The base is .25%.

      We are sending far too many people to university on courses that are far longer than they need to be and students have no jobs to go to in the long breaks in between.

      One of my lad’s could only find intermittant work cycle couriering. It worked out at far less than minimum wage relative to the hours he was out.

      By the time he gets to a mortgageable wage he will be hit by 45% tax as well as his student tax.

      For most a degree is just not worth it now – not even a good one. They will lose years of pay and accrue a vast amount of debt.

      If you have a son tell him to learn a building trade. A daughter, tell her to get pregnant by a male anon.

  15. Dave Andrews
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    When a student takes a useless subject that never allows the graduate to get a good wage, the loan isn’t paid off and becomes a liability on the taxpayer.
    We don’t need all these graduates. Just focus on the STEM subjects and let the state pay the fees as well as maintenance.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Indeed much sense in that.

      Though just paying for STEP subjects would doubtless be ruled illegal under gender equality laws by our courts.

      This as subjects like Physics, Further Maths and Computer Science are circa 3:1 or even more – male to female at A level.

      After all the courts absurdly ruled that paying a smal fee to sue your employer was illegal (thus generating more parasitic jobs for lawyers and damaging UK productivity still further).

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Even STEM subjects are a personal risk now.

      It’s the debt and loss of earnings whilst at university. And the interest the government charges students (6%)

  16. Richard1
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I suggest 3 changes: 1). Govt to be much more rigorous about which courses get public subsidy either by grants to the university or loans to students. The plain fact is there are many non-rigorous unacademic courses which students are deluded into thinking will be of some use; 2) the ‘loans’ are in fact a tax – a requirement to refund the cost if you earn a premium income. So let’s move the repayment threshold to above average earnings (c £26k); 3) the govt does not need 6%+ on deferred taxes. The interest should be the lower of RPI + 2% or the Base rate + 2%. That way it’s clear you borrow at a reasonable rate and only pay back if you earn a premium income.

    • Mark
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      It’s frankly a problem if you can avoid paying back by never earning sufficiently to do so. The only way to solve that is to tighten admission standards considerably, and reduce the number of places at universities, while making provision for more vocational training.

  17. A.Sedgwick
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Every week it would seem I hear of a “university” new to me. These were the old technical and commercial colleges who in the wondrous world of New Labour upgraded themselves.
    My interpretation is that we have lost further education of employment skills largely not at degree level and replaced that useful career development for many with very expensive mickey mouse degrees.

  18. Duncan
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    What is the point of voting Conservative if we don’t get a Conservative government? Education, health and every other state activity..the entire panoply of State governance is infected by a unionised, liberal left clique that almost determines policy direction irrespective of which party is in power

    Until we get a radical, reforming Tory government that puts the taxpayer and end-user ahead of the state employee, unionised vested interest then I may as well abstain

    From the gutless May-Hammond capitulation on Brexit to the gutless policies pandering to minority activists. It almost feels as though Blair has never left Downing Street

    I despair at this party, it is dying in front of our very eyes and tory MP’s do nothing except put their salaries and seats above that of their principles

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      What is the point of voting Conservative if we don’t get a Conservative government?

      A very good question – Heath, Major, Cameron, May none were real Conservatives. Even Lady Thatcher did much wrong – closing grammar schools, signing damaging EU treaties, not cutting taxes or the bloated state sector, allowing Major to take us into the ERM and to take over……

      Proper Tories with vision win elections – pro EU, green crap, soft socialists pretending to be Tories just lose them!

      • Diogenes
        Posted September 20, 2017 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        LL: Conservative PMs in your lifetime (more or less):
        1955-57 Eden, 1957-63 MacMillan, 1963-64 Douglas-Home, 1970-74 Heath,
        1979-90 Thatcher, 1990-97 Major, 2010-16 Cameron, 2016-present May.
        Given your list above of not real Conservative PMs, can I ask you who has been a proper true Conservative PM? the pre-mid’60s ones?
        And subsidiary question: do you think of yourself as a Real Conservative? Are you sure you are not something else?

        • rose
          Posted September 21, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

          I would say Lord Home was a proper conservative. Mrs T was a Gladstonian liberal. The rest were politicians driven by fashionable opinion.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted September 22, 2017 at 7:52 am | Permalink

          I am not quite that old! The first one I really remember was the dire Ted Heath. Even as a young child with his power cuts, incomes policies, the love of the Common Market and his economic illiteracy and other lunacies I rapidly decided he was a wrong’un.

          I suppose Thatcher came closest but non were really Conservatives. May is very clearly a daft socialist at heart. I do consider myself a “Real Conservative” rather in the Roger Scruton mode. But perhaps I am deluding myself about what is one as the leaders mainly seem to be Career Politician Socialists.

          I want far lower taxes, efficient, but far smaller government, real freedom of choice (in health, broadcasting, education etc.), a bonfire of red tape, property rights, law and order, strong defence and a real UK based democracy.

  19. Andy Marlot
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    The obsession with university has ruined the education system. Most jobs simply do not require a degree. Degrees have been dumbed down to allow a large number of people who, in the past, would never even have got into a university to pass and get a largely useless qualification. I know several people that would have been far better off getting apprenticeships in a trade that would have given them well paid work for life. Instead they have wasted thousands of pounds and years of their life getting useless bits of paper and now work in jobs they could have got at 16 with no further education and no debt.

