/ The Value of Education

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Jon Stewart - on 28 Apr 2013
What ever it is, it's wasted on the young.

Anyway, this is from another thread that went wildly off-topic:

>Jimbo W in reply to Jon Stewart:

Before you said:
> And a mature economy is not only good at creating wealth for the sake of it, it generates value from that wealth: money alone does not advance humanity, but art, science, technology and medicine do.

And I was very pleased to see the inclusion of "art" in your list, and for the same reason I disagree with your view on uni:

> Certainly require education, but I'm not that convinced it's fair to fund university education from general taxation. That means that poor people's VAT gets spent on rich people's pointless degrees in classics and so forth. So long as people don't have to pay up front (so that only the rich can afford it) I think it's OK that the people who benefit from higher earnings pay for the qualifications that got them there.

My brother is an architect who works for a large well renowned firm who has spent the last few years working on a large project housing 200 or so condominiums that will retail for >£1million each with an estimated building life usage of approximately 2000 couples/families. These of course will only be available to a very small subset of society. In contrast, he would like to move into furniture design because he realises that making 1 chair can be affordable to almost anyone within society, is more directly creative and so is more valuable for him, and could be utilised by tens of thousands of bums. He wouldn't earn much money doing it, but he'd create what he feels would be much more value for himself and others. My other brother is a professional musician who earns very little and survives by virtue of family and friends, and a small footprint in life. He loves what he does, producing art / music, being in touch with composers throughout history, and being able to translate that knowledge into something that can be appreciable by 100s to 1000s or through media many more people, not just now, but also well into the future.

My point is that there is a tacit appeal to the requirement of any education (or even more basic activity within society) to always have technical and capitol value within society. I disagree fundamentally with that. There should be equal value in those things that produce intrinsic value quite separate from technical or capitol value, and which earn those who engage those non-vocational, non export productive value subjects, next to nothing . For that reason, it cannot be right that people be expected to fund their education, because it imposes fundamental biases in what subjects are actually psychologically feasible to undertake. Worse, the reality is also that we cannot expect the young to read the future sufficiently to know what the society will require from them in expertise.


I agree with a lot of this. A system which boiled down the value of education only to its financial return to the 'educatee' would destroy a lot of stuff, which you rightly point out has intrinsic value but little pay-back into the economy. But it doesn't follow from there that all education must be funded from general taxation.

Education has to be paid for by someone. I'm currently doing a vocational degree which will give me very specific skills that I will then 'sell' in the market. They're also skills which benefit society more generally (it's healthcare stuff that I'll use in the private sector). So who's best to fund my education? I would say me. I want the skills, I'll get the return (as will my employer) and no one has to bribe me to choose this career (and thus get the wider benefits from society). So me taking tax-payers' money for it would be dead-weight: I'd have done the degree anyway (so long as I could borrow the money).

In the case of many non-vocational degrees, we want our society enriched with this knowledge, but the 'educatees' probably can't fund it themselves. So there should be public money going into them. One possible way is through the money that gets loaned to students but never paid back - there you go, a public-funded arts degree. And if the 'educatee' happens to make a load of money, then us taxpayers can have our money back - winner!
Tall Clare - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I'll be interested to see how this thread pans out - I studied Fine Art at university, graduating fifteen years ago, and I find myself wondering, from a financial perspective, whether I could 'justify' studying a non-vocational subject of that nature nowadays.
Jon Stewart - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Tall Clare:

If you didn't have pay the loan back 'til you were on a decent wage, what would stop you?

Nowt wrong with doing the degree for the sake of it, spending years earning less than the threshold, then eventually paying it back once you can afford to.

There are a couple of problems with the current system

1. The price is wrong. Degrees aren't worth £9k per year, it's a rip-off.
2. It's impossible to retrain. Once you've had your loan, if you decide you want another degree, because of the silly prices, it's unaffordable and there are no other sources of credit.

So anyone going to uni in the next couple of years: this is your only chance, choose the right course and don't cock it up!
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> (
> There are a couple of problems with the current system
>
> 1. The price is wrong. Degrees aren't worth £9k

9k is cheap for what you get at a good university and less than it costs to deliver.

In reply to MG: I find that really hard to believe.

Jimbo W on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> If you didn't have pay the loan back 'til you were on a decent wage, what would stop you?

One's psychology!

> Nowt wrong with doing the degree for the sake of it, spending years earning less than the threshold, then eventually paying it back once you can afford to.
>
> There are a couple of problems with the current system
>
> 1. The price is wrong. Degrees aren't worth £9k per year, it's a rip-off

Too right.. ..I couldn't agree more. Student's are being a sold a total dud. But Universities are businesses now.. ..its all about money. Sister in final year English:
- 2 lectures a week
- reading list for year of 10 books
- only two examined, told in advance
- 1-2 tutorials a week

> 2. It's impossible to retrain. Once you've had your loan, if you decide you want another degree, because of the silly prices, it's unaffordable and there are no other sources of credit.

Also true, but for so many things, needing a university education is ridiculous.. ..apprenticeships are no longer ever enough. Everyone is forced to get qualifications.

> So anyone going to uni in the next couple of years: this is your only chance, choose the right course and don't cock it up!

Which of course is impossible.

I'm in the lab, and about to get busy, so I'll have to get back to the thread on this.
Jimbo W on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

> 9k is cheap for what you get at a good university and less than it costs to deliver.

As a lecturer, I really don't think that's true.
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: Which part, both? cf school fees
Tall Clare - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
>
>
>
> Too right.. ..I couldn't agree more. Student's are being a sold a total dud. But Universities are businesses now.. ..its all about money. Sister in final year English:
> - 2 lectures a week
> - reading list for year of 10 books
> - only two examined, told in advance
> - 1-2 tutorials a week
>

But on the other hand... I'm lecturing on a photography degree course at the moment, and while the students might only have a limited amount of contact time, the amount of work they're expected to juggle and deliver is pretty impressive/extremely expensive for them. I think that particular course is an expensive one to run because of all the equipment they need access to - and I also think that measuring the value of a course by the amount of hours one has to spend in a particular location (e.g. in lectures) isn't the right way to assess the worth of a course.


Jon Stewart - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> [...]
>
> 9k is cheap for what you get at a good university and less than it costs to deliver.

Are you sure? I'm paying the 'going rate' for my degree (no help from govt, it's my second) and it's £6k, that's from before the policy changed and I guess it's what the international students pay. It's optometry, which I imagine is about as expensive to deliver as you can get - large amounts of very expensive equipment (£20K per slit-lamp I think, for a start) and loads contact time (so many supervised lab/clinic sessions every week plus all the lectures).

If it's costing more than £9k to deliver an academic degree, someone needs to have a look if there's a way to do it cheaper!
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
Jimbo W on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

The quality of university education being delivered is appalling and is only worth £9k by virtue of being a tick in the box that's increasingly necessary.
Tony the Blade on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> [...]
>
> 9k is cheap for what you get at a good university and less than it costs to deliver.

In a class of 20? 20 x £9,000 is £180,000 - half a dozen lecturers (shared with other years/classes), a couple of admins, a caretaker: would that equal £180,000? I doubt it
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Tony the Blade: labs libraries it offices support staff etc. Average academic employment costs alone will be more than 60k
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> The quality of university education being delivered is appalling and is only worth £9k by virtue of being a tick in the box that's increasingly necessar

Well many overseas students profound ly disagree and pay around 15k a year. All rankings of universities also disagree with many uk institutions in the top 50.
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]
>
> Are you sure? I'm paying the 'going rate' for my degree (no help from govt, it's my second) and it's £6k, that's from before the policy changed and I guess it's what the international students pay.

That subsidised heavily. International fees will be aroumd 15k
Tony the Blade on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Tony the Blade) labs libraries it offices support staff etc. Average academic employment costs alone will be more than 60k

Yes, as would all other extras like café staff, cleaners etc, but that cost is shared by all, not a single student. I still doubt it costs £9k p/a to be taught to degree level.

Obviously I could be wrong as I can't back up my thoughts with facts, this is UKC after all! ;-)
Jon Stewart - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

Interesting that Cambridge manage to spend such an incredible amount of money on teaching people humanities. But I suspect that there is a huge difference between Oxbridge and Red Bricks but not much difference between the Red Bricks and the others.

Trouble is, the govt have concocted a weird free market/not free market hybrid where all the basic principles governing price are completely to cock.
Jimbo W on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

> Well many overseas students profound ly disagree and pay around 15k a year. All rankings of universities also disagree with many uk institutions in the top 50.

They may well, but that's trading on historic reputation and the rankings are highly subjective, self-congratulatory bollocks that produce an inevitable inflated opinion of themselves.
Jon Stewart - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> [...]
>
> That subsidised heavily. International fees will be around 15k

I'm not certain about that, but it's hard to find out now the prices aren't current. My impression was that most of the degrees at Bradford are cheap as chips to run, and the poor bastards on those courses subsidise me to do something useful and expensive!
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MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart: Certainly overseas students subsidize home students. The true cost is between the two numbers.
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: No it is very current and there are a variety of independent rankings that are compiled outside the Uk, including China. UK HE is world leading.
Jimbo W on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

> (In reply to Jimbo W) No it is very current and there are a variety of independent rankings that are compiled outside the Uk, including China. UK HE is world leading.

Can you point me to some of the ranking data used? Everything I've seen is derived from non-objective measures that are self professed / evalued. Even externally audited assessments, like the old RAE, were highly subjective and easily distorted..

Start looking at objective measures and things are turned on their head. E.g. medicine in Dundee... ranked one of the top courses in the UK. If you look at graduates ability to achieve passes in postgraduate professional exams, which should be a good objective measure of learning, and basic fundamental ability, Dundee is second worst in MRCP exams (this is main set of professuibal exams for general medicine)

..but everything I've seen suggests a fundamental dichotomy in what is being assessed. Universities ranked highly are one's that produce products other than undergraduate education.. ..particularly research, and particularly research that has commercial value for universities, widening their funding avenues.
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Tall Clare: Surely artists are rather well-placed currently with various new media all requiring artistic input . Not to mention advertising and so on that the Uk is good at? Saatchis did OK:-)
ebygomm - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Tony the Blade:

Only x20? I had plenty of lectures that had 100+ students in them
Tall Clare - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

I did an exercise with the photography students recently where we looked at the amount of skills they gather - even through one project to do with putting on an exhibition they've been using project management skills, budgeting, collaborative working, figuring out marketing, negotiation skills, etc. I took great delight in pointing out that their colleagues in, say, maths, wouldn't be developing any of these very useful and versatile workplace skills... :-)
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: Try QS ranking for starters. A lot on Wiki. But the most compelling indicator is the number of overseas students in the UK - they aren't here due to historic reputation at 15k/year.
Tony the Blade on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to ebygomm:
> (In reply to Tony the Blade)
>
> Only x20? I had plenty of lectures that had 100+ students in them

I was being conservative - there were about 30 in my class.

