Who pays for University degrees?

In which Dr Aust looks forward (or more likely doesn’t) to a rather uncertain future.

In among all the heart-warming pro-science activism on display through the fortnight that the wonderful Science Is Vital campaign has been going, there has been something else hovering in the background, at least for UK scientists in academic posts in the Universities.

This is the likely slicing away of a colossal chunk of the money that UK Universities currently get direct from government for teaching students – “HEFCE Teaching support”, as it is technically described.

I recently wrote a “Science is Vital” type letter to my local MP, describing all the ways that cutting the research budget is likely to hit science in my Faculty. I considered including, but eventually left out, the following paragraphs:

“Teaching of undergraduate students will suffer as University staff are put under more and more strain, and funding for University teaching is cut.

The same academics who run research programmes also teach undergraduate students, the next generation of scientists. Deep cuts to teaching AND research funding will inevitably directly impact this traning. Academic staff numbers will drop, since required savings will be met in large part by hiring freezes and by non-replacement of people who leave or retire – or,  more pessimistically, by redundancies.  If student numbers remain constant, this will mean more timetabled teaching hours for all staff. However, the same reduced number of staff will also be under increased pressure to apply for research grants which bring in direct funding.

In this scenario, it is absolutely inevitable that University staff will have less time for planning and thinking about teaching, and certainly less time for individual attention to students. With the best will in the world, the strong likelihood is that the quality of students’ experience will decline – and this at the very time when a skilled scientific workforce is most needed.”

In the end I left this bit out, as I decided to stick to just talking about research and the direct funding of it – but like most University academic staff, I think the two things are inextricably linked, at least for most people.

There are people in Universities who do research and no teaching, and are best left that way – provided they do good enough research to justify that being their major or sole raison d’etre.

There are also people who are happy just doing teaching, and preparing and organising it, and are not interested in research. Again, fine – as long as they do enough of this stuff, and well enough, to justify their position and salary. I know a lot who do.

But for most people, the job is a mix of teaching and research, in various proportions, and each informs and supports the other.

But there comes a point where something has to give. If you cut the money for research, inevitably making the highly competitive chase for what funding is left even more arduous, and at the same time cut the funding for teaching, there is a danger that the whole system will implode. Especially given the likelihood that:

(i) anyone within 5-10 years of retirement age will be tempted to cut their losses and bail out now; and

(ii) anyone who can leave for a job abroad where research prospects especially are better will be tempted to do that – the much discussed “brain drain”.

So what about these large cuts in teaching funding from the Government?

The figure that has been trailed is up to a 75% cut in the money that the Government gives Universities for teaching students. It is widely believed across the sector that Universities Minister David Willetts has told University heads that this is what is being considered, and the number has been discussed in the Financial Times and elsewhere.

When I first heard this, I ran the numbers for my own University and calculated, in a back of the envelope sort of way, how much we would lose. Money, of course, that means staff salaries. Including mine.

The figure worked out to many tens of millions of pounds.

It also worked out as almost exactly the amount that would be raised by charging each undergraduate student in the University an extra £ 3000 per year in tuition fees.

Coincidentally, Lord Browne’s review of student funding in English Universities, widely trailed and leaked over the last few months, is expected to recommend raising the cap on University tuition fees from the current approximately £ 3300 a year up to something close to £ 7000.

So students, in this scenario, will get hit with the burden of making up the cuts in Government funding for University teaching.

William Cullerne Bown of Research Fortnight, who seems to be one of (if not the) best informed commentators on these issues, has said this has been the plan all along – to shift the burden of paying for a University education from the Govt to students and their parents.