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      By accident most jobs DO require a degree now. Many of the competitors in the recruitment process will have a degree. Degrees have become the new A level.

      • David L
        Posted September 19, 2017 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        My newly-graduated daughter applied for many jobs, all asking for a 2.1 Degree as a minimum (which she got). So a 2.2 is likely to have been a total waste for many graduates…all that debt and little to show for it. It devalues Universities completely.

  20. a-tracy
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    “In practice employers and the wider community do distinguish between courses and universities, prizing some more highly than others.”

    Well, why shouldn’t they when some of the best universities demand 3 A*’s to get on a course or 2 A*s and 1A with an extra STEM exam to pass and others offering the ‘same’ degree with a B,B,C. Now we have a politically correct situation where large organisations are asking for cv’s and application forms to be submitted with a blind university box. So the person with a 1st from Catmando University being considered equally with a Toprank University.

  21. Pat
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Some 20% of jobs ask for a degree. Many of those are asking for status purposes, they don’t require degree level knowledge. Yet 50% of young people borrow money and give up three years’ earnings in order to get a degree. Clearly far too many young people are going to university.
    May I suggest that universities be required to provide a financial prospectus for each course and student estimating the likely future earnings. Student loans would then be made on the basis of that prospectus as well as the course fees.
    Should the prospectus be wrong the university should be liable to both the Student and the loan company.
    This should concentrate the minds of universities on the actual value to the student of the courses offered and the suitability of the students.
    At present the universities simply attract all the students they can, get paid for all of them, and have no reason to care whether or not they actually help the students.

  22. Dan Hart
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    The idea that incentives should be realigned seems a good one to me
    https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/universities-need-skin-in-the-game

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Indeed that is a good summary.

      Universities find Media Studies and the likes rather more profitable than teaching more the expensive STEM subjects so we get more and more pointless and hobby subject degrees.

    • a-tracy
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      Brilliant blog post, Universities with skin in the game a bit of blue sky thinking.

      “Applicants often make poor degree choices, let down by poor quality information on employability. Indeed, there are 23 universities where graduates actually earn less than non-grads.” Who knew?

  23. Prigger
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Initially it sounded hollow for all politicians who had their own tuition fees paid in full. It still sounds hollow. There are now however many more students who go to university. That is the real problem. Many of the graduate jobs do not actually require the knowledge and skills acquired by a degree, merely the intelligent person who got it. Employers need educating properly. I blame the universities and bad parents. Self-praising and self-justifying courses…creating employers who will never accept their own degrees are paper tigers.

  24. Na
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    as people feel £9000 is too much for some courses at some Universities.

    >
    There are still enough dupes who fall for this scam. Why would children need to spend £9000 to do a course they can do for free by doing their own research online? Because they need ‘qualifications’ to get up early every morning and drive to a job and make money? No they do not, they can make as much money as they want from home, online and then choose the subjects that interest them and research them at home, online, as a hobby. The times have changed John, children need to be free from the Education system that churns out unthinking gullible morons that are forever being duped by the political class.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      Much truth in that for many subjects.

    • MOOC lover
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) offered by various institutions/university departments by platforms like FutureLearn (with participation of Open University), edX, Coursera and other providers still charge anywhere between £39 and £299 for courses of a few hours per week (3-10 hours) over 3 to 10 weeks for giving the student a proof that the course has been followed in its entirety and the tests (sometimes 1000 or 2000 word essays, marked by fellow students) passed with at least a 70% grade.

      These courses encompass a large variety of topics, but you will not learn plumbing or electrical or car maintenance from them. But anything from history, philosophy, politics, economics, biological, mathematical, physical sciences can be found searching these platforms.

  25. a-tracy
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    There is a real muddle with what tax expectations there are from graduates. The student loan is a ‘graduate tax’ to me of 9% on earnings over the level set depending on if you studied before or after 2012. Graduates from the ‘old days’ claim they paid lots more tax after graduating so shouldn’t pay anything in retrospect for their advantage they gained because the Country gained from their knowledge and there were only 7% of them going to University so the burden to pay for their degree level education wasn’t the same, even though the Country has borrowed trillions for ‘something’ and isn’t getting it paid back.

    The Labour Parties push for degrees for half of each year’s cohort distorted the situation and the University sector has done very well out of it with some vice-chancellors earning six figures paid from the loans the teens have taken on personally! You’ve only got to look at the swanky buildings to see where half the money is going rather than condensing and perfecting the teaching of the most capable in whatever field even Media Studies, there is a lot of money to be made from well-constructed media organisations!!

    Then Martin Lewis is getting concerned about fee reductions benefitting those most successful graduates with the highest earning graduates, well so what if the highest earners pay off their cost of tuition completely and faster because they will also then be paying the same top rate tax as you Martin without the extra 9% your generation don’t want to pay! Those graduates earning less pa don’t pay for the first £21,000 and won’t pay the full cost of their education.

    Stop the fiscal drag John and increase the threshold to the same % you increase the loan interest, loan interest rates of 6.1% really, REALLY.

  26. Peter
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    University education in this country is now a complete racket.