I'd have thought the average across all subjects would be about 20. Nowt more scientific than a guess :-)
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Tony the Blade:
> (In reply to ebygomm)
> [...]
>
> I was being conservative - there were about 30 in my class.
>
> I'd have thought the average across all subjects would be about 20. Nowt more scientific than a guess :-)

That's not far off.
Jimbo W on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jimbo W) Try QS ranking for starters. A lot on Wiki. But the most compelling indicator is the number of overseas students in the UK - they aren't here due to historic reputation at 15k/year.

Those that are here doing medicine are. That and good marketing!
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: So you think your students are guillible idiots. Fair enough. I respect them a little more.
Jon Stewart - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart) Certainly overseas students subsidize home students. The true cost is between the two numbers.

Seems to me we're getting very distracted by the delivery cost of Cambridge degrees (surely not at all representative of HE) and the prices charged to international students (who presumably get some kind of added value from having studied in the UK?). Surely the international student prices are a function of the costs left over (that needed to go to subsidise UK students) from the old govt funding + top-up fees system?

I don't think that it can be baldly stated that students are getting great value at £9k when it's mistakenly become the set price for everything from neuroscience at Oxford to hospitality management at Slough Ring Road University.
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> (In reply to MG)
UK?). Surely the international student prices are a function of the costs left over (that needed to go to subsidise UK students) from the old govt funding + top-up fees system?
>

No its an internationally competitive amount. More in US.

> I don't think that it can be baldly stated that students are getting great value at £9k when it's mistakenly become the set price for everything from neuroscience at Oxford to hospitality management at Slough Ring Road University.


True. I was talking solid subjects at a decent university.

Jimbo W on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

Exactly as I thought.. ..its a self propagation system, with inherent biases in non opinion based assessments. Citations depends on research profile. Research can actually have a fundamentally negative impact on teaching, because teaching is seen as a distraction from reseacrh and likely to prevent achieving tenure. Faculty ratios are similarly biased by huge numbers of faculty members on paprt, good ratios, but the reality being few are involved in teaching. Besides which, the objective post graduate measures, e.g. in medicine are more enlightening. Its not gullibility, the reputation exists and will help the CV, it just won't help the educations!!!
Jon Stewart - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> [...]
> UK?). Surely the international student prices are a function of the costs left over (that needed to go to subsidise UK students) from the old govt funding + top-up fees system?
> [...]
>
> No its an internationally competitive amount. More in US.

The international market really complicates the question!
>
>
> True. I was talking solid subjects at a decent university.

But I don't think these are all homogenous products with the same unit value. A first in Law from a good university is worth a whole lot more in the labour market than a first in Geography. And the delivery costs for Neuroscience can't be anything like the delivery costs for English Literature.

If we're going to have a market, let's have a market. You can't just say "everything from all these suppliers, regardless of demand in the labour market and delivery cost all have the same price, and it's a fair one" - the situation's absurd.
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]
>
> The international market really complicates the question!

But that's the reality.

> If we're going to have a market, let's have a market. You can't just say "everything from all these suppliers, regardless of demand in the labour market and delivery cost all have the same price, and it's a fair one" - the situation's absurd.


Yeah but 9k is close to the cheapest! Free things up and the range will be 7-20k or more! (Google coursera too)

MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: Believe what you want...all unis are crap if you say so
stroppygob - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:


A slight diversion, but on the theme of students;

We went and saw Alan Davies perform, two small disappointments were that he was doing the same set (with a few new twists/variations,) as the last time we saw him, and that he wasn’t actually in the Opera House itself, but in the smaller “Drama Theatre.” Still, it’s a good set, and seeing as it’s over a year since we saw him last, we’d forgotten most of his riffs.

At one point, early in his set, he was trying to get a feel for his audience, he asked; “Any students in tonight?” My daughter chipped in that she was, he asked where; “Australian National University,” she replied. (Ok, she’s not actually there yet, but she does have a place, bless.) “Oh, so you’re a student at the Australian National University, the ANU, an ANU student, an A.N.U.S. How nice for you.” She loved that.

Jimbo W on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

> (In reply to Jimbo W) Believe what you want...all unis are crap if you say so

Deal with the objectivity question then. Its you who is believing the superficialities!!
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Jimbo W on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jimbo W) Believe what you want...all unis are crap if you say so

PS no one said all unis are crap, except for you
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: no I quote international lu accepted rankings and market forces. You dismiss it all for anecdote

Jon Stewart - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> [...]
>
> But that's the reality.

Kind of but not really. The forces governing prices within the UK are different to the forces governing the international price. We're discussing the price to UK students.

>
> Yeah but 9k is close to the cheapest! Free things up and the range will be 7-20k or more! (Google coursera too)

But those are international prices and the UK market couldn't possibly sustain them. That's not what the courses are worth to a UK student.

I'm sure that there are some courses which are worth £9k to a UK student, but I think there are also loads which are worth tuppence. The combination of the overnight abolition of public funding, the £9k cap, and the prior flooding of the market with crap associated with Blair's 50% target has left us in total chaos.
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart: yeah, as I say decent unis and solid subjects, cost (and are worth) 9k though.
Jimbo W on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jimbo W) no I quote international lu accepted rankings and market forces. You dismiss it all for anecdote

No, not for anecdote.. ..just for the overt biases involved. And indeed you pointed me to wiki which discusses as much. The most objective measure, amounting 10% of the QS ranking with the smallest data set available is the "recruiter review".
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]
>
> PS no one said all unis are crap, except for you

You above " The quality of university education being delivered is appalling"
Jimbo W on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

I note you haven't dealt with any of my specific points.
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: if you mean 22.22 you are mostly wrong. On phone socant say much
Jimbo W on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

I've now also read the criticisms of QS on the wiki page. It seems there are quite a few of like mind to me.
Jon Stewart - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart) yeah, as I say decent unis and solid subjects, cost (and are worth) 9k though.

That hasn't really been backed up yet.

There are loads of degrees from good unis which have very little demand in the labour market. If I went to say, Newcastle and did English Literature, in what sense would it be worth me borrowing £27k for the fees?

This is the question about the value of education, who says it's £9k if it does me naff-all good when I'm looking for a job?
MG - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]
>

>
> This is the question about the value of education, who says it's £9k if it does me naff-all good when I'm looking for a job?

Ok worth is harder than cost. But many jobs are degree independent. And there all the non financial aspects too.

Jon Stewart - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> [...]
>
> [...]
>
> Ok worth is harder than cost. But many jobs are degree independent.

Certainly - and if employers want degrees of no relevance, they just only want to employ graduates because of some arbitrary culture that has developed since too many people started going to university (at the expense of the taxpayer), then the whole thing is a house of cards/emperor's new clothes.

> And there all the non financial aspects too.

And this is the point Jimbo was getting at in the OP. While HE does enrich our society and culture, I have a great deal of skepticism about how much it does so in "the average case". A lot of people don't like to admit that most students getting a 2:2 in a humanities subject (for example) have just spent 3 years smoking weed, attempting to shag everything in sight, getting pissed nearly every day, and displaying the minimum about of interest in their subject. What they have done is pretty much 100% a waste of money. The bright kids can do all this and still get a 2:1, which at least might help them get a job.

Jimbo W on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

> if you mean 22.22 you are mostly wrong. On phone socant say much

Okay, I'll await a proper crit. Meanwhile:

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/david-blanchflower/2011/09/world-university-faculty
Jimbo W on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Tall Clare:

> I'll be interested to see how this thread pans out - I studied Fine Art at university, graduating fifteen years ago, and I find myself wondering, from a financial perspective, whether I could 'justify' studying a non-vocational subject of that nature nowadays.

I don't see how it can be justified, and given the current political climate, I would fear that those that do open themselves up to the bile of the country's financial achievers. I noted your self negativity on the other thread and looked at your blog, and it was really good to read and view. There was real value there. However, I think there are fundamental problems in the direction that society is heading that dilute your kind of output in a cacophony of technological distraction. Inane text messages and iPad apps grow at the expense of communication and art. I'm far more radical than wanting to just make criticisms of university education. I've had much exposure to ceilidh kitchen culture: gatherings of friends and family around the kitchen table chatting, singing, playing music, reading, occasionally dancing, cooking, eating, drinking... ...together. Art and creativity sit centre place in this culture and provide not only sustenance, fellowship, but also a way to re-evaluate reality, contextualise and share emotions and produce something that lives on, passed from generation to generation. I've documented/recorded singers from the Outer Hebrides, not the polished exports like Julie Fowlis, but the bread and butter day to day rough voices that were so embedded there.

To me there is real value in this culture... and its this view of value that has turned on its head the way I view value production everywhere, including in education. My musician brother (Oxford educated) loves his ability to give enjoyment to those who like music, but what does a degree like that give in terms of hope for a financial future. He is quite explicit, that medicine would have been his choice with the benefit of hindsight, because of sickening feeling of financial insecurity. Meanwhile, my architect brother is using the benefit of his current success to get himself in amongst the danish furniture makers to learn enough so that he might have a chance of doing something fundamentally creative himself. A strange juxtaposition.
Oliiver - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart: The route to economic success is: do A-levels, get into Oxbridge, study History or any other strong subject, get enlisted with a bank and become an investment banker.
Jon Stewart - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Oliiver:

Thanks for the tip mate, but you may find out at some stage that life extends far, far beyond your minuscule view. There is a whole world out there. You understand very little of it.
Jim C - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Tall Clare:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> I did an exercise with the photography students recently where we looked at the amount of skills they gather - even through one project to do with putting on an exhibition they've been using project management skills, budgeting, collaborative working, figuring out marketing, negotiation skills, etc. I took great delight in pointing out that their colleagues in, say, maths, wouldn't be developing any of these very useful and versatile workplace skills... :-)

That sounds a bit like a shop in our local Shopping Centre, it had a exhibition of photos from lots of students all or sale, and they took turns to tell people all about the photos on display . it was really interesting to see how diverse it was from fantastic landscapes to industrial decay ( my own interest) I spent an enjoyable hour in there whilst my wife shopped.

You are also right about budgeting & marketing, my youngest is just finishing off a Maths & Physics degree, and the only budgeting she does is for drinking money at the students union.

