back to article Tories declare students a burden on us all

Universities minister David Willetts did little to win over his new constituency by describing students as an unacceptable burden on UK taxpayers. Joining in the coalition government's frenzy of cutback soundbites ahead of next week's the Budget on 22 June Willetts said the costs of university education were a "burden on the …


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  1. Steve Mason

    David Willets

    What a cunt.

    That is all.

    1. JDX Gold badge
      Thumb Down


      You'd prefer him to say "we'll just carry on spending wildly, even though we don't actually have any money left"? Face facts, the country is screwed and you can't pay off £150bn by efficiency savings on paperclips. And with 15% increase in applications for university places, something's got to change in a big way.

      Blaming the one who has to give the bad news is pretty shallow.

      1. Ted Treen

        JDX old lad,

        What a refreshing breath of fresh air: a comment brimming with common sense and pragmatism. And you can't get away from the fact that huge numbers of students of non-subjects, meeja studies, golf course management, creative dance &c ad nauseam, ARE an intolerable burden on those of us working.

        <rant>I am turned 60, and five days per week I am up well before 0500, leave home at 0605, travel for 2 1/2 hours, do a full days work, travel for 2 1/2 hours home, get home around 1900 and I sometimes have to take work home & do some overnight & at weekends. I haven't had a pay rise for two years, my costs & taxes are continually increasing and I bloody well resent having to fund some idler who is doing little more than prolonging his/her adolesence at my expense. </rant>

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Ted, I respect your opinion...

          but as a 60 year old you should know better! Very little research is government funded. The majority of projects are funded by private enterprise and/or charities (that exist to raise money *for* research). Microsoft Research are a brilliant example of this.

        2. Anonymous Coward

          simple solution

          Either get a job that is not 2 1/2 hours commute from your house or move closer to your job!

          1. Ted Treen

            @ several


            Research has nothing to do with it:- it's the funding of nebulous meaningless degrees I resent.


            Easier said than done:- I'm a Mac technician/Graphic Designer whose job moved some three years ago. I do not wish to uproot myself away from a lifetime's friends & family at my age, and looking for a more local job with the same pay, continuation of pension rights etc. is next to impossible. I assume that you're young & relatively mobile - young because you see black & white knee-jerk solutions without thinking them through. It might suit you, but it ain't gonna suit everyone. I'm prepared to continue my commute, with 4yrs left to go to retirement, but I'm not happy funding someone else's self-indulgent adolescence into their mid 20's.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward


              Me too, but you said that "...bloody well resent having to fund some idler who is doing little more than prolonging his/her adolesence at my expense." and "...I'm not happy funding someone else's self-indulgent adolescence into their mid 20's." which would suggest post-graduate study, which in turn would suggest research. The majority of student 's finish their post-compulsory education between the ages of 20-22; hardly mid-twenties. Pedantic? Oh definitely! There are some utterly pointless degrees available out there, of that there is no dispute and these need 'reviewing'. The long and the short of it though is that most student these days have to pay for a reasonable proportion of their degree, leaving University with around £20k of debt to pay and as well as taxes and national insurance. How much have you paid for your education Ted?

        3. Al fazed


          Durr, you want us all to be so moronic ?


        4. Adam Williamson 1

          Funding and idleness

          "I bloody well resent having to fund some idler who is doing little more than prolonging his/her adolesence at my expense. </rant>"

          Well don't worry, Ted. You said you're over 60? Give it five years and they'll be funding you to prolong your life in idleness. What goes around, comes around.

          1. Ted Treen

            @ Adam W 1:- Total bollocks old lad

            The taxes & NI I've paid for the last 42 years and which I will continue to pay are what funds my "life in idleness".

            The last thirteen years of applied idiocy in Westminster have left us in a situation where I almost certainly won't be able to retire at 65 - but hey! I just might be able to indulge in a retirement of sybaritic hedonism - funded from the tax payments of a host of meeja studies graduates, Golf course managers, Creative Dancers and other such high-earning, high tax-paying people, whose "education" has proved such an astute investment of my country's limited recources.


            I presume your qualifications are in Applied Sophistry

    2. Graham Wilson

      Education is as important as national security.

      Sooner or later the English-speaking world--UK, US, Canada, Australia, NZ etc.--will wake up to the fact that education is as important as national security. Unfortunately, methinks they will do so when it's too late.

      From my experience, you won't find any logical argument for cutting back on education in many Asian countries, irrespective of circumstance.

      Moreover, I believe that the decline in education in the aforementioned countries over the past 40 or so years is a major reason for their decline.

      1. Denarius

        Oh so right


        spot on. A local doctor was bewailing his long hours (36 straight) working for a state government who officially advise medical staff to stoke on caffeine. Reason for long hours ? No-one doing the training, it is so damned expensive and eventually pays so-so for 7 years study. Easier to study finance/fraud and become a thief/banker.

        Company I work for have decided loss of staff approaching returement might be a problem( like they cant hire anyone now) so they are planning staff retention incentives. We are already tense. Note, no new staff for training and upskilling. Manager did not want new staff around taking up our time.The relics of Western countries are run by d**kheads.

      2. Mark 65

        Re:Education is as important as national security

        With regards to the English speaking World, education importance and the nearly retired dude the point is this...

        Emerging countries place importance on their education systems, but it's directed at the sciences and medicine etc not sit-on-your-arse-pontificating-for-3-years bullshit degrees. Pay for those out of your own pocket or get industry sponsorship etc if it's that important.

        In line with your point directing funding, directing it towards the areas we are lacking in and away from the nice-to-haves and superfluous would be a better way of doing things. Want more scientists? Entrance exams (to double-check candidates) and free funding would do the job if you make a condition of funding that they must work for 5 years or so in the industry etc.

        I believe that in Australia lower degrees are self funded (HECS debt) whereas they will pay for a PhD - another possible addition?

        With regards the flippant comment towards the 60 year old regarding everyone paying for his retirement you are assuming that he has no private pension when he specifically mentions entitlements and that he would want to live in abject poverty off of the state pension. He has probably paid into the system for his working life so he is entitled to it unlike a free-loader doing a half-baked degree which is part sponsored by the tax payer. Whether the money he contributed was wasted rather than ring-fenced or whether the system itself is unsustainable really isn't his fault.

  2. npupp 1


    But hey, short of the party appearing elitist and banning degrees in football, bookbinding, women studies and reverting former poly-techs back to poly-techs, what can they do? Education for the wealthy (or rather the educable class, you know it's what they mean)

    Not very Liberal policy I must add :( quite distinct from the reduce student debt mantra of old.


  3. DavCrav

    Damn those pesky educated people

    It's weird, but in order to attract the kind of people who know what they are talking about to universities you have to let them do research for most of their time, because they didn't become teachers for a reason.

    Thinking about it, if we cannot attract enough secondary school teachers with even the slightest clue about their profession, and we make universities like schools, we'll have exactly the same problem there. Oh, and all the best researchers will leave (because there are many universities in other countries that will take the best researchers, not everyone, but the best) and we end up with universities like those of Italy.

    Also, research grants subsidize teaching. Change this and you will find that some big universities stop teaching altogether as a resource-intensive, unprofitable exercise. And if Oxbridge go research-only, the Tory-boys' children will have to go to Hull!

    1. Marvin the Martian

      Your mileage may vary.

      For most undergraduate teaching, a PhD within the last three decades will suffice; and if you dumb it all down enough you'll suffice for most masters too. Only for those going into research you'd need good researcher-teachers, but that's a vicious cycle mostly (there has been an overproduction of PhDs) --- so a few elite teaching institutions would suffice on the face of it.

      Research-only Oxbridge? How? What? Why? I suppose you think that the humanities/archeology/paleontology/... departments will then fund themselves from patents and industry consultancies? It's not like you get paid for publishing original research. But also remember the American model for rich top universities is "get grants/wills from alumni".

      Another part of the american approach is of course to hire people educated elsewhere, which gives the twin advantage of not having to run a functioning secondary school system, and importing the freshest knowledge from outside (without having to cooperate and hence leach your own advantageous insight). The fear of the bulk of UK academics fleeing is of course very overstated --- whereto? Only the US and UK systems are mostly meritocratic, plus some minor others (partially), like say the Netherlands, if not demanding fluency in one or more local languages. So forget it for most places.

      I'm not sure your Italy-comparison is based on any overview or specific insight. Also, UK/US universities systematically rank high in research and publication output for simple linguistic reasons, so this is an advantage that is hard to lose in the next decade.