    If half the population have a degree, as seems to be the target, there is little competitive advantage for most graduates in the job market. All that happens is that the entry qualification for jobs goes up. Where O levels would once suffice a degree is now the minimum requirement. Extra time and money for the job candidate.

    The only beneficiaries are those in top roles the university industry. Chancellors, vice chancellors and the like who receive salaries of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

    Youngsters who do insist on getting a degree are now realising that the equivalent courses are available abroad – with tuition in the English language – at a considerably lower cost.

  27. Iain Moore
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    I was disappointed to hear Hammond’s new idea on University funding for it seems that yet again rather than confronting an issue from a conservative perspective, the May Government lurches towards another big state solution, eg bosses pay, the share holders own the company, so those property rights should be respected, the shareholders empowered to set the pay of the Directors, and left at that.

    The Labour magic money tree should be challenged on the fact that the state always rations resources , and if students want that policy they have to decide which three of the four students they see around them shouldn’t be at University. The Graduate Tax has the flaw that the value added degrees still end up supporting Humanities and Gender studies, which comes back to tuition fees , here I believe the students should be informed about the value of University courses, if they are so stupid to load themselves with £50k of debt studying Gender studies..well.. its their debt.

    I do see there is a role for government though, the state has an interest in seeing certain degrees being studied, eg medicine , engineering , computing etc, and believe the best investment of state resources is to give grants/ financial assistance to students studying these courses. When I was struggling to get on the housing ladder I got a grant from the Council to install a bathroom , damp control, etc and if I lived in the property for X years, the council’s interest in the property was wiped out. Something similar should be considered for students in receipt of Government grants here.

  28. Prigger
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    In the late 60s when there were full tuition fees and full grant for living accommodation I met what was then termed “a professional student” Manchester University. I believe if my memory serves me well, he was 35 years old, certainly over 30 years old. He got an ordinary degree, applied for a higher one and then another related qualification. By his own admission and testimony of his associates, he had not the slightest intention of getting a job. He loved being a student. Seemed satisfied living a humble material existence but with extremely intelligent friends. Maybe eventually he became a LibDem. Seems to fit.

  29. Simon_c
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    If you (or anyone else) is interested, I would suggest a freedom of information request asking how many students get some for of bursary from the university to help with living costs, or discounting fees.
    When my daughter was looking at various unis about 4 years ago, some were boasting that they gave as many as 1 in 4 bursaries of up to £2000/year.

    This to me felt very much like they were taking money from some students, to give to others, rather than lowering their fees for all students…

  30. Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    The current school system means that people who can afford between £11000 and £40,000 a year send their children to schools where they are very well educated while the rest get just about nothing – unless Mum and Dad move house.
    Universities ought to insist on getting the best educated children as their undergraduates.
    Draw your own conclusions…

    My own is this: get the government right out of Universities. If they pretend to pay the students, then they call the tune. My own College at Camridge has had two nakedly political appointments as Master. The Vice Chancellor swindle is governmental too.
    The government should stand back and allow universities to price themselves out of the market.

  31. Peter
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Why discuss university fees when there terrorism has been the big news recently?

    Attacks still bring the usual platitudes from politicians and no effective solution.

    Why have the three thousand suspects not been interned yet? These attacks are usually by ‘known wolves’.

    We interned the IRA who were nowhere near as dangerous as these jihadi types. IRA attacks mainly targeted property and the military and there were usually warnings before explosions.

    • Dennis Zoff
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      Did you mean “enough is enough” statement from our very own PM…..stop the laughter in the back row, she shouted!

    • rose
      Posted September 21, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      I cannot agree about the IRA. The last second “warnings” were to assert ownership, not to save life and they didn’t. They killed thousands of people in Ulster, and though not so many on the mainland, people were killed and maimed there too. They used nail bombs to maximise the injuries and they were a lot more successful at exploding bombs than this lot are so far. They targeted the civilian population as classic terrorists do, to terrorise the civilian population into demanding the government change policy. Plenty of people wanted to.

  32. Duncan
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    There’s one issue to be addressed at present and it isn’t the finances of students

    We have the Jeremy Heywood and Hammond bypassing the Cabinet on major constitutional issues regarding the UK’s relationship with the EU.

    we are being betrayed by a coterie of parasitic civil servants and treacherous tory politicians who are determined to overturn the EU referendum result and impose upon the British people something they did not vote for

    When are tory MP’s going to grow some balls, stand up in the Commons and start naming names starting with Heywood?

    Is that what you want Mr Redwood? That democracy is being circumvented…

    Decent tory mp’s either stand up now or we will lose our country forever and the TORIES WILL BE TO BLAME

    • Chris
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      I agree with you Duncan, but not your question to Mr Redwood. He seems to have worked tirelessly for Brexit so that democracy is not subverted. I agree that drastic action will be necessary if May’s speech on Friday does not uphold the democratic wish, as expressed in the Referendum. I think the future of the Conservative party is at stake, but that is hardly important when considering the possible fate of our country if May fudges Brexit.

  33. kenD
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    roll on march 2019 when all of these foreign EU students will depart..it should free everything up for our own. At the moment Fees and living away from home costs are much too high and will have to be adjusted down, reined in, but should be easier after brexit.