Now, virtually everyone in the UK Universities has been expecting the Browne Report to recomend raising the fee cap since well before the election. And since the Coalition took office, an increase in fees has been regarded as essentially a fait accompli. Another back story is taken to be that the Conservatives especially are determined to do what the Blair Government could not manage, and create a free market in UK University fees. The prediction in the sector is that Oxbridge, the Russell Group and perhaps some of the research-intensive 1960s universities will all charge the maximum, since they will figure they are unlikely to have problems filling their courses. Post-`92 Universities (the ex-Polytechnics) and some others will charge less, depending on what they think their target student population will be prepared to pay. In a free market of this type, Universities which cannot fill their courses will face severe financial problems, and there is a good chance that some Universities will go bust.

But there is now an even worse scenario, at least for the Universities, and one which arises from the very different pre-election views of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on funding University education.

The Liberal Democrats are historically opposed to tuition fees, and favour a graduate tax. Many of their MPs have signed pldges not to raise fees.

The Conservatives, in contrast, have always favoured fees in some form as a way of funding University education, and are keen to see the free market “let loose”.

The question is: what can they all agree on, and muster the majority to vote through the Commons?

Channel 4 today reported that some kind of consensus had been reached. Cullerne Bown, who seems to have excellent connections in the coalition, says that this is not really true. He thinks they are still arguing.

This matters critically in the context of the upcoming cuts. If the Goverment’s Comprehensive Spending Review, due next week,  cuts teaching payments to the Universities by 75%, there will be multi-million pound holes in the budgets of all the UK’s Universities.

If Parliament does NOT vote through a solution which allows Universities to claw this money back from somewhere else – and essentially this means from the students – the Universities will all face bankruptcy. This is the “Nightmare Scenario”.

So does Channel 4′s story mean the deal is done? William Cullerne-Bown thinks not. When I tweeted earlier:

“So is C4′s story on Uni fees deal ruling out @ResFortnight’s “nightmare scenario”?”

He tweeted back:

“I think not. Replace the word “deal” with “approach” and C4 story gets better. ie it ain’t over til it’s over.”

Either way, it is not a happy time for people working in the UK’s Universities.

Most University dons, who almost all benefitted from a largely free University education, are deeply unhappy with the idea of students graduating with vaster debt. The typical debt for students graduating now from our 3-yr BSc courses is around £ 20,000, so make that £ 30,000 with the likely fee increase.

But academics also view the fee increase as pretty much inevitable if the Universities – one of the few things Britain still seems to be good at – are not to be crippled, or even collapse.

So from inside the University it looks rather as if it is a case of “Damned if they [the Govt] do, damned if they don’t”.

Finally, Channel 4 tells us that

“Vince Cable will make a statement to the Commons tomorrow afternoon and is expected to indicate then the adjustments to the Browne proposals which the Coalition intends to go ahead with.”

I will be listening. And so will a lot of other people, both in the Universities and outside.

PS If I have time tomorrow I may put up an update on what Cable says. Though I am sure many other people will cover it.

—————————————————————————————————-

UPDATE:  noon Tuesday 12th

The Browne report is out. To nobody’s surprise, it recommends lifting the fees cap (see my comment in the thread below) .

The Guardian has a useful rolling news blog here covering reaction to Browne’s proposals.

With respect to Cable’s statement this afternoon, the BBC news channel’s chief political correspondent has tweeted that:

“Vince Cable tells BBC he’ll only give a ‘preliminary’ response to Browne this afternoon, but report is ‘on the right lines’”

- she also tweeted:

“Browne report give lib dems a headache – one MP tells me this morning he thinks as many as half could vote against”

According to the Guardian, several Lib Dem MPs have already stated publicly that they will oppose the Browne proposals as they stand. Expect much more info on this as the day progresses.

Meanwhile, my friend Prof David Colquhoun has his own views on how UK University education could be reorganised. They are published in the Times today, but you can read them at slightly greater length on his blog.

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14 Responses to “Who pays for University degrees?”

  1. davidp Says:

    I think our Australian “HECS debt” scheme has some merit – you accumulate a debt based on the cost of the course, and repay it (interest free) via a graduate tax once your income exceeds a set value (about median income). So it’s a graduate tax linked to the cost of the education you received.
    Theoretically it should not discourage the poor, but it does (gradually) fund the univerisity system.