Oliiver - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart: Labours legacy of 'equality' has created A -levels such as: Tavel and tourism, photography, ICT and many other so called A-levels. How the hell are these A-levels as hard as History, maths, physics and so on. A-levels are a mockery.
Jon Stewart - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Oliiver:

For those that don't want to do academic subjects but would rather start learning how to do a job, do you think qualifications should be available to them?

Is it the whole idea of vocational education that disgusts you, or is it just that these qualifications are called A-levels and so are being presented as equivalent to your much loftier studies?
Oliiver - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart: The latter.
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Jon Stewart - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Oliiver:

What difference does it make? If you're going for a place at Oxbridge to do History, and the guy with the ICT A-level (along with say Maths and Physics) is going to do Computer Science, you're probably not in direct competition.

Universities and employers will know the value and relevance of modern qualifications, which ones are crap and which ones are good. I wouldn't get too hung up about it.
MG - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Exactly as I thought.. ..its a self propagation system, with inherent biases in non opinion based assessments.

It's based on a whole range of metrics, some opinion-based, some not. If you don't like the ranking system I linked to, pick another. There are quite a few that put different weights on teaching, research etc. The interesting point is they all throw up much the same instututions as being near the top. I don't see how you can think it "self-propagating", unless you regard the global HE sector as some sort of huge cartel. Competition is pretty cut-throat.


Citations depends on research profile. Research can actually have a fundamentally negative impact on teaching, because teaching is seen as a distraction from reseacrh and likely to prevent achieving tenure.

Tenure is only really relevant in the US, where a good teaching record is very much part of the requirement to obtain it.

Faculty ratios are similarly biased by huge numbers of faculty members on paprt, good ratios, but the reality being few are involved in teaching.

It sounds from the language you have a US perspective. In the UK pretty much all academics will have both teaching and research roles at the better universities, or not be included in the staff-student ration stats.


Besides which, the objective post graduate measures, e.g. in medicine are more enlightening. Its not gullibility, the reputation exists and will help the CV, it just won't help the educations!!!

Objective measures are in there, along with many others. If you regard a degree as simply training for a job, then your suggestion would be sensible but most people think it is a whole lot more than that so putting undue weight on professional progression wouldn't make sense. In any case what about degrees like art (which to profess to support) where is no common professional path?

MG - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> And this is the point Jimbo was getting at in the OP. While HE does enrich our society and culture, I have a great deal of skepticism about how much it does so in "the average case". A lot of people don't like to admit that most students getting a 2:2 in a humanities subject (for example) have just spent 3 years smoking weed, attempting to shag everything in sight, getting pissed nearly every day, and displaying the minimum about of interest in their subject. What they have done is pretty much 100% a waste of money. The bright kids can do all this and still get a 2:1, which at least might help them get a job.

Probably true in some cases (not sure about average). But that is not an argument that 9k isn't worth it. It is just saying you have to take advantage of the opportunities 9k brings.

Bjartur i Sumarhus on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to MG: There are cheaper courses available..

Bishop Auckland College, County Durham offers a 17 week X Factor preperation course for £95

Other unusual higher education and university courses include the David Beckham module taught at Staffordshire as part of a Sport, Media and Culture degree; 'Harry Potter and the Age of Illusion' unit taught as part of Education Studies at Durham; and 'Philosophy and Star Trek' at America's Georgetown University.

;-)
Al Evans on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> [...]
>
> 9k is cheap for what you get at a good university and less than it costs to deliver.

But that really isn't the point, education, any education , is an investment for a country and certainly shouldn't cost the student what it costs the country.
Al Evans on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> [...]
>
> Well many overseas students profound ly disagree and pay around 15k a year. All rankings of universities also disagree with many uk institutions in the top 50.

These, I can guarantee, will be rich overseas students.
Jon Stewart - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
>
> [...]
>
> Probably true in some cases (not sure about average). But that is not an argument that 9k isn't worth it. It is just saying you have to take advantage of the opportunities 9k brings.

What I'm saying is that the value of £9k (well, £27k) is very questionable in terms of the marketability of skills in many if not most cases, and even more questionable in terms of the non-economic benefits which I believe are vastly overstated.

If I was a young'un without my public-funded pointless degree behind me, and my second worthwhile vocational self-funded degree in progress, I would not even consider borrowing £27k and toddling off to university to do whatever academic subject I was best at at school. It's a lot of money to punt on the vague hope that it will make you a viable candidate for some unspecified professional job, and somehow give you an enriched life with a brain sizzling with progressive social attitudes and finely sharpened intellectual capacities. Especially if all you really want to do is go clubbing and have sex a lot.

For this reason, I think that HE should be honest about what it's selling. Some courses are a passport to a profession, others are something you do for completely different reasons. Middle-class Britain thinks it's normal to go to university to study an academic subject for essentially no reason at all, because it was a great thing to do when it was public-funded - why not, and if you do happen to spend much of that time at the sexual health clinic then so be it, at least you got a 2:2 in Sociology to show at the end of it and people who didn't know any better would be impressed.

These academic courses, and courses in the arts, should be there only for the elite - and of course I mean the intellectual and creative elite, not socio-economic elite. And they should probably attract public funding as they're not a viable investment for the student, but we want people to keep contributing to the intellectual and creative life of our society.

The system as it is completely confused, because students are being asked to make a cold economic decision about investing £27k in their future, but what's on offer is hugely distorted by a history of public funding and a culture that has grown around HE as a consequence. The flat rate of £9k completely masks the true value of the courses, some of which is straight-forward economic value, some of which is 'intrinsic' value for the individual and society, and some of which is naff-all.
krikoman - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart: The Value of Education.... in my case about £2.50
thomaspomfrett on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Oliiver:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart) The route to economic success is: do A-levels, get into Oxbridge, study History or any other strong subject, get enlisted with a bank and become an investment banker.

I took that road (well, work as a project manager in a bank so not exactly an investment banker per se). Does is give economic success? Yes. Is it absolutely soul destroying? Pretty much also yes. Currently working on my escape plan.

That said, I would definitely recommend Cambridge and would say my degree would have been worth £9k (I was pre top up fees). In my first year we had around 12 hours lectures, 8-10 hours of labs and 4 hours 1 to 2 contact time every week.
MG - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]
>
> These, I can guarantee, will be rich overseas students.


Err no. Most are not at all rich.
MG - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart: I agree with a lot of what you say there but would make a few points.

With a few exceptions (e.g medicine) viewing a degree as primarily a means to a getting a particular job will mean the £27k investment will seem excessive. However, I don't think this is how a degree should be seen - it's about all sorts of other things like problem solving, synthesising information, meeting and mixing with people who think differently, freedom to experiment without too much responsibility and so on. If you think these benefits are over- stated then fine, they are difficult to quantify, but many don't including many employers. Personally, knowing what I do now, I would be quite happy to pay £27 for the degree I got for free but it's not the technical knowledge that I now value (which is mostly forgotten) but the other aspects as above. Most of these are largely subject independent too.
Ridge - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]

> For this reason, I think that HE should be honest about what it's selling. Some courses are a passport to a profession, others are something you do for completely different reasons. Middle-class Britain thinks it's normal to go to university to study an academic subject for essentially no reason at all, because it was a great thing to do when it was public-funded - why not, and if you do happen to spend much of that time at the sexual health clinic then so be it, at least you got a 2:2 in Sociology to show at the end of it and people who didn't know any better would be impressed.
>
> These academic courses, and courses in the arts, should be there only for the elite - and of course I mean the intellectual and creative elite, not socio-economic elite. And they should probably attract public funding as they're not a viable investment for the student, but we want people to keep contributing to the intellectual and creative life of our society.
>
> The system as it is completely confused, because students are being asked to make a cold economic decision about investing £27k in their future, but what's on offer is hugely distorted by a history of public funding and a culture that has grown around HE as a consequence. The flat rate of £9k completely masks the true value of the courses, some of which is straight-forward economic value, some of which is 'intrinsic' value for the individual and society, and some of which is naff-all.

Very well put.

Al Evans on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Al Evans)
> [...]
>
>
> Err no. Most are not at all rich.

Of course they are, how else could they afford to send their kids to England on £15,000 a year just for fees, let alone all the other costs. Your definition of rich must be vastly different to most people in the UK.
MG - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]
>
> Of course they are, how else could they afford to send their kids to England on £15,000 a year just for fees, let alone all the other costs. Your definition of rich must be vastly different to most people in the UK.

I mostly work with Chinese overseas students but some others too. Most work exceptionally hard to get scholarships from various sources, or have parents who make very signficant sacrifices to enable them to study abroad in the UK. Very few pay from readily available money. Your dismissive attitude toward them is pretty insulting really - just because you can't imagine recognising the value of an education and paying for from limited funds, doesn't mean others can't.

Al Evans on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to MG: I don't think my attitude to them is either dismissive or insulting. If you read earlier posts you will realise that I have great respect for my working class parents efforts to allow me, with the help of the state, a decent education. BUT no matter how hard they had both worked or how much sacrifice they made they could never have afforded to pay £15,000 a year in fees and support me while I was away learning, I'm sorry but in my opinion that is seriously rich.
Offwidth - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Almost missed this! I work in a good post-92 university in a computing and technology team as a Materials Scientist/Engineer. I've also direct experience of a range of institutions Oxbridge downwards. The £9k (plus some extra government funding for subjects in a STEM area) given the overheads in my institution are pretty much the same as our local costs (staff, equipment etc) so we make no money and we would be working very hard to stand still if this was all we did. Numbers are still OK so we are not inefficient due to small class sizes. Overseas students pay a little more and because of the way finance works at our institution we get proportionally more spare income than from home students for our team. This 'extra' is used to support research, scholarship and other links industrial and community based work. We also make a small 'profit', on overseas collaborations and industrial projects consultancies etc, that give us a little more breathing space. Our research is wide ranging with some funded at the highest rated level but NONE of the money from research properly covers staff costs and overheads: this is made up from some of the 'breathing space' and the willingness of most serious researchers to put in 60 hour+ weeks. I'm saying the hidden truth is all our government finance is cut back to the bone and needs subsidising these days in Universities and its about 2/3rds of our total income (for teaching research and a few other bits and bobs).

Could we do better as a University in financial terms? Yes, for many reasons that are not worth going into here (income and expenditure) but frankly its all window dressing compared to the fixed costs we face.

So £9k is a good deal for most and really very much so for the benefit overall to society in my areas (they nearly all get good jobs that contribute to wealth). I think its dumb sticking this level of debt on the students in my area... more if not all should be state funded. Across the sector we get proportionally more kids from the lower social classes than say the arts and humanities and these kids are the ones questioning most the worth to them as opposed to the value for money of the service so unsurprisingly numbers are down. Its also galling that the increase in student fees when it added to inflation cost the UK way more than we saved.. it'll even out in a few years but the extra debt now to pay for the inflation increase to the huge UK welfare bill wasn't good timing.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

> So £9k is a good deal ...