  34. Bert Young
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    ( Absence makes the heart grow fonder – have been without an internet connection for a couple of days ! ).
    Charging the present rate for university fees is wrong ; there are so many forms of public expenditure that could be changed in order to accommodate the high cost ( foreign aid eg.)
    Our economy benefits substantially from the contribution universities make – most of all from the quality of the training students receive . All organisations gain from the intake of quality graduates ; each generation of recruits carries our development and success further along.
    The Russell group of universities have standards that are the envy of the world and ought to be motivated in maintaining them . Research that they undertake is made available to all markets and bodies of knowledge .

  35. acorn
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Alas JR, when you turn everything in society into a marketable commodity, some end up as artificial commodities. The three principal ones being Land; Money and Human Labour. There is a path from commoditised land to commoditised education at £9,000 a year.

    Wealth is created by capital gains and two thirds of wealth is created by inheritance alone. Savings are created from income, savings are not wealth. “There is a moral argument that homeowners do nothing to earn their capital gains, which are all created by society […] Adam Smith remarked that landlords grow richer in their sleep without working, risking or economizing, and therefore land rent belonged to the public […] the desire for unearned capital gains has trumped them all, violating the basic principle of “free markets” that competition will drive down prices and consumers will benefit. Clearly the opposite is true for land. Land markets are anti-capitalist driving prices up and harming consumer welfare.”

    Have a read of – Escaping the Polanyi matrix: the impact of fictitious commodities: money, land, and labor on consumer welfare Gary Flomenhoft . Sadly, there is now, no way back for Anglo-Saxon neo-liberal economies.

  36. Billyg
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    We have the government going to hell in a handcart and here we have more blah blah university fees nonsense again today as if anything we do or say at this level and at this time will matter one bit.

    • sm
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Billy, in what way are you being required, or perhaps even forced, to read this blog?

      Mr Redwood takes time out of his notably busy days to listen to the wider public, and in my opinion he has become a National Treasure!

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      Sorry Billy but I find this blog interesting and informative. Don’t read it if you think it a waste of time. JR is not to blame for government policy and as we have gleaned, he often doesn’t agree with government policy but often has to go along with it. Same as any other party. And just the same as we don’t all agree with JR. It’s choice and democracy.

  37. Epikouros
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    The answer somehow is for it to be contrived that student loans allowed reflect the standard and quality of the university and the course. Oxbridge and science and the like students would find larger loans available to them than a lesser university or course such as the humanities. Then poor quality universities and courses with less likelihood of increasing the prospects of students would have to reduce their fees to attract them. Loans should be based on location, quality of input and future value.

  38. Nig l
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Sorry to go off topic but Rachel Sylvester in a piece in the Times is suggesting that Brexit decisions, with the connivance of Jeremy Hayward, are being taken by a small group within no 10 not as they should be, the whole Cabinet. We saw what happened with Blair and were assured it would not do so again. If true why and should anything be done about it?

    • Chris
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      Yes, indeed. Wasn’t this exactly what May was doing before with her two advisers Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill? It would appear she has not learnt a single thing from her election disaster.

    • stred
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      Is this the Jeremy Heywood who committed the Civil Service to Project Fear and, for some reason, spent some of his career with a big bank? He sounds like just the sort of functionary who should be in charge of seeing us safely out of the clutches of Messrs Junker, Barnier and Verhofstadt.

      It was nice of Mrs May to take the other one, who has given up helping David Davis, under her wing in No 10. Wasn’t he the one who was told off by a parliamentary committee for not answering questions? Can’t politicians just advertise for civil servants who are on the same side, assuming that the politicians are on the side that they say they are on at any particular moment in time.

      • Chris
        Posted September 19, 2017 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

        I think Mrs May displays catastrophic judgement.

  39. Kenneth
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I believe the people who should be paying are the eventual beneficiaries of higher education, that is, (i) the students themselves; (ii) the organisations that use their skills; (iii) society as a whole.

    What is missing is the middle section, the organisations that will employ them.

    I cannot understand why, instead of trying to get up-front money from students, we do not ask potential employers to pay. They will then have the ability to claw this money back at a later date (from the employees’ wages if they wish). Of course, the taxpayer should also continue to contribute.

    In return, employers should be invited to specify the end product of courses including tailor-made courses where appropriate (similar to NHS bursaries) and to negotiate how much they are prepared to pay for them with a bidding system that will ensure a market rate. In return the highest bidders would be given the first choice of students.

    I also think that universities and colleges should receive commission on successful employments in the same way that head-hunters do. This will provide an incentive to maintain course quality and will reduce up-front costs for employers.

    I have always had the impression that there is a mismatch between what is being supplied and what is required.

    By inviting employers into the process – and tapping them for the up-front money, I believe we could kill 2 birds: (i) ensure that the system is producing skills that match demand; (ii) ensure that fees are set at a market rate

  40. Richard1
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    On the subject of education we are all educated today that climate models have been running too warm, as sceptics have been arguing – to outraged comment from the BBC, climate alarmists etc. The detail is interesting. We are apparently 0.3C below where we ‘should’ be. Since we’ve had c 0.5C of warming since CO2 emissions took off during the last 50 years or so, that means we’ve had c. 40% less warming than we ‘should’ have had, even on the assumption that all warming has been man made. Time therefore to rethink the policies which have been adopted based on the more alarming forecasts.