  2. draust Says:

    Thanks, David

    The LibDems have historically been sympathetic to the idea of funding HE via a graduate tax, almost certainly close to the Australian system.

    The problem with this option from a Govt POV is that it takes a long time to start generating “payback”, and the Govt has to keep funding the Univs in the meantime. Under the present economic circumstances, and esp. with our Govt agenda of slashing public spending that is a non-starter in the UK.

    Lord Browne has been doing interviews this morning to plug his report: as expected it suggests lifting the cap on fees, but having variable repayments of the loan that pays for the fees once the student has graduated and their pay has exceeded a threshold (C. £ 21K) . So it has elements of (and is being spun hard as) “a bit graduate tax-ish”. However, it is a loan system – even if you don’t reach the earnings threshold for many years, the amount you owe will keep growing via interest charges. You would have to go something like 30 years to outlast the “statute of limitations” on your debt.

    Anyway, we will see what Vince Cable (the Business Secretary) says this afternooon.

  3. C Says:

    “If student numbers remain constant, this will mean more timetabled teaching hours for all staff. However, the same reduced number of staff will also be under increased pressure to apply for research grants which bring in direct funding. ”

    This is right on the money.

    That’s what will tip people out of academia. Contrary to the popular images of academics, we already work long hours. You can’t take people working 45-60 hours per week during term time and tell them they’ve got to absorb significant increases in their teaching loads and write more grant applications.

  4. Eileen Says:

    I live in northern Italy and got the report yesterday am about the Browne report on Sky News. This morning the entire programme is devoted to the Chilean miners so no further discussion has been available.

    But please could you explain what is wrong with the Browne concept – it sounds like a graduate tax to me in that only graduates will pay it, will pay a higher rate of interest the more they earn and effectively won’t have to pay it if they are a graduate on a low income. One would also assume that the rich ones will probably pay it back quickly so there is a quick return of the outlay. Is it also not likely there might be a return of the “employment schemes” such as BP used 35 years ago to get graduates with the right qualifications and the Forces have also used?

    Our younger daughter’s first degree was a couple of years after fees were introduced. We were on a decent income but not massive (I didn’t work many hours as a freelance translator) but paying the fees wasn’t horrendous. She lived at home and commuted. We encouraged her to take at least 1 year’s loan “just in case” and I think she actually took a second – all the money was still in the bank and she used it when she had to replace her car in a hurry a couple of years later. She had wanted to be a medical scientist (like dad) but there were no training places in the fields she wanted to work in due to the NHS cuts. She got a horrid job as a manufacturing technician – degree required but only for show, brain was not needed. The next was promising on paper – disappointing in practice as the head of the lab didn’t stir himself to find work for his staff to do. She paid out most of those loans in fact to obtain the HGV and PSV licences you had to have up front so that she could apply to be a paramedic – and has just registered. Her sister is a nurse – bursary and fees paid during training. Both worked at parttime jobs all through their courses. Current salaries for taking responsibility for other peoples’ lives – approx. 21K and not a lot of job security.

    Their cousins (identical ages) did business degrees – very well-off civil servant parents paid their fees and very generous keep and spending money all through Uni. They never had jobs before graduation. One markets whisky and earns more than both my daughters put together. The other is in PR for a legal firm in the City earning more than his sister and my 2 put together. “Oh, but they need that to live in London”. Really – my 2 wouldn’t get more than about 3K more each if they were working there.