To be a little controversial, I have a suspicion that the real cost of the education is about 6k, and that university research is being substantially subsidised by student fees.
Offwidth - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Tall Clare:

Its natural to ask the question you have asked though and more will do it every year. Yet even from a strict economic viewpoint we need a lot more highly educated people to compete in the future as a knoweledge economy, as the other countries out there are investing more heavily in HE than us. The results of the full cost model are best demonstrated in the US where huge numbers of their professional wealth creators are immigrants. We are heading that way fast now and stupidly tightening immigration controls for the group we need to fill the gap.

I'd be amazed in the long run if your funding wasnt wothwhile. Opportunities in the arts for wealth creation are as good in the UK as anywhere and in the end quality of life is really about a good bit more than the economy.
Offwidth - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:

You're plain wrong, go talk to your dean or look at the accounts. Also, since when did you start dealing with suspicions? University research is subsidided by everything else (including long hours of overtime) but not in any significant amount these days by home student fees.
Jon Stewart - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

> However, I don't think this is how a degree should be seen - it's about all sorts of other things like problem solving, synthesising information, meeting and mixing with people who think differently, freedom to experiment without too much responsibility and so on. If you think these benefits are over- stated then fine, they are difficult to quantify, but many don't including many employers.

The reason I think these aspects are overstated is that I don't think that the causal relationship has been shown - what would these graduates be like without the university education? Think about a person with the same background and personality type as their peers who went to university, but who got a job instead. I meet these people from time to time, and they never seem intellectually or socially naive to me. They seem exactly the same as the people who did go to university!

You say that employers value these skills, and I'm sure you're right. But that only tells me that they too believe something entirely unproven: that it was the university education that endowed the candidates with these skills. They probably don't even interview candidates without degrees, and if they did, they'd be more likely to find people who have a different background and skill-set to begin with and who consequently didn't go to university.

As for mixing with all these really great people who think differently, I think the almost the opposite is true. When I went to university, I met a load of people who were exactly like me in terms of background and the way they thought. I hung out with a bunch of clever middle class kids who liked clubbing and dance music and had left-wing social values, just like me - a stimulating melting pot of ideas and perspectives it was not. I guess I had a good time, and I got a good degree, but I would have been better off growing up (i.e. taking all those drugs) while I was in a low-responsibility job and coming back to education when I was more mature. Then I would have entered the job market with a track record of holding down a job, and a degree relevant to what I wanted to do with my career. And I don't think I would have missed out at all on the 'space to experiment and develop soft skills' or whatever you want to call it. I'd have done my growing up while having the responsibility of having to earn money to pay for my rent and food, and frankly that would have done me a lot more good than partying every night at the taxpayer's expense!
ads.ukclimbing.com
wbo - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier: That's a very precise number. If you have 3 years of 20 students at 9K that's £540000 which sounds a lot, but isn't if you use any realistic estimation of costs (staff primarily, and I'd assume staff cost 1.7 times their wages as a bum on a seat).

Rob Exile Ward on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to wbo: Well presuming in simple terms 1 member of staff could look after 20 students - call it 2, to be generous - and using a salary of, say, £50K, doubled to allow for recruitment costs, benefits, accomodation etc etc - then you come up with a staff costs figure of £200K. So there would be a bit of change from the £540K in student fees...

(And yes I know that students will be taught by more than 2 staff, I'm talking aggregates.)
Offwidth - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to wbo:

Our central overheads are over 50% these days (central services, buildings, interest on loans, fuel etc). Staff are by far our main team cost. We work at a real SSR in the top 20's now, a good bit above the numbers the government say we should be able to work at and we just miss breaking even on income from home undergraduate students but it works OK when you add in the overseas students in the same classes. This includes extra STEM funding for home students over and above the £9k. Coel is making shit up...very unlike him.
Offwidth - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

20*9k = £180k (not £540)??
Jimbo W on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

> I mostly work with Chinese overseas students but some others too. Most work exceptionally hard to get scholarships from various sources, or have parents who make very signficant sacrifices to enable them to study abroad in the UK. Very few pay from readily available money. Your dismissive attitude toward them is pretty insulting really - just because you can't imagine recognising the value of an education and paying for from limited funds, doesn't mean others can't.

You're systemic view of international students not being wealthy does not necessarily stem from your experience. So what's the evidence for your claim? A massive one third of my university year was Malaysian, most of which were funded by the Malaysian government, which at the costs per annum would make them wealthy by virtue of endowment. Can you imagine one third of a foreign university medical school year being taken up by UK students funded by the British tax payer?
MG - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

20 x fees = £180k

1 academic staff equivalent £70k (pensions, salary etc)
2 support staff equivalent £90k (library, security, etc with pensions, salary etc)
Offices
IT infrastructure
Libraries
Sports facilities

I think we are already at about £180k without any specialist eqiupment for STEM subjects
MG - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
Can you imagine one third of a foreign university medical school year being taken up by UK students funded by the British tax payer?

I can imagine it, yes. So what?
Coel Hellier - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

> Coel is making shit up...very unlike him.

Let's say an academic -- if doing zero research -- could do 6 modules of teaching in a year, plus some teaching-related admin. Each such person costs, say, 65k to employ. Let's also say that this staff cost is half the total cost (which is reasonable). To teach 8 modules then costs 65*2*8/6 = 173 k.

Each student takes 8 modules a year, and there are an average of 30 students on each module (anything less than that is inefficient teaching). That means that each student has to pay 173/30 = 5.7k

This sort of calculation arrives at my 6k figure.
Jimbo W on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

> You're plain wrong, go talk to your dean or look at the accounts.

What will accounts tell you? I mean, you don't actually believe that a university department would actually want to demonstrate a surplus?!!! That would be fatal for future funding!
Offwidth - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

I'd add the outline accounts are normally accessible by going to any university webistes. Student fees are only 53% of our inome of around £200 million. Staff costs are about 55% of our cost base (ignoring technical but unavoidable issues like pension liabilites of already retired staff who were enhanced in the past).
MG - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]
>
> Can you imagine it being a possible reality? Because I can't!

I can't see the relevance of your question but for info Norway chooses to fund many overseas places for its UGs instead of expanding its own university system, so yes it is a possible reality.

Al Evans on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Offwidth: I actually think it's tragic that our higher education system has to depend on overseas students paying elevated fees to fund our education system. Overseas students should be the exception rather than the necessity. What is happening here is that poorer UK students are missing out because the funding does not allow for poorer families to send their kids into higher education without grabbing from rich families overseas thus taking up the places and inflating the costs to those families.
This is a national disgrace that never happened until after the 1960's, WHY, nothing to do with world economic forces, it was purely bad government and a lack of social national conscience. Greed and the doctrine of money rules took over, sod the poor, help the rich, f**k the country and it's people, it's all about economics.
At last we realise it isn't all about the rich, the world is in economic crisis, as it obviously would be if we were not going to look at it bottom up, it could only lead to revolution or desperation of the poor. So it goes.
Al Evans on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Al Evans: And even now, no party will tax the rich. VAT is a tax on the poor, income tax is the only sensible tax for world harmony.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Al Evans:

> And even now, no party will tax the rich. VAT is a tax on the poor, income tax is the only sensible tax for world harmony.

Isn't there an income tax rate of 40% or 45% on high earners? How is that not taxing the rich?
IainRUK - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Ridge: I think we're on a fast track to an american system..

Those that are a fast track to a high paid career.. e.g. medicine.. vet.. will pay more..

In the US the average med student will leave with a good $250,000 worth of debt from the two degrees.. pre med then med..

Probably more..

But their earning will compensate.. we'll have state support to provide fees.. like in the US but I think we're only seeing the start of the charging and fees for different courses will rise and fall due to the market value.
MG - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:
Let's also say that this staff cost is half the total cost (which is reasonable).

No support staff, labs, libraries, IT, sports, HR, vice-Chancellor, parking office(!), careers service, counselling, disability office, security? Or is all that in your "half the total"? I think your claim is not at all reasonable.
Coel Hellier - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Al Evans:

> What is happening here is that poorer UK students are missing out ...

Poorer UK students are not missing out owing to lack of places. It may be that they are put off by the though to paying the graduate tax, it may be that their schooling doesn't lead to them getting good A-levels, but there are places there for any poor student with decent A-level grades.

> This is a national disgrace that never happened until after the 1960's,

As it is over 40% of the cohort goes to university, which by historic and world standards is high. It is vastly higher than the fraction going to university in the sixties (less than 20%).
Offwidth - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Our overhead is more than double and that is excluding fraction of the local equipemnt costs and local consumables and technician and local admin salaries. In STEM for our institution that comes out as a good bit over 10k.
Al Evans on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to Al Evans)
> As it is over 40% of the cohort goes to university, which by historic and world standards is high. It is vastly higher than the fraction going to university in the sixties (less than 20%).

Well that's as maybe Coel, but times have changed. What were once called Colleges of Technology are now given university status, there were more apprenticeships, more day release schemes, there were more jobs readily available in the 60's, you just can't compare the figures.
Jimbo W on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

Well, the point is, that in contrast to your original assertion, it is not individuals discriminating about where to buy their education with their hard earned wealth, its also government which massively reduces the tension involved in such choice.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Offwidth - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:

"40% of the cohort goes to university, which by world standards is high"

you should know full well we are towards the low end of per capita HE participation in the developed world. Worse still we have a more liberal system so our competitors have larger proportions in the more high level vocational subjects (esp STEM).
MG - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Well, the point is, that in contrast to your original assertion, it is not individuals discriminating about where to buy their education with their hard earned wealth, its also government which massively reduces the tension involved in such choice.

You're as bad as Al! These students aren't a bunch of wealthy playboys Imagine: You work hard all through school, you parents pay for additional lessons/ a better school, you get a hugely cometitive government scholarship, you can choose where in the world to spend it. Are you really going to casually go to the first university that comes to mind in the UK based on vague historic reputation. Or are you going carefully weigh up the options and go for the institution that offers you objectively the best education available for your wishes and circumstances?

Jimbo W on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

> It's based on a whole range of metrics, some opinion-based, some not. If you don't like the ranking system I linked to, pick another. There are quite a few that put different weights on teaching, research etc. The interesting point is they all throw up much the same instututions as being near the top. I don't see how you can think it "self-propagating", unless you regard the global HE sector as some sort of huge cartel. Competition is pretty cut-throat.