      That research grants subsidize teaching is very very doubtful. Research grants go to research, and if those involved are junior enough they get forced to take over some teaching from others who rather won't (publish or perish --- the director must also survive). So that can be seen as partially subsidizing teaching, or not; on balance, same amount of teaching (partly by more junior people), but with more researching (by incumbent plus grantee).

      Here you totally leave out the origin of this research money (yes, it will be cut if possible). The move of the last decade is anyway towards "high-impact research", with impact defined as either direct financial/IP benefit to UK companies, or results that can be understood by laymen and reported in mainstream news. No interest whatsoever if it helps scientists understand the studied system better themselves.

      I'm definitely not agreeing with this minister's statement, nor in favour of the structure spelled out in this post (because of other consequences carefully not mentioned; consequences I'd trust to follow but very hard to quantify), but mostly pointing out your argumentation is not going to sway anyone here. Remember that universities are not under the Dept of Education but under Dept of Business... they're seen as an obsolete subsidized industry like car-making (you can keep a few quirky niche luxury ones, not run-of-the-mill ones) or textiles.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        IT Angle

        research grants and teaching

        >>>> That research grants subsidize teaching is very very doubtful.

        no it isn't. they do. a university takes between 20 and 35% of a research grant for "overhead". this supposedly pays for the supporting infrastructure that they provide for the grant-holder: office/lab space, phones, consumables, technician and IT support, administration, etc. some of that money will be paying directly or indirectly for teaching staff. in other cases, when a postgrad's salary gets paid out of s research grant instead of the university it frees up money which can be used to hire a lecturer ot teaching assistant

  4. Steven Jones

    Universtiy Education

    The whole system of further education needs looking at. The University sector has grown hugely over the past couple of decades and has pumped out a huge number of graduates only for many of them to find that there are no appropriate jobs for them. Also, many of the degrees now produced are of poor quality with little obvious benefit to the graduate who comes out carrying lots of debt. There are more appropriate further educational models that are more appropriate to the needs of individuals and the country as a whole.

    As it is, the whole meaning of what it is to be a University has been diminished by the rush to quantity over quality. In the days when we had Polytechnics, before John Major's government started wrecking the sytem, the purpose and role of further education was rather better defined and more cost-effective.

    It's not the students who are unaffordable - it's this incredibly expensive and bloated system which is producing indebted graduates without appropriate prospects. Of course there will be lots of middle class parents (like I suspect the author of this piece) who will resent the reduction in subsidies to their offspring. However, the simple truth is that a system that was affordable for 10% of the population simply isn't when 50% or more use it.

    A bit of grown up thinking about econimics might be wortwhile rather than this nonsense.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Quattro with Rose Tinted Windows

      Feckin' baby boomers continue to kick the ladder away from the young!

      Having studied in a polytechnic college (they've not gone anywhere) and two different old school Universities at the start of this decade I have to question the view being presented.

      The only problem with the Uni system is that the government (with it's inspection driven funding policies) has ensured that Universities have to go for volume and compete with the 'Techs for students in order to over come inadequate funding. (Note, the funding is not for actual students and their studies (god knows I did), but often for essential research/postgrad activities and support services that are needed to keep our Universities and industries at a standard where the world and its dog are not lapping us). It isn't fair that students (especially without riches) continue to subsidise Universities for the benefit of the entire country.

      Students are not the burden, the Universities (thanks to successive governments abandoning responsible funding) are an increasing burden on the Student. Students are having to work during their degree studies as a matter of course to avoid huge debts later, but mainly to ensure that inadequate loans are topped up to make them able to live and have a little bit of the fistfuls of fun that previous generations enjoyed so much when they went for fee-free and with a decent subsidy of living costs.

      And please lets not dump on the middle classes since the only people that are untouched by this proposal are the upper class and the rich and privileged across the world while the vast majority of youth in the UK go from school to a call center apprenticeship and to living death and unto hell.

      1. Graham Wilson

        You're right about the baby boomers and education too.

        You're right about the baby boomers and education too.

        From this baby-boomer I can tell you my generation fucked it up properly. The only thing we haven't fucked up on is creating another world war--not yet anyway (and that's probably more because of the previous WW-II generation who were determined not to have another war).

        From the great promise and optimism of the 1960s, the boomers have degenerated into greedy, mean have-it-alls. My generation is responsible for the recent financial crisis, the war in Iraq and others, failing to educate our kids as well as we were educated, unbelievable greed on a massive scale, heading large socially-irresponsible multinationals which we once despised, creating a greater divide between rich and poor than anytime in history and so on, and so on.

        We boomers will be the first generation in history to demonstrate beyond doubt that being born with a silver spoon in one's mouth is disadvantageous for society. As a generation, we've turned out an unethical lot whose morals are in the gutter.

        Tragedy really.

    2. copsewood

      knowledge-based or low wage economy ?

      You pays your money and takes your choice. Personally I'd rather live in an economy which gives average 10X earnings compared to a low wage economy. Even if it means having to pay more taxes.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      agreed Steven

      "a system that was affordable for 10% of the population simply isn't when 50% or more use it"

      Couldn't have put it better myself.

    4. Graham Wilson
      Thumb Up

      An excellent spot-on post!

      @ Steven Jones

      An excellent spot-on post that cuts to the core of the issue!

      As I said in my post, this education problem is not confined to the UK, unfortunately it's endemic to most English-speaking countries.

      Getting to the cultural root of the problem seems half the problem.

  5. tony 33

    England or everywhere?

    So this will apply to Scotland aswell, or just the English going to pay more?

    as we do for prescriptions..........

    1. smudge

      No, not Scotland

      Education and health are two of the areas which are under the control of Holyrood. So unless they reduce the powers of the Scottish Parliament - which would completely finish the Tories for ever in Scotland - then it doesn't apply north of the border.

      I have no idea what powers the Welsh and NI assemblies have, so I don't know if it applies in these regions.

      1. Number6


        The SNP need to be very careful. I can quite see Westminster happily giving them extra powers but poisoning them by telling them that if Scotland wants more services than Westminster gives England, then Scotland is going to have to pay for that extra via an extra local income tax.

        1. Anonymous Coward


          I think a Tory victory was Alex Salmonds' second favourite outcome (after outright SNP majority in westminster, natch). The last time Scotland paid more tax than England there was a bit of *ahem* lively opposition. Considering we've just had two of the worst prime minister we've ever seen, Scotland would *still* have elected one of them over a party that, two bloody decades ago, once had Margaret Thatcher as a leader. Don't underestimate the strength of feeling a perceived unfair tax would have in Scotland. Or our ability to hold a grudge.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          taxation for Scotland

          that conversation has already happened. the scottish parliament has had tax-varying powers (in both directions) since it was re-established ~10 years ago. they've just not used them yet. salmond and cameron discussed this when they met after the election. cameron said afterwards he wouldn't intervene if the edinburgh parliament decided to change scottish tax rates.

      2. Jim Morrow
        Paris Hilton

        The Tories in Scotland

        But the Tories are completely finished off in Scotland already. They've got one MP out of 70 or so. They've only won 2-3 seats in the Scottish parliament outright. Most of their presence there is through the top-up list system for PR. Which they opposed.

        Paris icon because her knickers are easier to find than a real Tory in Scotland.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I guess it depends...

    ... on what you are actually studying. Under Labour there was this mad idea that unless you had a university degree you were a nobody.

    What we need is graduates with degrees that are meaningful and useful : degrees in engineering, design, business management and so on. Degrees that will help them get jobs that will actually help boost the UK economy.

    So yes - students going to university just to get a degree that is meaningless and pointless are a burden on the UK tax payer and frankly should be axed.

    1. ElFatbob


      Well said. And as you pointed out, it needs to be in the framework of a 'bigger picture'.

      Where are the growth areas? Well, healthcare is one. Ireland has been churning out lifescience grads and the company i work for has recently invested appx $100M in a facility there. The previous company* i worked for had invested appx $250M in a manufacturing facility there.

      Why? Ireland's Euro troubles aside, they have graduates with the skills they are looking for and an advantageous tax system. Whose to say we can't do the same?

      It's tragic that a large number of grads are comeing out saddled with huge debt and little real chance of anything better than a call centre career. Our young people have been sold a pup....