    Browne’s suggestions don’t seem unreasonable to me – and I have voted Liberal all my life. My husband got an email yesterday from the person who got his head of dept post when he retired early to do consultancy in his research interst last year – “How are you – it’s dreadful here, I really wish I could retire…”. More cuts, more staff being told their pay is being cut – restructuring has removed the grades they were given in AfC 3 years ago and in some cases the salary cut may be up to 15K – what a waste of time and money AfC was then and how not to build staff morale. And we hear of nurses in Scotland being told they can work an extra shift a month WITHOUT PAY or face job cuts. On wards where there is only one qualified nurse to look after 16 patients – where you need 2 to do a drug round.

    There’s something really rather wrong somewhere, and not just in the process of getting the degree.

  5. draust Says:

    C - 50+ hour weeks are certainly common among the ambitious, and the younger, people where I am (Russell Group). I do know some older non-Professorial academics who manage to work only the timetabled 40, but they are people in their 50s who have reached their sticking point at (pre-92 Univ) Senior Lecturer and are “maintaining”. Of course, this group also includes a lot of the people with experience of making the system run, particularly in teaching and admin areas. One of the problems with fast-retiring such people (which is the sort of thing that always occurs to Faculty managers as a way of making cuts) is that you can leak, at a stroke, a huge amount of accumulated know-how – and not just in teaching and admin. In the biosciences such people are often masters of methods which are not “modern” but are actually still useful. In my specialist area, the know-how to do in vivo work on animals, or work on human subjects, would be examples.

    Where the Govt thinks there are “extra” hours to be squeezed out of this, I don’t know. Perhaps they want all academics to be divorced.

    Eileen – I remember the kind of “sponsorship” schemes you mention – at Uni in the 80s I briefly shared a flat with an Old Etonian who was being sponsored by the army. I may have misremembered but I’m pretty sure his name really was Rupert.

    Re the proposed scheme, I think the reason some people are calling it unfair (as opposed to a graduate tax) is that if you can afford to repay the loan quicker then you will end up paying less in total, just as happens with a repayment mortgage. Although people who never earn very much may have very low repayments (and possibly never pay the loan off), people who earn enough to have to make full-sized contributions, but not enough to repay extra/faster, will end up paying the most in the end. Again, just like a mortgage. More details here.

    Not surprised to hear about your offspring and their cousins’ relative remuneration. I do wonder particularly about the likely effect of what Browne is proposing on people who go into Nursing, say, which has now been made a graduate profession in the UK to a large extent. Look a few years into the future, and Nursing students will likely be finishing University with a big tuition loan and then starting work earning c. £ 21K. Let’s say that by 10 years in, in their mid-30s perhaps, they are earning 30K and are now having to make full-sized repayments on their tuition loan (say £ 25 K still outstanding) as well as trying to buy a house etc etc. It is hard not to think that this is going to deter people from taking degrees which lead to relatively low-paying – but highly necessary – public sector jobs.

    The (only slightly a) joke in the Dr Aust household is that Junior Aust #1 and #2 are going to be steered well away from scientific research, academia or medicine. Instead they will be pointed at something where you actually earn a decent wedge, like the law.

    Re. nursing again, from the blogs one certainly has the impression that under-staffing on the wards is a major problem. Part of this seems to be driven by the ramifying oversight culture – you need lots of clipboard folk and managers to chase up and “oversee” all the paperwork, and these people earn more than the nurses. Indeed, they are often ex-nurses, which is rather sad.

    [EDIT: Since I posted this, Kieron Flanagan has pointed out on Twitter that, if a Browne-style fees regime really does come in, there may well have to be exceptions, or special arrangements, for vocational subjects like medicine and nursing]

  6. Tweets that mention Who pays for University degrees? « Dr Aust’s Spleen -- Topsy.com Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Stephen Curry, Dr Aust. Dr Aust said: A long comment/reply from me under my recent blogpost on Universities and the Browne report http://bit.ly/d0NcWl 1/2 [...]