Not its not cut-throat, because students make poor customers with low insight, additional non-academic priorities and very few objective measures that are readily accessible, and those that are, are not necessarily immediately relevant (e.g. citations) or worse, might indicate a bias in priorities toward post-graduate and away from undergraduate education. As a post-graduate its a different matter, I wanted a good PhD education so I looked at objective measures like citations per PI, funding per PI etc and found Dundee and Cambridge top in most of the relevant disciplines and applied to the labs of interest to me in those institutions. I was offered both, but chose Dundee because it's objectively currently significantly ahead of Cambridge even though the size of the research sector here is smaller. Along with many other objective measures, its far easier to inform yourself about research orientated education. Not so undergraduate education. Here, the cut throat competition between research and lecturing activity is not sustainable, and those that prioritise lecturing lose their jobs quickly - I'm speaking here of people I know personally. This aggressive dichotomy means those that are the most active researchers do not involve themselves in teaching, and those that do are small minority detached from research. So, while Dundee performs very well in citations, the reality is that this is irrelevant to the undergraduate experience. Its no surprise that objective factors, such as the professional exams - in which Dundee is one up from bottom, can look so markedly lack concordance with the supposed performance of the university.

This is Dundee, rated in numerous ratings over the last 15yrs, one of the best UK medical schools. Now look at the reality:
http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/6/5/
Offwidth - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Al Evans:

As I said above the overseas students are funding research and other useful extras in the main, not so much on UK undergrads. I'm very glad we have them. Firstly, a large portion of the University Engineering and Science base would have been wrecked without them and quite a few in the area are filling UK job vacancies that the local market cannot meet. Secondly they are better motivated students on average than the UK students, so a pleasure to teach. Finally there are big additional benefits, cultural or otherwise. A good proportion of the overseas students are pretty poor by Uk standards,,, some families make huge investments for their future.

All this stuff on tech colleges is a bit old hat. We have moved on a long way since then even though I too would have preferred another path. Still far too few poor kids make it to HE from the UK, we were are remain very predominantly middle class.
Jimbo W on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

> You're as bad as Al! These students aren't a bunch of wealthy playboys Imagine: You work hard all through school, you parents pay for additional lessons/ a better school, you get a hugely cometitive government scholarship, you can choose where in the world to spend it. Are you really going to casually go to the first university that comes to mind in the UK based on vague historic reputation.

The reality is that institutional government relationships are set up in advance that distort the reality away from choice.
MG - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: So, you're basically trying to argue that you know the quality of UG education in the UK better than thousands of overseas students, many overseas governments, various ranking systems and numerous employers. Fair enough, but you will need a but more than arm-waving about academics being too research focussed to be convincing.
Jimbo W on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jimbo W) So, you're basically trying to argue that you know the quality of UG education in the UK better than thousands of overseas students, many overseas governments, various ranking systems and numerous employers. Fair enough, but you will need a but more than arm-waving about academics being too research focussed to be convincing.

So you're basically trying to say that what the market prefers is true indicator of the relevant value, the customer is au fait with all the facts and that marketing is not a relevant phenomenon that occurs. Fair enough, but you're going to have to start producing some facts to justify that position.
off-duty - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:

You wouldn't be confusing the picture by attempting to suggest that the world renown that Dundee has in it's biomedical research can be related or measured in comparison to it's medical undergraduate performance, would you?

I'm sure as a researcher in that field you will be well aware that it is only a minority of medics who are involved in research in the "biomedical" field.
Ridge - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> [...]
>
> The reason I think these aspects are overstated is that I don't think that the causal relationship has been shown - what would these graduates be like without the university education? Think about a person with the same background and personality type as their peers who went to university, but who got a job instead. I meet these people from time to time, and they never seem intellectually or socially naive to me. They seem exactly the same as the people who did go to university!

I'd agree on this one. I'm from the 'other side', went to a somewhat indifferent comp that sucked any interest whatsoever out of subjects, and as a consequence couldn't wait to get out of education. At 16 I had no problem passing the half dozen O levels at Grade C that would have put me on the FE route, but I was bored to tears so left and did the ONC/HNC route via day release. (I think this has been all but done away with now?).

> You say that employers value these skills, and I'm sure you're right. But that only tells me that they too believe something entirely unproven: that it was the university education that endowed the candidates with these skills. They probably don't even interview candidates without degrees, and if they did, they'd be more likely to find people who have a different background and skill-set to begin with and who consequently didn't go to university.

That was certainly true in the past, you found yourself working with new graduates who seemed very immature and clueless, (to be fair they probably weren't that bad, but as you'd been working for 3 or 4 years before they left Uni that was the perception). There was certainly a lot of resentment around as people who could easily have done the job were sidelined by the graduate intake.

Now though I think employers want a graduate for any job, regardless of need. What was an 'office junior' type role that needed 2 'O' levels has now morphed into a graduate post as only a degree can provide the 'skillsets needed for a knowledge based economy'. That's devalued the degree in terms of earning potential, and also in terms of social capital.

> As for mixing with all these really great people who think differently, I think the almost the opposite is true. When I went to university, I met a load of people who were exactly like me in terms of background and the way they thought. I hung out with a bunch of clever middle class kids who liked clubbing and dance music and had left-wing social values, just like me - a stimulating melting pot of ideas and perspectives it was not.

That's how I saw it from the 'other side'. My contemporaries who went to Uni seemed to be either a very small number of wannabe revolutionaries who would change the would, (but didn't), or a much larger number of frankly irritating middle class kids with an overweening sense of entitlement. On reflection I was probably being grossly unfair in pidgeonholing them like that, but I don't think I missed much not being in their presence.

> I guess I had a good time, and I got a good degree, but I would have been better off growing up (i.e. taking all those drugs) while I was in a low-responsibility job and coming back to education when I was more mature. Then I would have entered the job market with a track record of holding down a job, and a degree relevant to what I wanted to do with my career.

I think that's a very valid point. Taking a degree in my mid to late 20's would have been a more attractive proposition. To me it just seemed like staying on at school for far too long. Plus I got to do the drugs and partying whlist earning a wage..

> And I don't think I would have missed out at all on the 'space to experiment and develop soft skills' or whatever you want to call it.

That is one thing that does really hack me off about recent graduates;
"I can like do all this critical thinking and I've got all these special skills and shit." No you can't and no you haven't, at least not measurably more than anyone else who isn't a total idiot. The rest of the population weren't placed in suspended animation and lobotomised while you went on the piss for 3 years..

Jimbo W on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to off-duty:

> You wouldn't be confusing the picture by attempting to suggest that the world renown that Dundee has in it's biomedical research can be related or measured in comparison to it's medical undergraduate performance, would you?
> I'm sure as a researcher in that field you will be well aware that it is only a minority of medics who are involved in research in the "biomedical" field.

Can you ask you question a bit more clearly, because I'm not sure what exactly you're asking.
Pyreneenemec - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

A good friend of mine is a partner in a large firm of accountants. He was probably one of the last to qualify as an articled clerk without a degree.

In days gone-by, all the Professions functioned in this manner. Was the resultant accountant or solicitor inferior to what is being produced today ?



Jimbo W on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Pyreneenemec:

> In days gone-by, all the Professions functioned in this manner. Was the resultant accountant or solicitor inferior to what is being produced today ?

Not in the slightest.
Pyreneenemec - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:

Badly phrased, but you know what I mean !
off-duty - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to off-duty)
>
> [...]
>
> Can you ask you question a bit more clearly, because I'm not sure what exactly you're asking.

You appear to be suggesting you chose Dundee for post graduate study because of it's world renown in biomedical research.
You then suggest that this research isn't matched by its undergraduate training - as evidenced by its medical school.

However as you are no doubt well aware the renown of Dundee in biomedical science is not restricted to research carried out by medics. In fact the vast majority of the researchers are not medical graduates.
The "trickle down" of research into undergraduate degrees is almost certainly better reflected in non-medical scientific courses.
dissonance - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Pyreneenemec:

> In days gone-by, all the Professions functioned in this manner. Was the resultant accountant or solicitor inferior to what is being produced today ?

hasnt completely vanished, least not for accountants.
Its the path my little sis chose since she didnt like the look of the fees.
Think it depends on which sort of accountancy you want to practice though eg wanting to do management accountancy etc.
Jimbo W on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to off-duty:

> You appear to be suggesting you chose Dundee for post graduate study because of it's world renown in biomedical research.

I chose Dundee on very cut throat criteria of how good each PI was at producing high impact factor papers through its PhD students and post docs. Dundee pipped Cambridge, in the life science subjects of interest to me, though Cambridge is significantly larger, has access to unique facilities, such as the Sanger centre, and an obvious rate of growth and increased funding compared to Cambridge's more stagnant funding. Other things were also important, and the other major factor that pushed me toward Dundee was the size of labs in Cambridge compared to Dundee. The PI to PhD / Post doc ratio is much better in Dundee, whereas, I got from the horses mouth, that larger labs in cambridge were very succesful, but you had to fight for personal success sometimes by being put on similar projects to other PhDs and post docs.

> You then suggest that this research isn't matched by its undergraduate training - as evidenced by its medical school.

Yes. Or rather, there is a culture which places teaching in competition with research. If you want to look after your position, you avoid teaching.

> However as you are no doubt well aware the renown of Dundee in biomedical science is not restricted to research carried out by medics.

Absolutely, they are quite separate.

> In fact the vast majority of the researchers are not medical graduates.

Yes, this is true.

> The "trickle down" of research into undergraduate degrees is almost certainly better reflected in non-medical scientific courses.

Yes, well my experience is having studied medicine, done a BSc in biochemistry in Dundee, been a lecturer lecturing medics, dentists, and those students doing BScs in anatomy, biochemistry, and neuroscience. I also have vicarious experience through my wife's time doing a PhD, two post-docs, and teaching here in Dundee, as well as through friends who are and have been lecturers in undergraduate science and humanities courses. With the current fad for core, self directed learning, and the dominance of educationalists, the idea that research trickles down much into undergraduate degrees is pretty anathema.
off-duty - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to off-duty)
>
> [...]
>
> Yes, well my experience is having studied medicine, done a BSc in biochemistry in Dundee, been a lecturer lecturing medics, dentists, and those students doing BScs in anatomy, biochemistry, and neuroscience. I also have vicarious experience through my wife's time doing a PhD, two post-docs, and teaching here in Dundee, as well as through friends who are and have been lecturers in undergraduate science and humanities courses. With the current fad for core, self directed learning, and the dominance of educationalists, the idea that research trickles down much into undergraduate degrees is pretty anathema.

If you'd just said your evidence was anecdotal, rather than linking to a red herring of a paper then you would have made your position clearer.
Jimbo W on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to off-duty:

> If you'd just said your evidence was anecdotal, rather than linking to a red herring of a paper then you would have made your position clearer.