  41. margaret
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I am in agreement with blanket payments for universities. There is far to much snobbery between universities. The content is what matters and the experience of the tutors/ lecturers to understand more complex thinking and recognise accuracy.
    It sickens me that the less intelligent in practice have a weightier say professionally because they went for example to Oxford . It is given that they are right even if they are not . They are also protected by the institution .
    I am not against university admissions . It is ridiculous that a students ability is confined to a couple of years during ‘A’ levels. Some of the most learned people I have met have taken degrees and degrees throughout their lives, because they have an interest in learning and making solid their work/ professional status , whereas the high flyers in schools ‘a’ levels and who were prompted by their parents and money are as dull as dishwater.
    We need to cut the ****. It is about useful knowledge in the world and innovation .

  42. David
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    I want fees reduced to stop Corbyn winning and ruining this country. If we can afford to house people who don’t work in Zone 2 in London for their whole life we should able to afford cheaper university fees.
    Saying that some courses are not a good investment for students and should be scrapped.
    The Government should let students have more information about the salary graduates for any course they are thinking of studying.

  43. Dennis Zoff
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    The UK once had an excellent higher educational system in place (revered globally, including by the French and Germans) that benefitted high academic achievers and the less academically able; alas the opposite is now true!

    Lost:

    1. Colleges of Further Education that facilitated trades…that now require overseas workers to fill the gap. (lost apprenticeships)

    2. Technical Colleagues that provided the technicians to support new technologies.

    3. Polytechnics that provided the Applied Engineers necessary for companies to succeed in a modern global market.

    4. Universities that provided the future inventors, designers, consultants so eagerly sought after by successful companies home and abroad.

    Today, we have dumbed down, high-priced courses, providing useless degrees…with absolutely no relevance for employers? What a waste!

    Interestingly, German has circa 50,000 “Mittelstand” companies that use the old British style educational system that is no longer available in the UK. Germany is the engine of Europe. Thank you, Thatcher, for destroying our manufacturing base, rather than investing in it like the Germans did!

    I trust the UK can once again become an Engine of Europe/Globally once we have left the stranglehold of the EU. But first, however, we must reintroduce a systematic plan to bring real “required” knowledge and training back to our young students of the future!

    Interesting reading:

    https://www.deginvest.de/DEG-Documents-in-English/About-DEG/Events-and-Awards/BMWi_Study_German-Mittelstand.pdf

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mittelstand

  44. Mike Wilson
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Lots of people take a gap year. I’d like to see every student take a gap year at the same time … boy, you’d see course fees drop like a stone then.

  45. Anna
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    The charging of huge fees has had a negative impact in some universities in that students now regard themselves as customers who are paying in vast sums of money which entitles them to a degree, regardless of the quality of their work. I have read of university staff who have come under pressure to mark leniently and lower marking standards. Some have left university teaching rather than compromise their integrity. I find this a matter of some concern.

    I think there is a case for providing free tuition for STEM students. Perhaps London University might consider re-introducing its external degree, which allowed students to follow its curriculum and sit its exams by attending local technical colleges. My husband served an excellent apprenticeship with the de Havilland Aircraft Company then cycled two nights a week to the local college. He was paid throughout, saved £2 a week, and graduated B.Sc.(Eng.) with money in the bank. He was later seconded by his employer to study for an M.Sc. and was awarded the OBE for his services to engineering, so a worthwhile career was possible via an apprenticeship. Moreover, he gained much respect from the shop floor workers as he was able to do their job and wasn’t just a ‘book engineer.’

  46. alan jutson
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Some enlightened employers still adopt a learn as you earn policy.

    Indeed many decades ago a typical engineering, building trade apprenticeships used this route to good effect.

    Nurses were also trained on the job, as were technical trades in our armed services.

    The employer pays all of the fees, the student gets practical work experience, the company gets a loyal employee who may stick with them after training.

    Why do we never learn from history

  47. Richard
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    University fees would go down if there were no government backed loans.

  48. Iain Gill
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    dont think ranking of the course has much to do with costs

    as you will know the best teachers can do more with a blackboard and chalk than rubbish teachers with well equipped labs

    depending on the subject

    and of course price to the customer has little to do with cost of production either

    so i think you are mixing a lot of things up

    i look forward to us charging EU students the same as any other foreign national, and forcing Scotland to charge the same rates to English students as they do to Scottich students

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      Iain

      It would be difficult for Scotland to charge the same for English students when Scottish students pay NOTHING.

  49. Sakara Gold
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Speaking as someone who climbed out of a council estate by working hard and getting to a red brick old university – paid for by my LEA – i could never understand how a Labour government could inflict tuition fees on youngsters from a disadvantaged background.

    Many of our new graduates now leave the UK and go and work in Australia, Canada and N Zealand, where their skills are appreciated, they gain useful experience and if they choose to settle there, they escape the clutches of the Student Loan Company.