      * My previous employer will shut down their manufacturing plant in this country sometime in the next few years - it's the most expensive plant in the company to produce the product (of 16 worldwide, inc 3 in the expensive western Europe) . While there, i saw massive efficiences implemented and money saved. Rising corporate tax, expensive employment legislation and increased power costs made sure those saving were negated.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Here, here...

      I recently retired after a lifetime of employing and sometimes being employed by (usually on the sole basis of a degree) people who often had to count on their fingers to do the kind of math I was doing in my head at 10 years old. People who couldn't be trusted to post a letter nor change the batteries in a torch without a user's manual.

      In a range of industrial jobs, it was often my view that we were better off taking the very best of the A-Level or even O-Level stream straight from school and training them than some of the socially and technically-dyslexic 'graduates' inflicted on us. But employers, then and now, do so love those paper qualifications, however irrelevant. Resulting in managers, even heads of department, who couldn't spell or formulate a grammatical sentence and couldn't be trusted with sensitive PR or secure IT.

      It's long been my view that the university system is nature's way of keeping people with no motor skills away from dangerous machinery.

    3. Kerry Hoskin

      waste waste waste

      Spot on! The past government (you know the one that’s left us all deep in the s*it) had this loony idea that 50% need to go to Uni and spent the past few years conning youngsters in to this false dream that they could go to Uni, do their BA in Media studies come out and get a nice well paid job. When in the real World they go to Uni waste 3 years when instead they could have been earning money, get a pointless BA that isn’t really worth the paper it’s written on and gain a nice debt of £20k that’ll take year for them to pay off. Fantastic, plus to get all these extra people to study they have lowered the standard of every qualification from GGSE upwards to make sure people can qualify to get in.

      We used to have a Uni placement student every year in our department, some years we’d have two of them, doing dev work. I was shocked to find out that they can PASS a degree subject with 40% and only need 30% to pass an exam! Bleedy hell that means they can pass and exam not knowing nearly 2/3 of the subject.

      Anyway a little idea why not bring back the grant system for those wanting to study B.Sc or BEng, if this government are serious about science and engineering. If you want to do a BA in Theatre studies, etc take a loan out.

  7. Jimmy Floyd

    Everyone is equal?!?

    They're only a burden because there are so many of them. Thanks to 'Call Me' Tony Bliar's socialist call for 50% of the population to go to University, the value of a degree has been correspondingly eroded. University was always traditionally supposed to be for the academics, and while it might seem lovely and inclusive to get everyone doing it, a large portion of the courses for these new students are entirely useless and will not pay for themselves over the working life of the person concerned.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Eroded? No. Meritocracised? Yes!

      When hardly anyone went for a degree employees didn't need to look at the final grade, just attending university (especially the"right" university) was more than enough to blow bloody doors off. More students have lead to actual ability being important rather than the monies of mummy and daddy.

      We do need a more diverse education system, e.g., we could do with better plumbers/heating engineers like my vocational trained, and well rewarded, brother. We could also do with a decent economy and better-than-moronic business leaders since my other brother has a civil engineering degrees and next to no jobs to apply for.

      I would like to discover in this thread if some actual reports exist that reveal whether the amount spent on students is wisely returned. Only one I've heard about was that the GI bill in the US after WWII had a 1000% return on average per GI that took up the offer and went to college for free... and the US system isn't even a patch on the standards required by UK universities and the rigorous and demanding inspection regime, imagine how much more the return could be...

  8. john loader

    Willetts correct

    And as for primary school children, tax their pocket money and send them up chimneys if they can't pay! All those rich Oxbridge (free ) educated people in Government!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I was going to say the same (sort of) thing!

      I'd like to propose that any civil servant that was involved with and MP that voted for the move to introduce fees and student debt, sorry, loans should be retrospectively charged for their education with interest and inflation taken into account. Freeloading wankers.

  9. dave 93

    Scrap tuition fees and introduce retrospective graduate tax

    Describing students as an unacceptable burden on UK taxpayers is somewhat shortsighted, as these will be the future drivers of the UK economy.

    If the government wants universities to better cover their costs, the government could introduce a retrospective 'Graduate Tax' on earnings of, let's say, 5%, that is paid back to the university they studied at.

    Making it retrospective, by which I mean all graduates would pay it, not that it taxes graduates on past earnings, means that the funding switch can be made immediately, and taxing income make it a progressive tax. Paying it back to the universities they studied at encourages universities to prepare their students to be productive members of society (i.e. earn decent money).

    Of course this will never happen as the government would lose their control of Higher Education funding, and they would all be liable for the tax too.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: dave 93

      Yeah, because nobody else ever benefitted from graduates.

      I mean, nobody was ever helped by a doctor. Nobody uses electronics, or vehicles (or eats food transported by vehicles), or benefits from civil engineering creating the country's infrastructure. Yes, make the doctors et. al pay for the educations that everyone else benefits from.

      Your suggestion of making it retrospective is even better. I mean the UK is not the most attractive place to live and work anyway, so encouraging the educated to move abroad will surely help other countries!

      Yay, I say back to living in caves, killing what you eat (or killing who has something you want).

      (Exception to graduates of the previously mentioned football and bookbinding degrees. Perhaps the government should only sponsor degrees of use to society? If you want to study a different one, pay your own way).

      1. Graham Wilson



        ...And we'll chuck out the Internet too, that came from people learning stuff didn't it?

        Q.: What's the next advance in trade courses going to be?

        A.: Rubbing two sticks together. (We'll all want to keep warm in our caves won't we?)

    2. M Gale

      Student loans are not student grants

      "If the government wants universities to better cover their costs, the government could introduce a retrospective 'Graduate Tax' on earnings of, let's say, 5%, that is paid back to the university they studied at."

      Student loans are already paid back, albeit on special no-interest inflation-only terms. It's taken out of any wages over £15k that you earn, automatically. Only the "maintenance grant" and any university bursary is non-repayable, and the amounts you get of both tend to decrease the more money your household earns.

  10. envmod

    bloody students

    to be honest, i do actually think that the amount of people doing "degrees" is now above the optimum. i say this as I went to universite a few years ago at 27 as a mature student - i'm sorry to say that there were an awful lot of people on my course (and others) who simply would not have got into university a decade or so ago - they are/were just not bright enough. it seems that now pretty much anybody, regardless of their level of intellect, can get into some kind of university and do some kind of degree - often in a subject or area that will prove utterly useless in the real world. uni has now become a place to doss about for another 3 years before you have to get a job (maybe it always was). the problem with this is that a lot of the students who are now at university studying courses in "multimedia" etc have no real aspirations to do anything once they leave - it's just a 2 or 3 year sabattical. an expensive 2 or 3 year sabattical. we are severely lacking in qualified tradespeople, skilled engineers and workers etc in the UK and a lot of current "students" would be much better suited to more vocational education and on-the-job training.

    i don't actually know what my point is, but yeah, BLOODY STUDENTS.

    1. D@v3

      I am inclined to agree.

      Having not been to uni, (didnt see the benefits, didnt want the debt), but living in a uni town, every year, we see a new bunch of kids coming in, doing their Art degrees, their socialism degrees, their classical history and anthropology degrees etc etc, for 3 years.

      In this three years the spend their time enjoying the 'university experience' for many of them it is their first taste of freedom, living away from home, and being exposed to the 'real world'. As a result of this the finish their nice shiny degree, and go and work in Borders (which now unfortunately has shut down), because their extensive knowledge of media and the arts, or whatever, isn't worth the 15-20k worth of debt that they have found themselves with.

      In some cases, it gets worse than this, there are some ex-students that I know, that have tried to convince me that if they can stay in low level employment (not paid enough to be above the 'we're going to start taking your debt from you' mark) for long enough, then the Government will kindly write off their debt.

      I don't know if that is the case or not, but the idea of going to Uni, getting massive debt, then taking a menial job for so long that the government writes you off as a lost cause, seems more than slightly counter productive. On the other hand, I didn't go to Uni, and am currently in greater credit, than a lot of my peers are in debt, and am earning comparable wages in comparable jobs.

      1. Jonathan 10


        "In some cases, it gets worse than this, there are some ex-students that I know, that have tried to convince me that if they can stay in low level employment (not paid enough to be above the 'we're going to start taking your debt from you' mark) for long enough, then the Government will kindly write off their debt."

        I read/was told its 25 years from graduation. Thats a long time on minimal income.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          @Jonathan 10

          That may be a long time on minimal income, or in many cases the time it take to raise a bunch of sprogs.