Eh. The paper isn't a red herring. I was talking about two different things. The rating of Dundee medical school (not dundee postgraduate biomedical research or undergraduate lifesciences distinct from medicine), and the reality of what a Dundee uni medical school education achieves for you *in general medicine*!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
off-duty - on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to off-duty)
>
> [...]
>
> Eh. The paper isn't a red herring. I was talking about two different things. The rating of Dundee medical school (not dundee postgraduate biomedical research or undergraduate lifesciences distinct from medicine), and the reality of what a Dundee uni medical school education achieves for you *in general medicine*!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why mention research (or your choice of research) at all then?
More relevant would be a link to something suggesting Dundee was a superb place to study medicine to make your point that in fact - according to your paper - it isn't.
The 2014 rankings suggest it has dropped from 9th to 26th place.
Jimbo W on 29 Apr 2013
In reply to off-duty:

Because citations are one of the only major non-subjective facets analysed in the QS analysis used to rank universities world wide. Talk about picking up fag ends.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Offwidth - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to off-duty:

Turning statistics into a score and then combining them in an arbritrary way is a pretty silly thing to do and hence should never be trusted. Frankly your experience as a student very much depends on you, the place the course, and the staff you interact with. The rankings won't tell you anything much, the numbers they are formed from might help indicate where to maybe spend some time looking harder.
off-duty - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to off-duty)
>
> Turning statistics into a score and then combining them in an arbritrary way is a pretty silly thing to do and hence should never be trusted. Frankly your experience as a student very much depends on you, the place the course, and the staff you interact with. The rankings won't tell you anything much, the numbers they are formed from might help indicate where to maybe spend some time looking harder.

I'm not sure why this is directed at me. I'm not arguing a case for how rankings are made, or even whether they are particularly accurate.
ebygomm - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to dissonance:

A friend took this route into accountancy at 18, now a chartered accountant. Worked out well for her, not least because it meant she was in a position to buy a property when you could still buy something for 30k (1999)
Jimbo W on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to off-duty:

> I'm not sure why this is directed at me. I'm not arguing a case for how rankings are made, or even whether they are particularly accurate.

Well I was showing how they might not be particularly accurate, vis a vis their focussed look at citations and thus research, and you were objecting about its irrelevance because I'm a medic, which has got nothing to do with it!!!
Jon Stewart - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to ebygomm:
> (In reply to dissonance)
>
> A friend took this route into accountancy at 18, now a chartered accountant. Worked out well for her, not least because it meant she was in a position to buy a property when you could still buy something for 30k (1999)

Accountancy and Engineering are two of the only professions where there is a route up to the professional quals through apprenticeships (which include HE quals), done part-time while in work. The reason other industries don't do this is just an "if it ain't broke" attitude towards recruiting graduates. I personally think we'd have a much more robust economy if we developed skills in this way. Kids that didn't like school would see opportunities in the job market rather than being told they were useless because they weren't going to university where everyone who was "a success" was going.

Tony Blair's idea to increase the level of skills so we might keep up in the global economic race was to get 50% of kids going to uni. Which just turned HE into a breeding ground for crap courses for people not academic enough to engage in 3 years meaningful full-time study. So the level of qualifications went up nationally, but the level of skills remained the same. This government simply don't have any ideas about skills, except taking money away - always a cast-iron guarantee that the market will take over and people's natural propensity to succeed through their raw ambition and latent creativity will then flourish in the new found freedom from the oppressive hand of the state... Not looking good, is it?
Jimbo W on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Accountancy and Engineering are two of the only professions where there is a route up to the professional quals through apprenticeships (which include HE quals), done part-time while in work. The reason other industries don't do this is just an "if it ain't broke" attitude towards recruiting graduates. I personally think we'd have a much more robust economy if we developed skills in this way. Kids that didn't like school would see opportunities in the job market rather than being told they were useless because they weren't going to university where everyone who was "a success" was going.
>
> Tony Blair's idea to increase the level of skills so we might keep up in the global economic race was to get 50% of kids going to uni. Which just turned HE into a breeding ground for crap courses for people not academic enough to engage in 3 years meaningful full-time study. So the level of qualifications went up nationally, but the level of skills remained the same. This government simply don't have any ideas about skills, except taking money away - always a cast-iron guarantee that the market will take over and people's natural propensity to succeed through their raw ambition and latent creativity will then flourish in the new found freedom from the oppressive hand of the state... Not looking good, is it?

I agree 100%. The impression that it was some kind of elitist pinnacle to attend university needed to stop, which it ironically has because of a rapid devaluation in the courses provided and quality of teaching / education. However, it can't have been the right way to do it to create the expectation of needing to get a degree, needing to get into debt in the process, and creating an often totally irrelevant tick box which of course employers will now expect just to enter the jobs market.
Doug on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart: Don't know if its still possible, but law was another profession where it was possible to qualify without going to university (an ex partner's dad was a judge without a degree although he became a barrister back in the 60s). Is that still possible ?

likewise my brother in law is an actuary who qualified via day release/evening classes (took him something like 10 years from memory)
Jon Stewart - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Doug:

The examples I gave above were industries where there is a government-backed apprenticeship scheme that can take people from leaving school up to the professional qualifications while in employment.

I know that no such scheme exists in Law, but there are a lot of degrees that can be studies part-time while in work. I hope there are lots of employers out there who are funding part-time degrees of their workforce (there are probably only a few!).
neilh - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:
In your various comments I have not read ( granted it was skim reading) about what employers want from the education system.

From what I have read there is a desperate need for more hard science graduates, not more arts/humanities graduates.

IMHO money should be directed this way. I understand ( from the business school at MMU) that the govt spends something like £29 on science degrees to every £2-3 on humanities.Maybe this £29 needs to be doubled?
Jon Stewart - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to neilh:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)

> IMHO money should be directed this way. I understand ( from the business school at MMU) that the govt spends something like £29 on science degrees to every £2-3 on humanities.

Not any more they don't!

> Maybe this £29 needs to be doubled?

I don't disagree with you necessarily, but there is another way to look at it: is it right that employers should just sit on their arses and expect the govt or the HE system to simply provide them with a queue of highly skilled graduates knocking at the door?

Is it not employers' responsibility to engage with universities and ensure that the courses they teach are what is required? And if there aren't the graduates lining up outside the door, rather than moaning about it, why shouldn't an employer put their hand into their pocket and fund an employee through a degree? I understand that these are radical suggestions, but the era of public funding is over, and it's not only students who have to come to terms with that.

Offwidth - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to off-duty:

You seemed to imply the rankings indicated a sharp decline in quality of the Dundee course (when its most likley the same standard and may even have improved). These rankings are largely bunkum, not even vaguely accurate in detail, at best there is an overall correlation with average standards as they set the values checking Oxbridge are at the top and the stuggling Post-92s at the bottom. The data on the individual indicators can be useful (but the ranking of those is also unhelpful).
Offwidth - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

"Is it not employers' responsibility to engage with universities and ensure that the courses they teach are what is required?" I've never seen a time when employer engagement didn't happen in STEM; some sponsor and a few even run their own degrees now. The main engagement is placements: we place over half our students and are limited by student applications rather than places available. In my early days (until Maggie knobled it) companies got tax breaks on sponsorship, maybe we need to return to that.
Jimbo W on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to off-duty)
>
> You seemed to imply the rankings indicated a sharp decline in quality of the Dundee course (when its most likley the same standard and may even have improved). These rankings are largely bunkum

Glad to see someone else recognises that too!!
Jon Stewart - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
>
> "Is it not employers' responsibility to engage with universities and ensure that the courses they teach are what is required?" I've never seen a time when employer engagement didn't happen in STEM; some sponsor and a few even run their own degrees now.

Sorry, I wasn't trying to say whether it was or wasn't happening, only that if employers find themselves dissatisfied with the products of the HE system, then they should get stuck in and help sort out the problem. There are probably subsectors where this isn't working well, and where employers don't have suitable means to engage with HE (in which case telling them to "get off their arses" is probably immensely unfair of me!).

> The main engagement is placements: we place over half our students and are limited by student applications rather than places available. In my early days (until Maggie knobled it) companies got tax breaks on sponsorship, maybe we need to return to that.

Sounds like a sensible bit of skills policy to me. Employers love a tax break, much more than they like the govt paying providers (e.g. universities) to deliver training for them IME. Shame the Treasury hates 'bribe with tax break' policies!
Offwidth - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:

Only a statistical moron would think its a good idea to combine disimilar statistics from a weighted linear ranking (rather than a weighting of the data) then put the answer in linear rank order again. I've seen courses that were ranked near bottom that were actually rather good (part of why they were bottom was they had high standards... rather than some above where ratings moved up as they were awarding mediocre students 1sts and getting fewer complaints as a result on NSS).
MG - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Offwidth: Not sure which ranking you are refering to here but above I linked to general university rankings (not course rankings). No one thinks there are anything better than rough indicators, but they do serve that purpose pretty well.

And just a note on Jimbo's claim that citations is somehow objective while peer opinion isn't. Who does he think results in a citation being made and how if it isn't the opinion of peers in the refering process?
Jimbo W on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

> Only a statistical moron would think its a good idea to combine disimilar statistics from a weighted linear ranking (rather than a weighting of the data) then put the answer in linear rank order again. I've seen courses that were ranked near bottom that were actually rather good (part of why they were bottom was they had high standards... rather than some above where ratings moved up as they were awarding mediocre students 1sts and getting fewer complaints as a result on NSS).

Yes.. ..it doesn't cut into the reality at all.. especially because Universities behave as businesses and will use every trick in the book to get more custom. As I said above, weighting citations as a positive is superficially reasonable, but the reality is that for undergraduates, the higher the research profile, the more research focussed and orientated faculties are, this can come at a cost to a focus on teaching, literally diverting man power and money away from undergraduates. Having said that, there I think there is some real value in oxbridge undergraduate degrees given the tutorial system and the great ratio of staff to students involved, e.g. 3:1... ..in Dundee, tutorials are more like mini lectures and don't really provide the opportunity for interactive exploration of the subject of interest.
Offwidth - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart:

When my old Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department closed, with a reduction in course options, due to declining numbers, the students and employers made some of the strongest complaints. Ditto when they closed my Engineering Department a few years later, alongside closing all the (fully accredited) undergraduate courses in EEE/Mechanical/Manufacturing. Most students at the end were fully sponsored or part sponsored, with the biggest proportion from some big blue chips. The student market closed the courses not lack of Industrial Support; Engineering wasnt sexy or properly incentivised in schools. The non-sponsored graduates at the time had companies queueing to employ them.
Offwidth - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

"but they do serve that purpose pretty well." I think they are worse than useless..ie dangerous. Firstly they are so close in the middle that if you did the combination of dissimilar stats (a bad thing in itself) a little better, No.80 might actually be above No.50. Secondly managers increasingly manipulate their KPIs to meet the tables. Thirdly management panic sometimes and do stupid shit when a genuine small drop results in a plummet in the table.