  50. fedupsoutherner
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Personally I think the whole system stinks!! My son did a 3 year degree course at Bath Uni. The person in charge there gets paid a whopping £450,000 pa. Disgraceful. I am sick of Welsh and Scottish students not paying anything while our English students have to cough up the full amount. It is racism in my book. Even EU citizens get free education courtesy of the tax payer. It is all very unfair as usual on the English. They are the only ones paying this amount. I think in Wales it is £3000 but that is a fraction of what the English pay. Why is it always the English that pay for everything? We have to pay for prescriptions, hospital parking, bus fares up to retirement age, eye tests etc. In Scotland they get free prescriptions whatever age, free hospital parking and free bus fares with discounts on trains once you are 60. I think this is about to change to retirement age though. We also get free eye tests every 2 years and free dental check ups. I know it is to do with devolved goverments but surely then Scotland and Wales are getting far too much through the Barnet formula which is again funded mostly by England. It’s about time this was sorted.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      Should have added that my son is now over £27k in debt while other students are free to get a job and probably get a house or flat on their wages too.

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      An unexpected bonus if Brexit goes tits up then.

      There won’t be any money left to gift the Celts. Every cloud…

  51. forthurst
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    “There is no easy answer to the imperfect functioning of the university market for UK undergraduates.”

    There is a very simple answer: unravel the idiocies of John Major and Tony Bliar. John Major decreed that polytechnics and other institutions could call themselves universities, hence the main reason why students are confused. Then, Bliar decided that practically anybody who could attach their names to an exam paper deserved to have a BA (b***** all) suffix after his name. The examining boards duly dumbed down the secondary examination system to facilitate passes for all.

    So what is the solution? Return tertiary education to that approximately pertaining before it was mucked up by politicians. In the bad old days, the Russell group universities awarded their own degrees. Other institutions offered such as London external degrees in proper STEM subjects (these could be retitled Polytechnic Universities); Technical Colleges offered national examinations such as HNDs HNCs and various other qualifications in vocational subjects; others, Teaching certificates, Graphic Arts diplomas etc etc.

    By having thousands of courses at hundreds of institutions all calling themselves universities and all awarding a BA or equivalent, is it at all suprising that students are confused and most of them are being conned? Instead of starting their lives, they are living at home saddled with unnecessary debt (possibly Blair’s real motivation).

    Return tertiary education to a system designed to give people useful training for life and by returning the A levels back to their pre-degradation level, ensure that only those who are genuinely academic aspire to go to a University rather than another institution better suited to their aptitudes and future working life. With employers funding many of the vocational courses, the cost to taxpayers of funding the tertiary system might not be more expensive than now. What would change is that large numbers of rubbish courses would close because no longer would institutions be able to call themselves ‘unis’ and award BAs in basket weaving.

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      “anybody who could attach their names to an exam paper deserved to have a BA (b***** all)”

      You’re not kidding.

      Niece got three A** this year.

      By the end of this decade they’ll be making A***s of all of us (if they’re not doing so already !)

    • alan jutson
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      forthhurst

      Agree with much of what you say and suggest.

      Earn whilst you learn was a very sensible option taken up by tens of thousands each year some decades ago.
      Then an apprenticeship really did mean something tangible was gained at the end of your training with regards to a skill learned and a recognised qualification gained.

  52. Prigger
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Sky News can be good and today they were very sweet. They said “In ten minutes Vince Cable is going to speak.” A good time to make a fresh pot of tea and give my dog his bi-annual worming tablet.

  53. Rob Betteridge
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry Mr. Redwood I can’t agree with your final paragraph. When will politicians learn that whenever they meddle there are consequences.
    Human nature: if you give a fixed price contract there is no incentive for the provider to supply more than the bare minimum, apart from pride.
    The current system penalises wealth creation whilst encouraging dissipation.

    Rather than muddy the waters any more the Government needs to back away. We can’t afford to cancel all student debt but we could start by capping debt interest to inflation, with a view to waiving it over time.
    If taxation was incremental (by this I mean allocate a band of income to each percentage of tax, from 1 to, say, 40 – paying so much at one per cent, then two &c.) reclamation could be equably achieved by giving all Graduates a notional income. Education could be incentivised by offering to reduce tax loading for better students, on courses in the National interest. “Better” courses from “better” universities could then be allowed to price themselves.
    I’m not suggesting that the taxation system should be altered merely on University fee grounds. At some stage the tax rates will need to be increased, until, perhaps, we get a Brexit dividend. Forty years of EU payments have impoverished us, and we do have to pay for immigrants not being snails – bringing their own houses and infrastructure with them. The NHS, the Military, the Police are all underfunded. Computerisation of revenue collection permits incremental banding and could be ‘nudged’ to balance the books in a way that the current banding system can’t without incurring howls of not unjustified left leaning media protest. Once set bands could automatically float in line with inflation.

  54. lojolondon
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    ~John, good analysis, but I fear it is even worse than you describe. The fact is that people studying to be an accountant, lawyer, doctor, engineer, could easily pay back their university fees very fast, so no problem. However, the vast majority of people, studying rubbish ‘degrees’ at the worst ‘niversities’ will never earn enough to start paying back, to ‘university’ means nothing more than a 3 year paid holiday. Where the British government used to pay for 10% of the brightest and best kids to do a degree, it does not have the money to put 100% of kids through this process, so everyone is losing out. Except the previous government which promised a degree for everyone, no matter how undeserved, and the unscrupulous universities that make big profits by delivering the minimum value for the same £9,000 pa.