      2. M Gale

        Re: I am inclined to agree

        If you want to stay in menial work for 25 years, please feel free to live as a pauper.

        As for me, the reason I'm going to university is to avoid being 70 years old and still pushing heavy boxes around a parcel depot.

        But then I'm a little older than your average 18-22 year old "mature" student.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Dear future generations

    Dear future generations,

    Just a little note to say thank you...

    BTW sorry we used all the oil, gas and coal, Oh and don't look at the ban account it might be a little overdrawn for a while!

    To stop you worrying about these things and to make it look like we are doing _something_ we have DNS you do not need educating.

    Don't worry by the time you read this companies like Tescos will have filtered away all the DNS cash. Oh and sorry we also dont want to tax them fairly so err good luck!

  12. M Gale

    It's not just the tories

    I've nearly completed a year of "Access to H.E" course. One of the things I remember from it and various university open days, was the messages from tutors that we're lucky to be going into a degree course now rather than next year. Regardless of who won the election, this was going to happen.

    Basically, over the next few years it's going to get harder and more expensive for anybody to get a university education. Increased fees, as the article suggests, are only the start. I believe a complete abolishment of tuition fee caps is on the cards, and it's only going to get worse.

    If you've not got a uni degree now, I'd suggest you hurry up and start on one before it becomes impossible for anyone on less than £100,000 to even contemplate it.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    If you ask me..

    as a 40 something, it seems now that there are too many courses in pointless subjects (media studies being one example) and the fact that, 20 years ago, it was the really smart pupils that got into Uni and ONLY smart pupils. Seems like any thickett can get in now on some obscure pointless course when really they should be learning how to cook fucking burgers. We dont want more artists, or nail technicians, we want scientists, mathmaticians, physicists etc and its a simple fact that nauturally smart people make better ones!!!!

    Labour and its class-less society ideals really didn't have a clue.

    Rant over

    Flame on.

    1. Steve X
      Thumb Up

      Too true

      What matters is equality of *opportunity*, not blind equality according to the statistics. Everyone should have an equal /chance/ of getting to Uni, if they *want* too and if they are *capable* of it.

      Those too lazy, too thick, or not academic shouldn't be forced to go to Uni at taxpayers' expense just so a government department can boast about meeting its targets. If you are happy making a good living as a competent plumber you're an asset that society needs, and you shoudn't be made to feel bad because you don't have a degree in pipe-bending!

      Labour have always had such a chip on their shoulder about class that they could never see that, though. Still can't.

  14. Rogerborg

    Digs or dole

    If you consider "university" (I use that term in its broadest sense) as an alternative to dossing around on the dole, then it's possibly the least-bad solution.

    Of course, we *could* just re-assign funding to technical colleges and get Yoof out learning trades so that the next generation of plumber will actually speak some version of English, but as we know, asking people to work in return for money is tantamount to slavery. I don't know why you even suggested it, you filthy racialist.

  15. riparian zone

    Why bother? grrr.

    As a man who never went to uni, I understand that education is important (for opportunities in getting laid mainly;-) but also in an economic sense. I recall a story told to me about Finalnd struggling financially when Russia imploded, but they put their money where their mouth is and have a strong science driven education apparently. Oh yes, Nokia is not just a company, its a place.

    It is galling I'm sure for young'uns to put in those years and to come out with a stupid amount of money owing before they've even started earning, more so when their less ambitious 'peers' can do a year or so in a bleedin' college after and start making some decent money quite early on....witness plumbers, sparkies, other tradesmen in demand.

    They took away any financial assistance for the poor kids, and now blame them. bastards.

    p.s. I come from a place where the unemployment has never improved since the 80's.

  16. Neil Lewis

    Then and now

    The university education system has long been used as a way of massaging unemployment figures. A large proportion of students are studying for 'junk' degrees with no prospect of work, simply because they would otherwise be on the dole. For the government, this not only looks better in terms of both unemployment figures and numbers of people in 'higher' education, it also means that a large proportion of the monies paid out will theoretically be repaid, unlike with the dole.

    I was fortunate enough to be at university back in the days when a grant rather than a loan was provided. That was manageable and overall beneficial for the economy so long the number of students was relatively small, degree courses were meaningful in terms of a career and graduates didn't leave the country in droves for better paid jobs abroad.

    The current situation is, frankly, a con and not supportable in the long term.

  17. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Serves this country right

    After the horrific failure of moral judgment that had us launching yet another war against Iraq (yes I know it was Bush's idea but even so), I wished for a new government that would properly punish the Labour Party in particular and also Britain as a whole, and it looks like I've got it. I want everything positive that Labour built in Britain torn down again and I will dance on the bits, singing "You Had It Coming You Xenophobic Jerks" to that tune which I think is by Sousa, you can work it out anyway (anyone?) Specific points that I had in mind: new school buildings, demolished. Well, it doesn't look good for the ones that aren't finished building yet. The wrecking ball is a distinct possibility. Hospitals, I want to see sold. Watch this space. And collapse of further and higher education? I hadn't thought about that, but yes please. Damn you Labour, damn me, damn us all. There is no just God to smite us down, so let's do it ourselves. As a side benefit, with any luck when President Obama wants us to join him invading Iran, which he certainly will, we'll be in no shape to oblige. I know I don't want to go but I don't want the inconvenience of shooting myself either (on the bright side the British Army will probably do that for me whan I tell them).

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't stop there

    How about making the school leaving age 15 again, then we can get rid of all those expensive students that stay on until 18, costing money and not even going to university.

    Perhaps we could look at the less bright ones at say 11 and force them into vocational training, what's the point of teaching music,art, religion to those too thick to make progress and get qualifications, if your going to have an uneducated underclass, it would be ideal to make it a cheap one.

    1. M Gale

      +1 Funny

      Though if you're not joking, you're scary.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The real problem

    The cost of useless courses such as the history and design of surfboards or media studies amongst others is indeed a burden on the tax payer. Also the fact that virtually any tin shed at the bottom of a garden can now apply for university status doesn't help either. There is also the belief that anybody should be able to go to university to study whatever they like, this probably started with specialised courses for the royals so they could get through, didn't one of them study the history of the Queens art collection?

    University status should be granted to a few select centres of learning with real subjects whether they be arts or science courses with limited places and proper government funding. Places should be awarded by a common university entrance exam.

  20. vic 4

    Fees related to courses?

    Pretty much everyone seems agreed we need more people doing engineering, science and the odd other useful course. Why not simply scrap or reduce fees for these courses and increase those on other courses for subjects that are not going to have any noticeable benefit to the country.

    1. ml100
      Thumb Up


      A sliding scale of funding from 0% for Surf Board Design Principles BA all the way up to 100% for Accountancy, Anything Engineering etc.

      Obviously the subsidy should be partially means tested so that we arent giving the children of the highly paid free Law degrees but by no means should we be subsidising Flower Arranging.

      I have no problem with people studying junk degrees if that is their passion, just don't expect tax payers to fund your 3 year holiday.

      1. M Gale


        I'm doing a degree in Computer Games Technology.


        It's basically a computer science course, but has modules that focus on things like user interface design, neural networking, and 2D/3D interactive graphics. Also it's a 4-year sandwich course, so there's every possibility of me spending a year with $_insert_software_house_here, possibly doing basic code-monkey work for code-monkey pay.

        However it has the word "Games" in it. Would that mean less than 100% in your plan? ;)

        1. M Gale

          Well damn.

          Two downvotes. Some people must think computer games tech is one of those "useless" degrees.

          Tell me, oh omniscient downvoters: What's the point of having the best application in the world, if it looks like a bag of shit and has the UI of a 1950s mainframe? Especially in these days of embedded devices with solid state gyroes, accelerometers and high-resolution displays capable of displaying all sorts of.. oh.. interactive 3D graphics?

          Some people just don't know how to think laterally, do they?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fees related to courses?

        From a funding point of view this would be a good idea for serious universities, however on an overall economic level it would make the tax burden worse.

        The real students would be fully funded and paid for which would be good for them, this money would eventually be recouped through income tax.

        However consider the sort of person who would want a new age degree and their potential future earnings. They are guarenteed a cheap loan backed by the government and tax payer, what are the chances they will manage to pay it back? We'll be left with an even large wad of defaulted loans.

      3. Anonymous Coward

        @ml100: I agree appart from...