  7. Nico Says:

    Interesting post, the way I see it with the double whammy of cuts&cuts what will happen first is that the numbers of students applying to uni will decrease, leading to a shortage of funds, and even some unis closing/drastically downsizing. Then we’ll be in a situation where poor people won’t be able to get into higher education (they are already much less likely to), middle class people will get into even more debt and the rich will carry on as usual.
    Result will confirm the UK as the country in Europe with the least social mobility. I have written a short post about this there: http://bit.ly/aSt7Iq

  8. Eileen Says:

    My other half and I were talking about the clipboard culture in the NHS yesterday – the explosion in the number of managers was almost entirely due to the previous government introducing all the “targets” which then had to be monitored. His former dept has to cut a further million over and above the cuts imposed last year – as he pointed out, disposing of 20 managers probably does that just nicely. Alternatively – if the Harriet with the clipboard on the ward rolled up her sleeves again and actually did nursing care instead of ticking the box as to whether my daughter had filled in an unnecessary form then part of the short-staffing problem there would be covered.

    And as for your only slightly a joke – for heaven’s sake man, it’s plumbers and sparkies that we need! The girls were at school with the sons of our then plumber – PD the 3rd has just quoted for her new heating system and bathroom. Following in father (and grandfather’s) footsteps he is now director of a successful family firm with a superb reputation. No degree involved! Just the old-fashioned vocational qualification. And after all – these “foundation degrees” are what I did as an HNC. I did day-release, thick/thin sandwiches are more likely now, only the names have been changed.

    The ambo brigade have started something – as the Unis started up the paramedic degree courses which produced theoretically trained people who did not have the driving licence necessary to drive the ambos. Anyone under about 33-ish needs an LGV licence as the vehicles are over 3.5T – us oldies got that entitlement with our licence. Ambulance trusts are providing their own course to address this as they can demand the licence up front (the Unis won’t), appoint as a student paramedic and then do a similar training course to the one they used to do and it’s registered at a local (ex-poly) Uni as a degree. They have more oversight of the students and know more about their real ability, the students get paid a proper salary. The nurse daughter, on the other hand, worked what would be the Uni vacations in return for her bursary which she used to pay for some of the childcare costs (by no means all). This leads to disputes about the relative standard of the degrees – I keep well out of that!

    I was impressed though by her comment: “I have the moral comfort that I know do something useful even though it appears not to be recognised by most people.” At least she and her husband are unlikely to lose their child benefit on NHS salaries!

    There is a telling article in either the Guardian or Independent today about the new unemployed “middle class” in the USA, “the working class who were encouraged to live middle class lifestyles on credit”. Why they limited it to the US I don’t know – it’s there in the UK too. Perhaps there should be a bit more Dickens taught in schools – Mr Micawber got his sums right. Both governments and the population would have done well to heed his warning.

  9. Eileen Says:

    DC’s suggestions seem not entirely without sense – but in our field (my husband and I that is) we have many friends working in the US who spend a great deal of time writing applications and get a very low success rate. It’s a wide-ranging field because it covers every level of transport of oxygen into tissue, from mitochondria to whole body and from basic science to medicine – but even so even they are struggling to publish, publish, publish and to get money to do the research to pub… – well, you get the idea.

    In Germany (which we know well having worked there and still having active colleagues there) they are also facing problems. Far too many students turn up at Uni so often the lecture theatres are too small for all the students on a course. Despite some improvements, you can still repeat, repeat, repeat – until you get it right! When my husband was teaching medics in Germany (granted, a few years ago now) there was a student studying medicine who was doing one of the semesters for the 6th time!!! They stay there for years – a degree often is a 5 year commitment – and parents have to support them until they are about 27. My friend’s daughter has just finished her first degree at 29. Whilst she’s had a ball, she’s as poor as a church mouse and her parents are approaching retirement. And our Uni staff friends are also struggling with restructuring that will make research exceedingly difficult and life rather unpleasant. One has been lucky enough to be able to move from his department that has almost disappeared to one in the former east where he will at least be able to do some research. You, DrA, would not exist – physiology is done by medics (or, strangely, physicists like my husband!).