    • a-tracy
      Posted September 20, 2017 at 8:02 am | Permalink

      “The fact is that people studying to be an accountant, lawyer, doctor, engineer, could easily pay back their university fees very fast, so no problem.”

      Well no the English students can’t. Their £36,000 loan for fees + £14,000 loan for student accommodation of £50,000 becomes £57,000 on the day they graduate with interest being charged at up to 6%. Even if they immediately earned £50,000 that repayment would be £2610 pa (which if you take the average of the previous 4 years interest charge = £1750) so a £50k gross payment only covers the interest and only gives a repayment of £860, and how many grads get an income of £50,000 immediately no fast repayment at all!

  55. Posted September 19, 2017 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    No one should be entitled to loans backed by the public purse for the PPE and similar nonsense. Only a handful of MPs ever studied anything useful.

  56. Mark
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Good explanation of why fees fail to discriminate – just one of many useful hints that come out of Stiglitz’ 1973 paper “Theory of Screening, Education and the Distribution of Income”, which any education minister and senior civil servants should master before they attempt to set policy.

    http://cowles.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/pub/d03/d0354.pdf

    Some other points it makes:

    ..if there are comprehensive public schools, with the equilibrium level of expenditure determined by majority voting, there will be too much expenditure on public schools

    The “efficiency” losses in attempting to train a moron to be an engineer are obvious.

    programs like Yale’s contingent repayment scheme reduce the efficacy of self-screening

    i.e. he shows that the present student “loan” design with its income contingent repayments fails to encourage students to make sensible economic choices.

    The government should set a target of making education pay for itself economically, which entails ensuring that money is well spent on those who can add value to the courses they take, and that the qualifications are worthwhile. The perverse incentives of the present system for students and universities alike need to be removed.

  57. nigel seymour
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    “There is no easy answer to the imperfect functioning of the university market for UK undergraduates”.

    J, what are the universities saying? Do they want more money, do they want less money? do they want more foreign students? do they want less foreign students? what more or less do they want?…

  58. Yossarion
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    We are told John that the Government is encouraging Apprenticeships. My Ex Neighbor left Her job as what I would call a Careers advisor at a local Academy. When She informed the School that She was going out to local Businesses to find what jobs were available to the young in the Area the School was more worried about the funding it would loose out on with less six Former’s to teach, if this is happening all over, someone needs their Buts kicking.

  59. Prigger
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    I have my own nominations for Oscars in the LibDem Conference appropriately taking place, subject to tides on Dogger Bank. They’ve got the tears in the eyes right and the frog in the throats. But they lack that certain je ne sais quoi or to put it straightforwardly and in English ( that tongue of tongues ),- honesty.

  60. VotedOut
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Whatever you say, the general public’s eyes glaze over when the virtues of privitisation are spoken. Talk to any rail user, electricity user, gas user, water user, to name but a few. The public perception is of being ripped off.

    This is in fact the single challenge for the Conservatives if they wish to win power in the next general election. An ideological “shuffle” that if done could reap huge rewards.

    Now, we have tried the state ownership socialist model and that was not successful. This neo-liberalism is bust too in the eyes of the public. The problem rests in regulation and enforcement. Non of the regulators have proved effective and the case you highlight of Universities is extreme. There is no working free market because there is no regulation and the whole model was flawed. You highlight that all the Universities have charged the same amount – of course they will.

    In the case of a functioning market, collusion between companies can result in charges of running cartels and heavy fines from the EU. Something a few remainers might say is a good thing …

    The key point here is that governments need to fix a broken market and use regulation responsibly to do so. Setting up “regulators” has not achieved the desired result. I personally do not believe full privatisation is a good thing for critical industries and services and the public do agree with some of this (i.e. railways). Universities need to be funded by direct taxation from companies and people because both benefit in the end. I would suggest key subjects to be centrally funded while others are funded from a fee system.

    Simply saying there is no easy solution is to state the screamingly obvious.

    The challenge for our elites in Westminster is to admit that this hasn’t worked – at least in the eyes of the electorate and configure a workable solution that crucially the public can trust.

  61. Caterpillar
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    1. If the employment market correctly values graduates then let the universities not the tax payer underwrite degrees. If the employment market incorrectly values some graduates then that needs to be part of the tax system.
    2. Remove the cap completely and see what happens.
    3. Split the teaching and assessment products. Make the top charging unis allow external candidates to sit final papers for a marking fee.

  62. Anonymous
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Off topic please.

    Vince Cable – the ‘Brexit saboteur.’

    Once the Article 50 letter was sent the game changed. Ever since that date it has been his duty to support Britain and not the EU, or resign from politics altogether.

    This is now going beyond the normal bounds of democracy.

  63. margaret
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    How annoyed I get when I hear people spouting out their opinion about what is a good or rubbish Degree. Who do they think they are? Are they so narrow minded that they cant grasp that different degrees suit abilities of all sorts and can enhance a persons life considerably . Some think that a pure maths degree has more weight than social studies. Why? Only the top mathematicians will get further than a maths teacher yet social studies which as been sneered at, is useful for all aspects of life. What closed minds some have! What Mickey mouse minds these spouters of RRR have.!

    • Edward2
      Posted September 20, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Agreed Margaret.
      Two friends of mine have children who have graduated and now have good jobs.
      One had a degree in musical technology and has gained a well paid job with a company that stages concerts all over Europe.
      The other did a degree in media studies and gained a well paid job working for a TV and radio company.