        If anyone wants to be an accountant they should apply directly to a big accountancy firms after sitting their 'A' levels.

        Not only will they be shown what to do (taught) by people who actually know what they are doing, the companies will pay for your causes/exams, and as you pass them you paid more. It does mean doing night school work rather than getting drink every night, but the end results are:

        No hugh debts, and if your are any good you will already be earning more than the new graduates who turn up in 3 years time.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Accounting

          I wanted to be an accountant but the careers advisor told me I was more suited to being a lion tamer.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    It's pretty clear. . .

    . . and not just from the (unusual) concensus on this board. Too many people have gone to Universities to gain degrees which do not repay the effort or the associated debt once the student graduates. University should be elitist in that you have to have a certain level of ability ot go there but egalitarian in that your financial background should be irrelevant.

    There must be a more efficient way to fund post-school training for those entering non-academic disciplines. I know plenty of bright but non-academic people that would have been wasting their time at University but have done very nicely than you in the 'real world'. Horses for courses and not utopian socialist experiments, please!

  22. Simon Day

    Nonsense targets

    The real nonsense is the target that 50% of school leavers should go to university. This is rubbish! Not everyone needs a degree, and while 3 years of more drinking, socialising and partying is rather fun, you shouldn't expect the rest of us to fund it for you.

    The target should be closer to 20% or 25%, the A levels harder so there is actually a useful distinction for your grades and the courses aimed to actually be useful in future career. That then halves the tax bill. If you want to go further you can increase the fees over all, but add scholarships tapering from full for the top 10% of school leavers down to partial for the next 10%.

    There is no shame in not being academic - for many, on the job experience and training is far more valuable than a degree - this applies to anything from plumbing to junior and middle management

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nonsense targets

      Posting Annon to avoid complaints to relative; you don't know who's reading this.

      I have a relative who is a secondary school teacher; on a number of occasions they have had pupils asking for advise on how to counter the bullying from head teachers trying to make them go to university when they don't want to go.

      They explain to the pupil the fact that all the head teachers want is a better league table position for the school and getting kids into university is an easy and cheap way to do it.

      The recommended response to the bullying is: "Say Yes; but only if they or the school is willy to pay for it".

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Try fixing the root cause first!!!

    Hey, I'm no Tory, but calling them nasty after we've endured the last lot of civil-liberty eroding, loose spending, war mongering dribbling goons is a bit of a stretch!

    It's not the students that are an issue per se, rather the volume of 'em. With courses available like golf course management, hotel and leisure management and other pointless coffee cup degrees it's hardly surprising! What this vapid minister needs to understand is that the leading group of research universities (The Russell Group - are also consistently the leading teaching universities *because* of the research that they do, very definately NOT in spite of it. Even if this isn't taken into account, it's not really a logical leap to suggest that strong research goes hand in hand with strong teaching. Having a university lecturer for a partner, I am fully aware that the majority of them are having to work with students that have been spoonfed their entire academic career. The quality of applicants is dropping year on year, corralating interestingly with the rise year on year in A-level results. Perhaps Her Majesty's Government would do better to look at the compulsory level education system and it inability to produce quality candidate due to teachers not being allowed to teach, through no fault of their own, before they destroy the excellent university system we have in this country. Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting teachers are at fault, far from it, the system is.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      According to a friend who is secondary school teacher...

      The reason that the quality of modern education is so bad is the combination of the league tables and the fact that there are about 7 exam boards.

      The schools don't teach subjects, they train pupils in passing the exams, as this means higher league table scores and it's eaier than teaching the real subject.

      The schools want good pass rates so will always try to use the exam boards that provide the easiest papers, league table rule!.

      The exam boards only get money for the exams that are purchased, so the get lots on money they have to compete for the easiest papers that the government will allow.

      A troll as even he could get degree today!

      End result:

      One 'A' level from 30 years back would be the equivalent of about getting 4 today, with GCSE's having a similar ratio with the old 'O' levels.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Think of it as a business

    Fact is, on average, those with degrees pay more taxes over their lifetimes - much more than the cost to the state of their Universtiy education.

    Overall it makes a profit for the treasury.

    So where is the burdon?

    If you must charge for it, make it loans. By shifting the cost to taxation, you unfairly make those who take "real" degrees pay more, and those who take "pretend" degrees will essentially get away with all of the costs.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      re: Think of it as a business

      That was true 20-30 years ago, but now a graduate is just as likely to spend years flipping burgers.

      Some degree courses should come with a wealth warning:

      "Doing a degree in Media Studies will seriously damage your job prospects"

  25. P. Lee

    internal markets

    It appears that we are reaping the results of money following student "customers" to academic "suppliers." Lots of the junk degrees need to disappear and some structure needs to reward academic achievement, not popularity.

    Yes, I really mean academic achievement, not income-earning projects and commercialisation opportunities.

    Perhaps then universities would then begin to care more about the quality of the students and the education they receive than the income they represent.

    From the other side, education is for the development of the individual. It isn't job training.

  26. Elmer Phud

    first they . . .

    First they devalue Universities by letting anyone open a disused public toilet as a University to increase the numbers of Brits with degrees.

    Then they don't have enough students so open it up to foreign students more in the hope of grabbing huge amounts of dosh.

    After a while (and out of power) they decide that education has been cheapened and there are too many foreign (read as 'not enough rich' foreign) students over here.

    Then there are too many poor people being educated.

    Now it's time to have another go.

    Don't these Tories ever stop fucking up education.

    'Fail' just isn't enough so

  27. phoenix


    are out to mash up everything their dirty little hands were unable to bash up before, using the same old hacked cock they did when Mrs T came to power. "The previous Government has squandered a load of cash and now you will have to pay for it all". Funny back then, as now, circumstances over - took the Labour Government and were beyond most of their control.

    Universities have moved from seats of learning to money grabbing shits who care jack for their students and then complain there still is not enough cash coming in. I remember well under Major when all the freebies were whipped away from us, then students, and the loans came in with the attitude that you , having a degree would earn on average 20 -30 percent more in your working life than without one. Which one would assume we as degree holders wouldin fact pay 20-30 more tax than not having a degree and therefore easily cover any cash the loans were trying to replace.

    This country needs a number; circa 20% of people to go on to higher learning in useful subjects and another 20 % to learn useful trades to replace all the migrant trades-people, that will inevitably go home once they have saved enough cash from working here, at our trades rates, to buy their homes outright, and go on the live a more comfortable life. While we will be left with a massive skills short fall in building and allied trades that will take years to recover from. Bring back Government funded, apprentiships that mean something and train our workers to compete at he highest level with rest of the world.

    Thats my, more than, three penny worth.

  28. lglethal Silver badge

    Dear El Reg...

    Could you please do a ring around to all the MP's and ask them exactly how much they paid in course fees for their University degrees.

    It would be interesting to see because i would guarantee that 99% of the b*stards obtained there degrees in the good ol' days when Univeristy Education was free and paid for happily by the state...

    Isnt it terrific that our wonderful representatives are pulling up the rope behind them that helped them climb to their "successful" careers?

  29. Anonymous Coward

    "Oxbridge go research-only"

    Not as easy as you might imagine, though by no means impossible. There's currently too much money and prestige coming from the sons and daughters of rich folk (mostly foreigners, but maybe the occasional Brit) for Oxford (don't know about The Other One) to go research-only in the short term.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    A Physicist writes

    The "old deal" whereby society paid for a small percentage of bright students to study, in return for cultural, academic and technological enrichment of said society, was a good idea. Labour lost the plot, equating the ideal of equality of opportunity with simple equality - all people are actually equal. They are clearly not, though they are of broadly equal worth. It is an insult that we use only one metric - academic intelligence, and grade 50% of any school year as below average, there are other measures, craftsmanship, leadership, organisation, even simple "graft". Most of the latter set are best taught through direct experience, they are arts not sciences. As a society we cannot afford for 50% of people to lose 3 years of their working life, well not without everyone else having to work a bit harder to cover the gap. There is the question of expectations also, fresh graduates are worth less than they think, its the truth, and this disincentivises them to get on the jobs ladder. Finally, lowering the market value of a degree means less people take "hard" subjects, like Physics, when they can get an equivalent degree certificate in something easier, and possibly with a better grade. Shit, how did we get to this?

    1. Ted Treen


      We got to this by allowing a ruling class of professional politicos - mostly "qualified" as lawyers and/or spin doctors; few of whom have ever had a real job in the real world - to micro-manage our society.