    The world has changed greatly – but it seems to me the dinosaurs are playing at being ostriches. Unfortunately – as I listen to the Conservative suggestions being scoffed at by the Labour opposition – that is apparently unlikely change without a cataclysmic event.

    Funny – wasn’t it Labour who asked Browne to do his report? I assume had they still been there it would have gone the way of all the other reports they commissioned: “Thank you very much – very nice. But we don’t like your conclusions so we’ll just ignore you.” If all that money had been put into the NHS it wouldn’t be in quite such a mess.

  10. draust Says:

    Eileen: the academic treadmill is the same everywhere, of course, in terms of pressure to publish, publish to get on, grants needed to do any science and so on. But it is definitely far worse in the UK than in the US, mainly just because there is far more grant money available in the US system. So if you are in the US and you do good science, and publish in good specialist journals, then you are reasonably likely to get your grant funded eventually.

    On University tuition, in the UK it was certainly Labour that first introduced tuition fees (1998), though they ignored the Dearing Report’s suggestion that the money should be recovered via a graduate tax. Labour then controversially raised fees to essentially their current level (Jan 2004, a vote won by the narrow margin of 316 to 311, and only with the support of Scottish Labour MPs whose constituents don’t pay any fees at all). And of course it was also Labour that commissioned the Browne report, as you say.

    Most University people believe the “political class” in Britain (or most of it) collectively:

    (i) has decided students and parents will be charged for Higher Education; and

    (ii) thinks there should be a US-style free market in fees.

    - this explains why there has been so little difference between New Labour and the Tory bit of the present coalition on how to fund HE. The two main parties may vote against the Govt on HE funding in opposition, since the main point of being in opposition is to embarrass the Govt as much as you possibly can. But when it comes down to it, Labour and Tory policy has been quite close on how University degrees should be funded.

    Moving to the NHS, it has actually had a fair bit of extra money over the last few years. Unfortunately, quite a bit of it had to go into renewing dilapidated facilities run down by years of penny-pinching and neglect, and into compensating for the changes in the system which reduced the amount of unpaid overtime staff had previously done for free – so a lot of money went on “catch-up”, basically. Next, a big chunk of the remaining extra money has been swallowed up by creeping managerialism – the audit and oversight culture, started by Mrs Thatcher and continued under New Labour. A consensus view among doctors would be that NHS administration, pre-internal market, used to cost about 5% of the NHS budget. It is now likely somewhere north of 20%. Of course, if the Tories succeed in opening the NHS up to the big US “Managed Healthcare” corporations, that figure for admin will likely rise again towards the US 25-35%.

    Re. the German higher education system, one downside of low fees, and unlimited chances, is certainly students hanging around at University for ever! Surprised you can do it in medical school, though – usually that kind of “multiple repeater” implies a student has had lots and lots of “extenuating circumstances” second (and third, and….) chances. In my UK medical school you get only one automatic resit, and after that you are out unless some kind of special case can be made.

    Re. German physiologists, you are right that people whose first degree is Medicine are probably the main population there, especially in the medical schools, but there are some PhD scientists too.

    An interesting converse question is actually why there are so few medically-trained people teaching physiology in British Universities – if you went back 50, or even 30, years you would have found quite a number. The most obvious answer is the pay nowadays for non-clinical academics. Given that a hospital consultant starts on £ 75 K, and even a salaried GP (which you could be by the time you are not much past 26-27) starts on £ 54 K, why would you teach and do research at Uni, where wages are nothing like that? I don’t earn anything like £ 54 K, and I have been an academic Faculty member in Russell group Univs for > 20 years.