  64. Posted September 19, 2017 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    A question for Denis, I think !

    When we are out of the EU, will the Supreme court be able to rule that it is racial discrimination for Scotland to only charge students from England University fees ?

    This running sore has caused huge resentment and really any UK Government worth the name should have tackled the issue head on long before now.

  65. Jason wells
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    I fear we are putting too much emphasis on university training and academic studies to the detriment of our needs for technical expertise into the future. I believe we need more young people to go forward for apprenticeship training now that brexit is upon us.

    After march 2019 we are going to be on our own and will need all sorts of new and old diverse skill sets if we’re going to make our way with new trade deals with japan and cansda on the way- and how it looks now is that there will not be any new trade deal with the EU going forward, there will be no transition deal either as will become clear following the PM’s speech on Friday as what she says will very likely not make any impression on Barnier & Co..So for now Boris rules OK..and it looks like the cliff edge beckons, in effect we have no real government at the moment and for a long time and the EU will just wipe their hands- there will be no cherry picking allowed and the three points on the exit agenda will have to be addressed before talks about a new trade deal can be discussed- but since that will not happen then QED there will be no transitional deal either and as was stated before by others.. politics trumps economics everytime as far as the EU is concerned and that is why i say we will be completely on our own having taken back control so we are going to have to think more widely about our skill needs into the future. There is a further twist to all of this as well because we won’t have the same number of foreign students coming here..ie. less fees being paid into the institutions but at the same time more room in colleges for our own young people- all to be considered after brexit date march 2019

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

      Jason, bring it on. It’s what we voted for and I hope Mrs May tells the EU we are going deal or no deal. We can make our own way in the world.

  66. Ed Mahony
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    I think the Tories should look into instigating, in some way, a Centre for Entrepreneurs in London. Where entrepreneurs of all ages, including school leavers and university graduates, and older, can come to learn skills / do courses, develop their products and find sponsors for their start-ups.
    And set up in a cheap location in the east of London somewhere, which makes it more affordable but also where architects have the freedom to create inspiring buildings for entrepreneurs to be in.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted September 20, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      I just think going to university and university courses are a waste of time and money for many students. Be better off doing a shorter course more focused on their career. Including developing a centre for entrepreneurs where students can study coding, digital skills in general, as well as creating new products and services in general, and learning about business tactics, strategy and plans, and experience valuable work experience (getting companies involved in all this as well) whilst studying at same time.
      And, also, where there should be more courses, for all, on logic and how to write properly (whether it be for business, marketing or more creative forms of writing).

  67. BertD
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    When the UK leaves the EU i will still hold a passport that says I’m a citizen of the EU -so going forward I believe I can remain always a citizen of the EU as long as I wish- or am I missing something? My first loyalty is to the EU, I was born a citizen of the EU and that is what I wish to remain and so who is going to try to strip me of my citizenship rights? Thats the problem because the UK as a country is leaving the EU but it doesn’t mean to say it has the authority to drag the citizens out as well if they don’t wish to go?

  68. Dunedin
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    The Institute for Fiscal Studies produced a paper on tuition fees a couple of months ago which concluded that over 75% of graduates will not pay back their loans in full. It is the taxpayers who need to be more demanding regarding the value of university courses.

  69. Prigger
    Posted September 19, 2017 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Diversion is a political tool here in the West against its own people. Well-meant of course. Our elite is most responsive and genuinely not got it in for us. But the elite have or has depending whether one considers them as a dog pack or lone wolf dropped one, a clanger does not seem to measure up. They were told refugees, kids or not, were sent to or would develop skills to kill us. They ignored the threat as only people behind big lumps of concrete and a personal gun-clad bodyguard can.
    So, what is their/its solution? Sit down with a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake and discuss it ( Mrs May thinks Corbyn is good at that, genuinely. She is a danger ). Someone will emerge to deal with it.Of course we will hate him later and call him a tyrant. It is the British Way.

  70. Mike Wilson
    Posted September 20, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    The situation is farcical. My nephew did a part time degree at what was once a polytechnic but is now a ‘uni’. My brother assures me his son actually attended a lecture a maximum of 10 times over 3 years. The course was ‘one day a week’ and he was expected to put in whatever other effort was appropriate. He used to do his assignments in a few hours – just hours before they were due to be submitted – and, unbelievably, despite all this, he achieved a 2.1 and now has BSC Hons … after his name and is a member of a professional institute.

    He learnt almost nothing at ‘uni’ and has learnt what he really needs to know on the job. He is only in his late 20s but is now on 6 figures.

    I would advise anyone to do the cheapest part time degree they can find. My nephew paid for his degree as he went – out of his earnings and has no student debt.

  71. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted September 20, 2017 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Why not remove control of University course prices? Instead publish, for each University and academic discipline, what salaries the graduates command in the marketplace after graduating. A market for fees would naturally develop and this would favour the more valuable degrees.

    For foreigners studying in the UK, there would be no subsidies and loans would be provided by banks at commercial rates. Subsidies to the bulk of UK students would be limited. Government would provide finance for scholarships to some students from poor families on the basis of merit. UK students would be charged a lower interest rate.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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