      They're red-hot on social engineering theory, totally lacking in experience and understanding, and the only outstanding feature of the great majority of them is a (misplaced) arrogance and incredible ego.

      T paraphrase King Henry, "Will no-one rid us of these turbulent wofflers?"

  31. Anonymous Cowherder

    Same old tired lines

    "media studies" "worthless degrees"

    I've got a history degree, a "proper" subject. Absolutely worthless, I work in IT. Although I did once use my in-depth understanding of the regency economy to fix a baffling dns problem and my knowledge of the rise of fascism in early 20th century Europe is the cornerstone of our managed desktop strategy (thinking about it, that one might actually be true?)

    What a degree does show is that an employee is capable of performing to a certain level, able to meet deadlines and shows evidence of independent thought. Even if the degree they took contained modules in Madonna's pointy tits, the student would have picked up transferable skills that can be applied in the work place.

    Plus in many (not all, granted) doing a degree does equip a person with the drive to succeed, they've put 3 years in and don't want to get stuck in a bloody call centre taking crap from people on the phone and battling the incoherent IT systems they are forced to work with.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Scrounging, Hypocritical MPs...

    ...considering that the proposal is being announced by an Oxbridge graduate who has likely never paid an ounce of real tax (i.e., MP pay is just recirculation) and therefore never contributed back a penny that my grandparents and parents worked their asses of to pay for.

    I know the 1960s generation venomously hates young people, but when did this move to just hating education and actively limiting ambitions above starting stations in life?

  33. Graham Bartlett

    Need to ask what the point of degrees is

    Why do people want to take a degree? I can think of three reasons. The first is that it provides the necessary basic training in an area where they plan to work. The second is that it teaches them about something they're interested in, with no particular application. And the third is that they want to kill time for a bit, and a degree seems like a good way of putting off working for another 3-4 years.

    In the first case, your degree is a path to a better-paid job. The debt is a bugger, but it's something you can pay off with the increased wages. And the jobs that result from this provide the country as a whole with innumerable benefits from the skilled workforce.

    In the second case, it benefits no-one except yourself, really. If you want to pay for it then fine, but there's no particular reason to expect anyone else to pay for you. I've done a few adult-education courses (tai chi, dance, languages) and I didn't expect anyone to subsidise my hobbies. Some funding to ensure the most skilled practicioners keep up a high standard is acceptable (subsidise top orchestras, for example), but otherwise this is just a hobby and you can damn well pay for it yourself. £20K for three years being taught a hobby? That's not a bad deal.

    And in the third case, if you're just tatting around at uni to pass the time then I've got sod all sympathy for you.

    What unis - and students - need to realise is that parrotting "20% more salary for graduates" is a load of old cock. A very cursory look at job prospects in the field you're choosing to study will tell you whether there are real jobs out there or not. And for the vast majority, the answer is "not". Forensic science? 2-digit numbers of new jobs a year, with a 3-digit graduate count. Music technology? Single-digit new jobs, with a 4-digit graduate count. If you've got any kind of brains and drive, you'll get a shitload more out of 3 years of working from the ground up than you'll get from 3 years of uni.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    How ironic it is....

    That people posting here see themselves as paragons of the well educated citizen. Yet... 85% of them seem to have had their cranial cavities filled with two decades of spin about nearly everything to with "NuLab" and specifically here "Students & Higher Education".

    1 ) When Labour was Socialist in the 1970's and came to power the Saudi's and others pulled their money out of London, that precipitated the decline of the Economy in that period. Fear of "Socialism" by wealthy foreign investors killed the Economy.

    2) New Labour is not socialist. It is in fact similar in principle to the Tories, the one difference being that New Labour invested in the Welfare State. However both parties have applied principles of management in Private Industries to the Public Sector.

    3) New Labour did not cause the global financial meltdown, bad loan books that were given AAA ratings by the rating companies who had no understanding of these new SFV's did.

    4) The current deficit was caused by this collapse not by Labour "overspending" on Public Services and in this case Education.

    5) The Myth that all this debt has to be paid off quickly seems to have established itself in the minds of the weak willed. Historically debt of this size was easily managed over the period of a few decades without destroying economic growth and the public sector. Our current debt is minuscule in comparison to that which the country had after the 7 Years War and World War 2.

    6) The Tories have basically created this idea of a "debt crisis" that doesn't actually exist as a convenient vehicle for dismantling the state including the bits there are actually quite vital.

    7) This country has principle areas of industry. Currently much of that industry is tertiary. There are very few useless degrees despite the vitriolic spewings of those who have jump on the "Bash the Students" bandwagon. Take the example of Book Binding that is sited. Book Binding is a damn difficult vocation it requires a lot skill especially when we're talking about restoration, which is an expensive business. Book restoration is an incredibly lucrative business and there is a demand for it.

    8) The issue here is that Supply and Demand are very rarely at parity there may be too many Golf Course management graduates out there and too few Golf Courses. Whether you believe Golf Course Management could be taught at a college or isn't worthy of a degree is either here nor there.

    9) In addition the state is getting £15,000 + Interest back from that student in most cases a Graduate will always end up earning more than £15,000 per year. Rather than a burden Students are actually paying into the Higher Education system and Government coffers.

    10) Equality has been mentioned here, Some people seem to have this frankly insane notion that people who are stupid or lazy are born that way, They are not in many cases they may well come from a background of abuse or poverty, or sometimes even the reverse where smothering and wealth have made them idle. Either way the point is trying to give as many people as possible a civilized education is an attempt to remedy that issue of inequality a noble if somewhat unachievable aim.

    11) Is mass unemployment and a large unskilled underclass of middle class waifs and strays really going to be more cost effective for Government than at least trying to make them useful to society even if many of them end up working in Advertising ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How ironic it is....

      Ignoring most of your points due to them being more like a party political broadcast than anything to do with the topic in question and focussing on a couple of them, 7 and 8.

      Nobody has suggested that certain tasks are not necessary, undesirable nor a waste of time merely that having a degree in such subjects is. Your examples are ideal. there is no need for a class full of students learning book binding nor golf course management. The former would be more suited to a master craftsman / apprenticeship model. The latter to less intensive on the job training with maybe a weekend jolly on how to ride a lawn mower, hardly befitting of a centre of learning. In both cases the trainee would not be taking valuable resources from the education system and would be getting paid rather than paying.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        How ironic it is....

        The earlier points I believe were dealing with the claptrap people were loading their comments with including, tripe like "When Labour get in the they always ruin the economy and the Conservatives have to fix it !11!?"

        As for Golf course Management I believe a good case can be made for it as a degree. Essentially managing a Golf Course involves, Design & Implementation, Business and Accounting as well as managing the ecology and biology of the course itself along with perhaps some minimal chemistry.

        Similar can be said of Book Restoration/Binding, though in this case the work of skilled artisans and some elementary chemistry is all that is required, Perhaps not University level stuff, however it is a dying industry that oddly is still in demand especially as Antique books always need restoration at some point. Therefore it is something that must be preserved as there are so few practitioners local colleges may not be able to find staff to do it so County Universities are probably the best place for it in those terms.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: How ironic it is....

      "That people posting here see themselves as paragons of the well educated citizen. Yet... 85% of them seem to have had their cranial cavities filled with two decades of spin about nearly everything to with "NuLab" and specifically here "Students & Higher Education"."

      Especially the latter, but then again we're back to the debating ways of the Britards. Now, I'll go along with your points (1) and (2), but then it starts to fall apart:

      "3) New Labour did not cause the global financial meltdown, bad loan books that were given AAA ratings by the rating companies who had no understanding of these new SFV's did."

      Whether it was "no idea" or whether the ratings agencies were participants in the fraud, those instruments were fraudulent, like relabelling out-of-date produce and selling it as fresh produce. Now...

      "4) The current deficit was caused by this collapse not by Labour "overspending" on Public Services and in this case Education."

      This may also be true. The amount of "missing money" (hint to prosecutors: ask the people who cooked the books) may even dwarf spending on illegal wars, but a large amount of money in the form of general prosperity became available for spending by the government. Because lenders were not knowingly staring into the abyss, it became possible to borrow at reasonable rates, and that's what happened throughout the land.