    The UK actually has incredibly high rates of medical graduates NOT staying NHS doctors beyond the first couple of “pre-registration” years – this is a major concern to the system, actually – but they don’t go into University teaching. It seems obvious to me what that is telling us about the status and remuneration of academics! But then I would say that, of course…

    [Edit: PS – that was a response to Eileen’s second (11.26 am) comment – the first one got stuck in the spam-trap, for some reason. However, I see we concur on the administrative clipboard brigade. It is when I think about them – and their poorer clipboard cousins in the Univs, also on the increase – that I most miss Dr Crippen’s blog, which used to flog them savagely on a regular basis.

  11. DMcILROY Says:

    Picking up on comments on nurses’ and medics’ pay, I often think that one of the benefits of having low/no fees for higher education (like here in France) is that it removes salary pressure for graduates. In particular, I can’t help thinking that the extremely high cost of medical care in the US is related to the high cost of medical training there.

    Once you start a system where high fees generate large debts on graduation, then you create a justification for higher salaries. The higher salaries in turn increase the demand for those courses, which allows universities to charge higher fees. A wonderful positive feedback loop has been created, making both the higher education and the final service more expensive. In the end of course everyone pays the price through higher costs of medical care.

    However, if you remove the price mechanism then there is nothing in place to regulate the number of students, and you end up with the situation we have here (and in Germany too, by the sounds of it) which is that large numbers of students enroll because they don’t know what else to do. Of those who do graduate, I fear that only a minority actually use what they learned during their degree in their job.

    In the end, I come to the conclusion that there are just too many undergraduate students (and academics), and the best solution would be to close some places down, reducing overall HE teaching costs, while keeping fees low.

    DMc

  12. canvas prints cheap Says:

    The Coalition’s housing benefits policy is little more than financial ethnic cleansing. Appalling in these times.

  13. Dr Aust Says:

    Sorry Dorian,

    Browsing back and realised I’d never replied to your comment. Obviously since the post and your reply we now have the picture of what is going to happen. I predict that my (Russell Group) Univ will be likely to charge at least £ 8K pa tuition fee, and possibly the full £ 9K, across the board. But you do have to wonder what will happen for degrees that are less than likely to lead to highly paid jobs. Who will want to take on all that debt to become a teacher, for instance? Or a nurse? Or a social worker? Or an academic?!

    Interesting thought about raised degree costs fostering upward wage pressure. Re medics specifically, in Britain they are currently pretty well paid, on the whole (at least as I see it), though there is a kind of de facto caste system where there are high-status high-earners (the consultants, and the GPs who are equity partners on a practice profit-share) and lower-status lesser-earners (salaried GPs, and lowest paid of all the “career grade” doctors like Mrs Dr Aust). Now, that is a simplification, and there are some genuine reasons for the pay differentials, but… Anyway NHS consultants typically earn £ 100K-ish and up, and if they do some private practise in their “off hrs and w/ends” they can certainly double that.

    As to the student numbers, I reckon most academics in the UK would agree that too many people go to University. We have essentially doubled, or near-doubled, entry to every science degree course we run in the last 15 years at the Univ of Doomingham, as well as inventing degrees where previously there were none (e.g. this year we admitted nigh-on 300 students on our Nursing degree, which didn’t exist ten yrs ago). But the number of students going to University is essentially a political decision in the UK, and has never really been in the University’s hands.

    Of course, that might change. It is interesting to note that one of the things the UK Govt has been wholly silent on thus far is just how many places they are prepared to fund for those courses where they are still going to supply some of the costs, e.g. in the sciences, or in medicine. There has been much talk on fees, but on student numbers… zip.

    PS I see that amid all the shake-up, some things don’t change… Simon Jenkins still hates academics. And Universities. I wonder if some Oxbridge tutor was once rather cutting about his undergraduate essays over a glass of the college sherry?

  14. DMcILROY Says:

    Yes, well the fees question is related to student numbers. Since these are the tories, after all, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they are approaching this in a strictly market economy way. If you increase the price of something, you shift fewer units. It’s their way of addressing the numbers question without actually saying so.

    Now I’m going to switch and say something about chickenpox vaccination.

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