Course Scores (unranked) can be useful (I'd still ditch some, like numbers of 1sts). Even then really weird data errors creep in that can make huge differences and they never get revised.
MG - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> "but they do serve that purpose pretty well." I think they are worse than useless..ie dangerous. Firstly they are so close in the middle that if you did the combination of dissimilar stats (a bad thing in itself) a little better, No.80 might actually be above No.50. Secondly managers increasingly manipulate their KPIs to meet the tables. Thirdly management panic sometimes and do stupid shit when a genuine small drop results in a plummet in the table.
>


You might have a point if the various tables came to startlingly different results but they don't, which suggests they are reasonably robust. Each of the criteria are part of what most people would expect a good university, to do so if changes are made to practice in the light of rankings that can only be a good thing. I accept your final point about panic, but that is bad management and will occur regardless of the methods of assessment.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Offwidth - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:

Oxbridge are not the only ones though (although they have the benefit of huge endowments to help them) and there are differences in any institution from department to department (and even within teams). The negative impact on teaching due to research focus is usually down to a combination of problems in senior management leadership, local management implementation and staff too tired or too single-mindedly ambitious to keep working enthusiastically in both areas.
Jimbo W on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

> And just a note on Jimbo's claim that citations is somehow objective while peer opinion isn't. Who does he think results in a citation being made and how if it isn't the opinion of peers in the refering process?

Keep your black and white characterisations to yourself. Citations received for academic papers at least involve an relatively independent peer reviewed and paywalls notwithstanding, pretty open and published process (not just a closed system in which, as is documented to have occurred, you can get your mates who you've emailed to ask to give feedback). I would never say that citations are the utter epitome of objectivity... ...all things are relative, and in your referenced ranking system, citations do stand out as being relatively free from the possibility of immediate obfuscation and there is little else to want to grasp onto in your referenced ranking system as really meaningful.
Offwidth - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

They do though.. one year my place was around 40 in one and 40 places lower in another (different stats though to be fair). The numerical position is just bullshit beyond 'somewhere around that octile/dectile'.

Plus am I the only one here who would recommend studying in a good bit of a very low ranked institution, rather than a bad bit of a very high ranked one?



Jimbo W on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Offwidth:

Yup, completely agree with that.
Jimbo W on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

> You might have a point if the various tables came to startlingly different results but they don't, which suggests they are reasonably robust.

Yeh right. More like, the only way to look reasonably consistent and maintain the facade of value is to use similar enough methodology not to be ridiculously inconsistent with those in the same business. Besides which, I thought they did vary alot, and even temporally within a a ranking system!
MG - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
'somewhere around that octile/dectile'.

Agree, but that's all anyone (seriously) claims.
MG - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> [...]
>
> Keep your black and white characterisations to yourself. Citations received for academic papers at least involve an relatively independent peer reviewed and paywalls notwithstanding, pretty open and published process (not just a closed system in which, as is documented to have occurred, you can get your mates who you've emailed to ask to give feedback).

Your're touchingly naive if you think that doesn't happen with papers, more or less openly. The fact is these judgement are inveitibly subjective in large degree, the rankings systems just put some numbers on mostly subjective judgements. They are of course crude but they are better than nothing.

Now, going back to your claim the the "quality of university education being delivered [in the UK] is appalling", what justification do you have for this, if you are ignoring all the widely available measures (rankings, external demand, recognition by external govermnets, employer demand etc.)?
Offwidth - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

Really? A top quarter claim might be just above half. Top ten could be wrong all but for the top few etc. Dropping 10+ places has resulted in emergency management changes in some institutions.
Jimbo W on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

> Your're touchingly naive if you think that doesn't happen with papers,

What a pillock!

> more or less openly.

Yes, that was my point, that it happens, but that it is open.

> The fact is these judgement are inveitibly subjective in large degree, the rankings systems just put some numbers on mostly subjective judgements. They are of course crude but they are better than nothing.

Good to see some backtracking.
MG - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Really?

Well I am not aware of anyone putting serious weight on say a 12 ranking rather than a 13 ranking.


A top quarter claim might be just above half. Top ten could be wrong all but for the top few etc.

Could be yes. But look at the top 30 in the QS rankings (of nearly 900), and I doubt you would argue that many should not be somewhere between 1 and 50. Claiming that sort of accuracy I think is credible.

MG - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> [...]
>
> What a pillock!

I could call you an ignorant moron. But I am not sure that would get us very far either though. You could just graciously concede you don't know what you are talking about rather than resorting to abuse.
Jimbo W on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

You were being patronising, which, coming from someone who has given no evidence for backing up any of his views, is rather amusing!!
MG - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> You were being patronising, which, coming from someone who has given no evidence for backing up any of his views, is rather amusing!!

FFS, if you don't like all the evidence I have provide, what would you accept as evidence that the claim the "quality of university education being delivered is appalling" is false?

MG - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to MG: And given you are making the claim, how about something to back it up? (and employoment or whatever of Dundee medical students is hardly saying much about UK HE as a whole)
Jimbo W on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

> FFS

"FFS" all you like. Where have you provided any? Except once to say look at wiki QS.
Offwidth - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

I'm talking say 5 that may be 12. The institutions at both ends of such a swap would disagree vehemently.

As for QS rankings I think they are likley even worse they impose a system that suits the anglo-saxon dominance on a very diverse HE delivery worldwide. Data errors I suspect are more common as well (as accurate measures can be harder to find: some Malaysian institutions dropped huge amounts when someone realised that many of the Chinese, Indian and other minority students were Malaysian and not overseas students). Ths same statistical problems will apply on less well determined data and with very different levels of dishonesty (at least our management in the UK are pretty consistent with their KPI fiddles these days... makes you wonder if it wouldn't have been easier for them all to be honest.)
MG - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: To repeat for the nth time: various rankings, overseas students spending £xxx, overseas government spending £xxx, employer demand for graduates.

You are basically saying everyone of these bodies and people is wrong and you are right. So, again, what evidence have you that the "quality of university education being delivered is appalling"?
MG - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> I'm talking say 5 that may be 12. The institutions at both ends of such a swap would disagree vehemently.

At one end, I would guess :-)
Offwidth - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

I think in QA terms the middle ranking Uk institutions are likely under-rated for undergraduate teaching compared to many overseas institutions. QA is better linked to research outputs but some countries still manipulate their spending and hence influence here more than others.

UK spending by overseas students is distorted by English language being the dominant business language and our more plentiful 3 year courses (that are 4 elsewhere) but is still likely a better judge of teaching quality than QA tables. Because of the minimum acceptable standard approach of QAA this is much more uniform across the UK sector than league tables would indicate and nearly all good (before QAA wings were clipped wasn't it ~£2billion spent to discover 16 failing courses with more than half being overseas franchises?... I knew one of those failed overseas courses run by Herts as it was in parallel to one I was associated with and it wasn't failing on teaching standards either, just QM). I had to do a QA visit to a private college in London with a validated degree a few years back (the lowest of the low according to the press and the snobs) and I was impressed with the teaching quality, standards and enthusiam there.
Jimbo W on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jimbo W) To repeat for the nth time:

> various rankings

Which specifically would you like to cite?

> overseas students spending £xxx
> overseas government spending £xxx

Lets flesh out some figures rather than just stating something... ...lets see how it has changed, and see some reasoning to go along with it of why those figures at a particularly point in time, would back up your argument?

> employer demand for graduates

Again, care to cite some specific figures and how they've changed rather than just making otherwise vacuous assertions?
>
> You are basically saying everyone of these bodies and people is wrong and you are right.

Which bodies, which figures?
MG - on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: I give you numbers when I have a minute or you could Google. Any shred of evidence to back your claim? At least four requests now...
Jimbo W on 30 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:

Kids birthday taking precedence, but looking forward to the input. Regarding my evidence, let me first check what you'd actually accept as evidence? Evidence of educational inflation? Evidence of a general reorientation toward markets and postgraduates over basic undergraduate education? The fact that there has been a systemic accommodation rather than response to education inflation in school? Employer evidence of poorer graduate ability? Evidence of the systemic infiltration of universities by educationalists not rooted in individual subject disciplines? Anecdotal examples from multiple universities of what £9000 is getting or usn't getting you? Etc etc. I only ask because you characterise yourself as argueing the toss on so much it'd be nice to see what you would view as evidence?
Jimbo W on 01 May 2013
In reply to MG:

Not so easy to put your fingers on the numbers.....?

Another question to inform the evidence I give to back up my assertion... ...we could have very different ideas about what constitutes a decent undergraduate education, so I wonder what your view is, and how, if things have changed markedly, which it is my contention that they have, that this isn't relevant.
MG - on 01 May 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Not so easy to put your fingers on the numbers.....?
>


No there's loads of them, for example here
http://www.ukcisa.org.uk/about/statistics_he.php

Offwidth - on 01 May 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:

I think there is some truth in all of those points. However there were different problems in the past that have also gone away and the system is dealing with a much wider section of the population and new skills like IT. I still think the best teaching is still excellent and all but a few are still good.

Universities have been complaining about A level decline in the press and in political consultations ever since Ive been a lecturer: it's not their fault. Of course they accomodate, part of which is undoing damage. Coventry even quantified it: A level maths standards when they started at top E was a few years ago equivalent an A.

Employers can be unfair and also sometimes be plain wrong. Some senior manager in a company with a sponsored student wrote to my VC complaining that a colleague didn't understand transistors because I (as a doctor and material scientist) said it worked the opposite way he did (conventinal current vs electron flow was fun explaination for my boss).

Educationalists with no specialism we could lose, I'll agree there, but not pedagogists with subject expertise, or how will we help our teacher education work as well as it can.

In my day, in the early 80's, there was a course at a very big name that took some of the best of the best them failed more than half of them and barely ever awarded a first... a complete waste of talent (its very different there now)... in comparison at that time Cambridge just moved those who were struggling to something slightly different that better suited their skills .
MG - on 01 May 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> Kids birthday taking precedence, but looking forward to the input. Regarding my evidence, let me first check what you'd actually accept as evidence?

Well your claim is that UK HE education is appalling so something that supports that. I would suggest things like high levels of student and graduate disatisfaction, falling overseas student numbers, employers avoiding UK graduates, lack of professional recognition of UK degrees,low rankings and so on would support your contention.