      Points (5), (6) and (7) I'll go along with, too. The book-binding point is very well made. As for point (8), even one golf course is one too many. ;-)

      And I agree with your remaining points. In fact, the Britard representatives of the governments of the last few decades - so that's Tory and Labour - have neglected the well-being of education in the land, either penny-pinching because the money is "needed" elsewhere ("Sir Rupert needs another few million to spend on guns and tanks!") or corrupting the purpose of an education system by letting anyone and their dog/god peddle filler material so that pupils leave school with little more than an indoctrination handed down by those who devised the deficient curriculum in question.

      That's why the average Britard sentiments of "bloody students" and "free degrees for everybody" (exercise: join the rhetoric up with the political party concerned) are inadequate knee-jerk reactions to a problem that nobody wants to address, because it would require actual thought sustained over more than a minute. Education should be about giving everyone the tools they need to be social, confident and competent participants in a modern society. The issue being avoided is how the pieces - including the university system - can be put (back) together to deliver precisely this thing that society desperately needs.

  35. Mr F&*king Grumpy

    Oh, the memories...

    Get those students off our backs

    Cut their grants

    Cut our tax!!

    Socialist Wiiirker, Fatcher Ahrt, Save the GLC

    Small boys, jumpers for goalposts


  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Education is an investment for a community, not a burden.

    It only becomes a burden if someone has the hare brained idea that everyone should get maximum education whether they and society benefits for it sufficiently or not, and is in a position to force that through.

    But no society would be that stupid, would they ?

  37. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Free Money dreamers gonna keep on dreaming

    That is all

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Do the maths

    I graduated in 2005 so aren't lucky enough to have my loan wiped out after 25 years as newer loans are. I currently owe around £18k. If I only earn average wage then the loan will NEVER be repaid. Hopefully I will eventually earn above average wage but with more and more people going to University the value of the degree is dissolving so this becomes more and more unlikely. So as the article states something needs to be done about this because it's unsustainable.

  39. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Show the kiddies the brutal truth.

    List course Vs Grade Vs *average* salary on completion.

    Let them make up their *own* minds.

    My instinct is you'd get a glut of people in something as the top earning potential shifted around between subjects, at *first*.

    Then people would settle down. The money chasers would continue to chase the money. People who'd been brainwashed since birth to go into the family profession would still do so and everyone else would either aim to make average (because they were OK with living on that to begin with) or accept that they'd have to work damm hard at their chosen profession if they wanted to make better.

    This doesn't resolve *how* you fund but it might make for more *informed* decisions.

    Finally an actual function for a government (or actually QUANGO) run website.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    degree of excellence

    Ok, im going to stoke the fire on this one, in my opinion a degree is a "degree of excellence" ie it should be only for those with exceptional abilities within an academically excepted subject.

    at this moment in time students fall out of school or college an move in to uni not because they are looking to become a highly educated professional, they do it because its the socially excepted thing to do. I mean come on, we all want our kids to do well and would rather they went to uni because that’s what they have to do, isn’t it?

    well that’s crap, in all my years employing people i no longer look at academic qualifications beyond high school, if they have something more than good for them but it won’t get them a job, the simple reason is any idiot out there can get some form of degree or another and most of those people are completely detached of the reality of work they are almost worse than useless.

    People who have worked their way through job positions have a much firm grasp of work and their abilities tend to be much stronger.

    The simple fact is this, the world is full of jobs, and only a small percentage need degrees, if you put everyone through a degree you devalue the degree, people who have worked hard at a degree suddenly find it hard to get a job because they all want the best spots, they then may feel cheated when they cant get "that" job they wanted, is it their fault? no its not, its this nation we live in that has made a degree in to something its not meant to be, its be made in to part of the standard education system which it should never be.

    I feel sorry for students now, but i can promise you something, if you leave school, work hard you can go anywhere and the chances are you will be a better person for it when you make that top job.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mad Cow Thatcher

    will be chuckling contentedly to herself.

    Damn the woman.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    "unacceptable burden"

    Amazing how much of a unacceptable burden I feel paying all that extra tax as a result of the wages I can now command because of my degree.

    How about a deal. I will pay back every penny (including interest) on every penny spent on my university education if i get taxed the same as an average taxpayer?

    I will be up on the deal by the end of the year!

  43. Captain Thyratron

    Most of these people are better off with a McJob. No, really.

    It will be this way as long as we pervert the purpose of universities.

    There are three especially pernicious lies:

    That university education is for everybody;

    That university education is a means to an end, namely to put a feather in your cap so you can get a job;

    That you need a university education to get a good job.

    Sadly, the pervasive belief in the first and second have made the third true in some places, which only makes things worse. Eventually they'll all be true, and by then, we won't have universities anymore--just an expensive and unnecessary extension to public schools. If we understood the point of universities, there wouldn't be degree-mills. I get spam from those on a daily basis.

    The function of higher education is to enrich a civilization by cultivating science, philosophy, the arts, and literature, and to educate people whose function in society is to preserve its accumulated intellect and to further it. Universities are not a means to an end! They are not job training! They have no commercial purpose, and they turn to shit when you give them one! Nobody should be at a university who is not there for the sake of learning--and learning for the sake of learning. What you do with that learning is your business and yours alone, but you should not be there unless you want to learn. I do not want to hear another student say that he is only here because he will make a lot of money with a degree in material science--and woe is he that he should have to learn calculus and organic chemistry, because he doesn't like learning; he just wants the qualifications because he likes MONEY--but I know I will hear it, or something analogous to it, from hundreds more (many of whom will fail out when they realize that they have to learn; worried as I am by their presence, I will really start to worry when these sort of people STOP failing).

    If you want job training, that's what trade schools are for--or, hey, get this, apprenticeships! But nobody does that anymore for some reason or other. Alternatively, you could just go out and GET A JOB. There is work out there, mostly shunned by new entrants to the workforce who think that their working lives should start with a nice office with a fat salary that they did nothing to earn. Will your first job be awesome and profitable? No, because you have no work experience! Curiously, this is usually still true even if you have a degree--except that now you have wasted four years and a heap of cash, while you would already be employed and have years of work experience--which would let you get a better job, because now people know you an hold a damn job and get work done, unlike the average college student--if you simply hadn't bothered with college.

    The only jobs that genuinely need college education are jobs that actually involve some kind of hard science, heavy mathematics, or engineering skills--but that stuff is actually hard, and stuff which you will be no good at learning unless you actually enjoy learning it, so most folks who go to a university would rather avoid that when they've been told all their lives that a degree in technical communication, business administration, or something equally worthless will land them a fat paycheck in some job where they get paid to do nothing important. I do not mean to discredit the liberal arts--however, those are definitely not something you study for money. But you shouldn't study anything just to make money! Like ANY academic subject, you should study them because you enjoy learning them.

    Three centuries from now, nobody will care how many people went to Cambridge because it would make their résumés look better; plenty of people, however, will remember such names as Isaac Newton, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and Stephen Hawking, and ideas like Newtonian mechanics and the physics of black holes. Nobody will care how many white-collar tools went to the California Institute of Technology so that they could pursue unremarkable lives in cubicles doing shit nobody cares about; they will, however, remember Richard Feynman and quantum electrodynamics. That's what univesities are for. Consider Grigori Perelman, the mathematician who proved the Poincaré cojecture. He cracked one of the hardest nuts in the history of mathematics--one of the millenium prizes--and turned down not only the million-dollar prize, but the FIELDS MEDAL! He didn't care about money or prestige. He cared about mathematics. That's the kind of guy who ought to be at a university.

    If any of these cubicle rats do go on to do something that makes them famous, does anyone care which university they attended, or even, indeed, whether they attended one at all? We remember Bill Gates and Steve Jobs because they made a huge mark on the world and ran very successful businesses; yet, neither even finished college. (Scott McNealy did, and I hear his company's doing just swell!)

    As long as we value universities as no more than a means to an end, rather than value learning and the cultivation of culture and intellect in their own right, we will have this mess. I have to agree with this guy--in its present state, higher education is a burden on society because it has lost sight of its purpose, and now taxpayer money pays for thousands of people to have expensive, largely unnecessary résumé-padding. It's been watered down to that, and it's terrible. I do not object to how much money goes into universities, but to what little it accomplishes as things stand, and what this idea that universities are just a means to an end has done to universities.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    "If you want job training, that's what trade schools are for--or, hey, get this, apprenticeships! But nobody does that anymore for some reason or other. "

    I presume you mean that no UK business does that any more, in which case I agree in general, which is a considerable shame. Many years ago, I had the benefit of a "graduate apprenticeship" on an EITB-approved IEE-approved scheme. EITB gone, IEE/IET irrelevant, and training largely non-existent where I work now.

    But in the real world, in the bigger picture, as far as I know, our economic competitors (Germany etc) still do apprenticeships or equivalent, and they definitely understand the value of post-school education, whether it be an academic degree or something more practical.

    Speaking of Germany, here's a thought for those who say low cost manufacturing in China has permanently destroyed Western manufacturing opportunities. Go buy an Aldi own-brand product (presumably Lidl too, don't know for sure). Check out where it's made. Chances are it will be made in Europe (quite possibly Germany) by a European company. Now try the same in Tesco or Wal-mart. Why the difference?

    The US and UK may have abandoned manufacturing and the associated jobs to the great god Global Capitalism, but many other countries/companies/governments haven't been so utterly stupidly shortsighted.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @AC 09:45

      Bang on about Germany. Here competative manufactring output means she was / is in the black wrt her economy (more product flowing out that being bought in). Off topic: I am waiting for the fight between Osbourne and Cable that will smash up the ConLibs.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Only fund science, maths, medicine and engineering courses/students. If you wanna learn something else you're welcome to it but you're paying full price.

    If you can wrap your head around science and maths, you can wrap it around pretty much anything else you're interested in doing. Developing countries know this, that's why you won't catch any child in China spouting off about how he hates maths. Something's gone horribly wrong in England when the ability to perform even basic mental arithmetic is seen as uncool and unnecessary by school children, and shockingly, some graduates too. It's okay to be bad a maths, it's the fact that many people are actually proud of their lack of ability that is disturbing. There should be no way that people like that can make it into university and get a degree.

    Also, I think that maybe 18 is a bit young for a university education. There's a world of choices out there, even within the field you're interested in studying. People are shoehorned into making a choice in their spare time as they do their A levels - and half of them end up dropping out a year later when they realise their course is nothing like what they actually expected. This happens because people make their choices having had no grounding in reality, most of them have only worked a fortnight in their life before attending a university.

    So here's my suggestion, it should be common practice to send people out to work for a year or 2 after they do their A levels, it's not all that important what they do or where, it's the real world experience that counts - and the free time to make a real decision about their future, at their leisure, based on the things they learn about the world and themselves having actually lived in it for a while. What's the rush?

    Better to learn anything now rather than take the time to figure out what you actually want to learn? No, wrong.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dirty Dancing

    My neice started taking a media studies course and the teacher openly admited that her favourite film of all time was Dirty Dancing.

    That tells me all I need to know about waste in higher education.

  47. Ascylto


    Why are we even listening to "two brains" Willetts?

    Did he get his degree(s) in a brown paper envelope like the bribe he took to ask questions in the House? Yes, some of us are old enough to remember the dissembling Willetts ... money-grubbing scumbag.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      .... Lol !

      Ah yes involved with the Al' Fayed and Tiny Roland vendetta...

      Dec 1996 - David Willetts forced to resign over an investigation into Neil Hamilton that found that Willets had lied and rigged evidence over 'Cash for Questions'.

      You see... Sleaze though not uniquely Tory now days is was and will forever be their hallmark.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ... MOAR FAIL.

    "Ok, im going to stoke the fire on this one, in my opinion a degree is a "degree of excellence" ie it should be only for those with exceptional abilities within an academically excepted subject."

    No. this is not true and it's "accepted" not excepted. For example the majority of graduates since Universities began during the Norman period we're not populated by such people. Most came from rich backgrounds a few from exceptionally poor. In addition many many geniuses from the time of written history onwards were not University educated. People like Thomas Paine for example, son of a corset maker... became one of the fathers of American Independence, taught himself. No my friend University is not about excellence it's about learning how to think.

    "There are three especially pernicious lies:

    That university education is for everybody;"

    No the issue here is that people believe getting certificates equates with better pay and work, this is not the point of University. The point of University is to make people think, is to show people the world is not black and white, it is to prepare them for the task of having to understand how the world works, a key fundamental for any citizen dealing with conundrum of who should run the country... Though I guess we could go back an era where 70% of the electorate voted based on the Sun and who it sponsors.

    The real issue here is that compulsory education up to 16 does not equip young people with the mental faculties to be going citizens, this is why we have a pretend democracies run buy Foreign Investors, The Markets & Big Business.

    "Only fund science, maths, medicine and engineering courses/students. If you wanna learn something else you're welcome to it but you're paying full price."

    Yes, if you believe that human beings only need to understand the empirical sciences to exist as a civilization then by all means just stick to that. Though as we have noted scientists time and again have no moral compass (A-Bomb, Gas Chambers... etc) and that they are easily led astray by ill meaning politicians. That is why we need to have Philosophy, Political Science, Languages, History etc (I assume Geography, Geology, Psychology and so fourth would come under you banner of empirical studies). Furthermore than that we need Musicians, Artists and the such to make our time on this planet more colourful than that of the machine man in the machine society that you envisage.

    In closing the real problem here is two fold, firstly the belief and perhaps truth that Graduates are superior to others, this is not so much the case now but it would be if we restricted entry, this in itself causes problems with regards society. People believe falsely that a Graduate of Mathematics for example would make a better MP than a Master Craftsman and so we return to a society where the Glass Ceiling gets thicker.

    Secondly the compulsory education system is the root cause of this, many people would not need to go to university if the education provided by the age of 16 or 18 was to such a standard that the recipients were able to think for themselves. I would suggest to begin with that we scrap RE and replace it with Philosophy, secondly I would argue that Political Science should be a compulsory course as should Economics and Computer Science (Not IT) at KS3, GCSE & A'Level. It is clear that as a Nation we are not teaching children to think freely and critically, we are merely programming them to do jobs and denying them the ability and mental tools to ask Why?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      why Anonymous?

      Firstly i understand your point of and for the most part i agree, the standard education system doesn’t bring up students to a decent level, i don’t think this is nationwide, teachers are the key and i believe many students out there are a lot better off for these teachers. However, university is a level of education that should be designed to target individuals in a particular area, these people do not need to be rich, but they do need to know why they are doing it, not simply to extend their education an ignore the realities of life around them for a few more years.

      This is actually very simple, Universities are not the means to an end for most people there are better ways and you may be a better person for taking them, they are however the doors to specific areas of interest, universities are NOT a continuation of the standard education system and until as a nation we stop this idea we are only going to be creating a worse problem.

      In my chain of work i do not value a degree of any sort unless they can back it up with ideally experience or with basic common sense, good work ethic and a strong determination to progress, you can never keep the good ones, I’m happy just to help them along the way

      With the quality of some individuals who approach me who have finished degrees who expect to get good jobs because of a bit of paper will have a hard lesson to learn.

      Currently we are a top down society, lower positions are not taken despite huge unemployment because everyone thinks they are better than that, this has to change.

  49. Mr. Ed

    How about a third option?

    It seems this article and most of the replies assume that either the government pays for higher education or the populace is doomed to remain in permanent ignorance.

    We used to recognize a third option -- namely, that motivated and capable people, recognizing (all by themselves) the benefits of investing in their future, would sacrifice and save for their own education. Parents, wanting the best for their children, would save so their children might have a brighter future than their own. This used to be how most people financed their education.

    Yes, it is valuable to society to have an educated workforce. However, I would argue that is is even more important that people have a sense of empowerment and responsibility for their own lives and destinies. Expecting other people to feed, clothe and educate you is more fitting for infants.

  50. trafalgar

    Short-sighted move.

    A boring world. Science and maths only? A limited range will stifle innovation. Discoveries in one area can help developments in another area. We are a DEVELOPED country and that is why we have lots of "soft" subjects, why we have "soft" industries, film, tv, games, professional sports, books, magazines...

    We need more graduates, it will encourage growth and developments of new industries and markets in the long term.

    After spending ~£50,000/child tax payers money on educating kids from primary to GCSE, is it right that they fail to go to University? Should they become cleaners and burger flippers? How many years of work before they pay the tax payers back? Should we not expect them to go into higher paid jobs and pay more tax? The burden on the tax payers are people brought up here ages 5 - 16 and don't get good jobs/ become unemployed, waste their benefits on booze and burgers, and then become a further drain on the NHS.

    The Tories banning free swimming is also short-sighted. In the long-term it would have saved the NHS bilions (reduced obesity and muscular/skeletal problems).

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