MG - on 01 May 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
Evidence of a general reorientation toward markets and postgraduates over basic undergraduate education?

Not in it self. HE is must fulfil an economic need and fund itself.

The fact that there has been a systemic accommodation rather than response to education inflation in school?

Possibly. But has this occurred? The courses I am familar with start at the same level as 20 years ago and finish at a higher level due to taking a year longer than previously.


Employer evidence of poorer graduate ability?

Possibly if you can find it.

Evidence of the systemic infiltration of universities by educationalists not rooted in individual subject disciplines? A

No - how is this a bad thing? (Good) educationalists know more about how to communicate and, well, educate than subject specific lecturers will. A healthy collaboration can only be a good thing.

Jimbo W on 01 May 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jimbo W)
> [...]
>
> Well your claim is that UK HE education is appalling so something that supports that. I would suggest things like high levels of student and graduate disatisfaction, falling overseas student numbers, employers avoiding UK graduates, lack of professional recognition of UK degrees,low rankings and so on would support your contention.

Well calling undergraduate HE appalling is clearly a personal value judgement, so to have useful debate, I wonder whether there are any terms of overlapping reference that might make such a discussion possible? I would put down my marker as the description of educational quality contained within the 1963 Robbins report as an idea of what a *not* appalling undergraduate HE teaching quality looks like.
Jimbo W on 01 May 2013
In reply to MG:

> > Evidence of a general reorientation toward markets and postgraduates over basic undergraduate education?

> Not in it self. HE is must fulfil an economic need and fund itself.

I disagree with the fulfilment of economic need, which is to make the economy king, and such economic need would turn all universities into technological colleges. As for HE funding itself (without caveat, since you offer none), is not and should not be the purpose of HE, but it is certainly becoming so, thus distorting biases toward postgraduate education and research which are far more directly economically productive. Clearly some economic subsistence is always going to be important, but we've gone way past that. For what its worth I disagree fundamentally that universities are there to fulfil economic need. I believe that the purpose of a university education is to educate minds and engender the creativity necessary to lead the future direction of societal activity, whether that be found to be your economic king or not, but which should always include foci of societal health that don't proximally relate to the economy at all!

> > The fact that there has been a systemic accommodation rather than response to education inflation in school?

> Possibly. But has this occurred? The courses I am familar with start at the same level as 20 years ago and finish at a higher level due to taking a year longer than previously.

Okay, so we have grounds for debate here. In my experience, yes. Indeed, a response to it has been formalised in medicine nationwide in part of the GMC's Tomorrow's doctors documents, which formally rejig the foci of medical education toward more basic "core" medical subjects without any concomitant increases in course length. This has required a fundamental change in post-graduate education in medicine, which has not occurred, indeed, thanks to Blair, only training contraction has occurred, with less flexibility available to achieve the required post-graduate education.

> > Employer evidence of poorer graduate ability?

> Possibly if you can find it.

Good more ground for debate

> > Evidence of the systemic infiltration of universities by educationalists not rooted in individual subject disciplines? A

> No - how is this a bad thing? (Good) educationalists know more about how to communicate and, well, educate than subject specific lecturers will. A healthy collaboration can only be a good thing.

Okay, we're going to disagree fundamentally here. Yes, and again, and not restricted to medicine, I think the educationalists have done much harm. But I'll keep away from this during the current debate.
MG - on 01 May 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: Right come on, why do you think UK HE is appalling? You've done enough dancing around your claim. Or are you maybe just wrong, and that while imperfect, it is on average very good.
Jimbo W on 01 May 2013
In reply to MG:

> Right come on, why do you think UK HE is in good health. You've done enough dancing around your claim without citing specific figures, the relevance of which you haven't justified. Or are you maybe just wrong, and that while imperfect, it is on average pretty bad.

MG - on 01 May 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: No, your are the one making the claim (right at the top of thread), you are the one that needs to support it.
Jimbo W on 01 May 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jimbo W) No, your are the one making the claim (right at the top of thread), you are the one that needs to support it.

Actually, I was challenging your 9k is cheap comment. Context, context old boy.
MG - on 01 May 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: Ah, so when you wrote "The quality of university education being delivered is appalling and is only worth £9k by virtue of being a tick in the box that's increasingly necessary." You didn't acutally mean that all. OK, glad that's cleared up.
Jimbo W on 01 May 2013
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Jimbo W) Ah, so when you wrote "The quality of university education being delivered is appalling and is only worth £9k by virtue of being a tick in the box that's increasingly necessary." You didn't acutally mean that all. OK, glad that's cleared up.

Yes, I did mean that. It ain't worth 9K, except because it is a necessary evil, but yours was the statement made first, and still in need of evidence, that a university education is cheap and worthwhile. I'm quite happy to put up the evidence, have a post prepared, but I want to see some similar effort from you, and want to make sure you don't do you usual squirmy little worm game, and establish, what you might accept as being evidence, especially given our very differing views on what HE is for.
MG - on 01 May 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: Look at the thread! There was amply discussion of costs above. I have given you links to numbers for rankings and overseas students several times. So far you have given nothing to support your claim but anecdote and medicine at Dundee. If you still can't I will conclude you are a) not debating in good faith and b) probably don't even know what you are trying to say.

(I note your regression to insults again when under pressue. Quite childish really).
Jimbo W on 01 May 2013
In reply to MG:

> (In reply to Jimbo W) Look at the thread! There was amply discussion of costs above. I have given you links to numbers for rankings and overseas students several times. So far you have given nothing to support your claim but anecdote and medicine at Dundee. If you still can't I will conclude you are a) not debating in good faith and b) probably don't even know what you are trying to say.

There are no figures up thread that support or justify your position, unless you want to cite the circularity that is employers who chose those who have the tick in the box over those who don't.. ..what else would employers do. The problem is I'd already decided that you weren't debating in good faith, because you weren't actually backing anything you've been saying to me up with evidence, except by a "look here (google wiki), look there, why can't you see it" kind of laziness.

> (I note your regression to insults again when under pressue. Quite childish really).

I was taking your regressive lead in resorting to being patronising.
Rob Exile Ward on 01 May 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: 'I believe that the purpose of a university education is to educate minds and engender the creativity necessary to lead the future direction of societal activity'

I think your wording is a bit clumsy but I think I agree with what you're trying to say!

However, all HE has been in a arms race since at least the early 80s as 'traditional' universities have been seen as a gold standard to be aspired to; yet the huge majority of students are neither interested in or have the aptitude for societal directions, pursuit of knowledge and the furtherance of truth etc etc; they just want training, and then a job. And no shame in that.

The irony of all this is that, as I pointed out to Gordon in an earlier thread, that Germany was creating polytchnics of equal status to their own more academic institutions back in the 19th C, and this was being recognised as a, perhaps the, most significant factor in their economic success in the 1900s. How we managed to miss that lesson so completely, how all those poly lecturers and principals managed to ignore that and settle instead for being second rate academics, is completely beyond me.
MG - on 01 May 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to MG)
>
> [...]
>
> There are no figures up thread that support or justify your position,

Well that's just a straight lie! E.g. 14:23 Mon
MG - on 01 May 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> (In reply to Jimbo W) 'I believe that the purpose of a university education is to educate minds and engender the creativity necessary to lead the future direction of societal activity'
>
> I think your wording is a bit clumsy but I think I agree with what you're trying to say!
>


Me too. But that isn't incompatible with HE funding itself, as Jimbo seems to think. I would have it rather obvious that HE needs to fund itself - academics won't work for nothing and I think academies even in ancient Greece had the odd building cost!
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Jimbo W on 01 May 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> (In reply to Jimbo W) 'I believe that the purpose of a university education is to educate minds and engender the creativity necessary to lead the future direction of societal activity'
>
> I think your wording is a bit clumsy but I think I agree with what you're trying to say!

I'm still not good at this smart phone malarky, so you're getting pprety much unedited stuff, but yes it wasn't the clearest.

> However, all HE has been in a arms race since at least the early 80s as 'traditional' universities have been seen as a gold standard to be aspired to; yet the huge majority of students are neither interested in or have the aptitude for societal directions, pursuit of knowledge and the furtherance of truth etc etc; they just want training, and then a job. And no shame in that.
>
> The irony of all this is that, as I pointed out to Gordon in an earlier thread, that Germany was creating polytchnics of equal status to their own more academic institutions back in the 19th C, and this was being recognised as a, perhaps the, most significant factor in their economic success in the 1900s. How we managed to miss that lesson so completely, how all those poly lecturers and principals managed to ignore that and settle instead for being second rate academics, is completely beyond me.

I pretty much completely agree with all that, and believe therein lies the nub of what I believe is the UK problem.
Offwidth - on 01 May 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

Because as speaking as someone from an ex-poly that's simply not true. We have courses that are as good if not better at "aptitude for societal directions, pursuit of knowledge and the furtherance of truth etc" than many old universities alongside other courses which are very much more vocational. Where we were different was we tended to focus on specialisms more (ie tend to be less universal in subject coverage). Our Polytechnics were always much more different from the German ones, we had a much wider subject range and with courses with a more academic rather than vocational focus including things like Sociology, Psychology, Fine Art, Languages, English/literature, Pure Maths. We also ran CNNA based PhD programmes in large numbers. Hence, even in the mid 80's when I started, we were a University in all but name (and perhaps the overly strong control from the highly politicised and dangerous idiots in the local council).

We did change in some ways I regret. In the old Poly days OND/ONC HNC/HND qualifications were often varied, excellent and linked in through local colleges through to us on HND/C and then our our degrees. These higher national courses were suddenly standardised, in the Engineering field at least, when EDEXCEL took over, backed by the government, and we were forced to drop them as an institution as the national syllabus was an unsuitable fit for our degree courses and of a much lower technical standard.
Rob Exile Ward on 01 May 2013
In reply to Offwidth: I'm not sure what 'isn't true', also I'm not sure what period you're describing. Seemed pretty true to me in the 70s.
Jimbo W on 01 May 2013
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> (In reply to Offwidth) I'm not sure what 'isn't true', also I'm not sure what period you're describing. Seemed pretty true to me in the 70s.

I'm not sure, and it seemed as if he was also partly making your point for you?!
Offwidth - on 02 May 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:

Polytechnics ended in 1992. How the could anything relating to the change to Universities be true in the 70's??? My points in my last post related to the pretty immediate consequencies of the '92 act at my place. Alongside the good, plenty of bad things happened between then and now: through problematic HE policy and faulty governance. So on the point of adding to both arguments, that's the complicated reality. Do you seriously expect any self respecting academic to paint in overblown cliches (as you did in your exaggeration of problems in teaching quality)?


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