Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I had no idea

I was very puzzled by an article about the economy in England.

University 'way out of recession'

A tougher jobs market this year prompted a surge in applications to university in the UK - and pressures on public spending limited the expansion of student numbers, leaving an estimated 40,000 well-qualified applicants without places.

Yes, I did know that times are tough all over the world, but I was stunned by "40,000 well-qualified applicants without places." Where I come from, if your child doesn't get into one university, there is always another less prestigious university or jr. college to choose from. Why would 40,000 potential good students find themselves with no higher educational options?

Today, I think I figured out the answer.

Willetts signals way in for private universities

Plans to let more private universities into England's higher education system could feature in a new Higher Education Bill, a minister has said.

The article has a lot about funding that I didn't really follow that closely, but this little tidbit jumped out at me. Not only does the government ration health care in the UK, they ration higher education. Currently, there is only 1 or 2 private universities in all of England. The government literally has a strangled hold on higher education.

I'm still trying to make sense of the strange laws that govern university education in the UK.

From Wikipedia: Universities in the United Kingdom

Universities in the United Kingdom have generally been instituted by Royal Charter, Papal Bull, Act of Parliament or an instrument of government under the Education Reform Act 1988; in any case generally with the approval of the Privy Council, and only such recognized bodies can award degrees of any kind.

...The vast majority of United Kingdom universities are government financed, with only one private university (the University of Buckingham) where the government does not subsidise the tuition fees.

To put this all in perspective: (According to InfoPlease)

In the United States, as of 2005, there were almost 3 private 4-year universities for every public university [629 public 4-year universities vs. 1845 private 4-year universities]. And, our universities score high in the international university rankings.

University rankings dominated by US, with Harvard top

The US accounts for 72 of the world's 200 best universities, according to an international league table.

The Times Higher Education magazine's table, based on a number of criteria, including teaching, research and staff and student mix, has Harvard top.

Only five British institutions are ranked among the top 50, with Cambridge and Oxford in joint sixth place.

As much as I think there are problems in the United States university system, apparently it is not nearly as bad as in the UK.

I think there is a moral to this story. To improve the quality and access to education, we need move private schools and fewer government regulations.


abba12 said...

The biggest difference is, americans pay very high prices, and have a lot of freedom to choose and decide. Commonwealth countries pay a lot less, but have fewer choices. Yes, they have to wait to be accepted to the state system, but they also don't rack up $100,000 debts. Same in healthcare, I don't get to pick the doctor I want as easily, but if my child breaks his arm I won't suddenly have to come up with $2000 to get it fixed, it's 'free' through my taxes. There are a lot of hardworking americans who don't have health insurance through work.

There are benefits to each system and drawbacks. If I lived in america study wouldn't even be an option, the cost is uncomprehendable to me, to be paying off a study debt that large? There's better things I can do with my life than go study and then spend the rest of my life trying to pay it off again, the mortgage is bad enough. And if my family had lived in america when I was younger I would be screwed as far as health goes, because my dad was self-employed quite successfully, but as I understand it most americans get health insurance through employment, as a self employed person he wouldn't have had it, but he had 4 children, all of whom had disabilities from birth. Even here in Australia with health being so much cheaper, he had to sell the house to pay the medical bills for one of my sisters who, unfortunately, passed away. In america we probably wouldn't have even been able to access some of the things we got here.

On the other hand, I have a rare medical condition that is not understood by most doctors, however I don't have the money to go private and choose a doctor for everything, so I have a specialist, private doctor for the specific issues and I just have to put up with ignorant jerks who assume I am an idiot and that they know better than me for the rest of my health services.

On the healthcare thing, I know an american who was a college student who got very very sick. He had to try and raise money while he was dying to pay for the equipment and medication he needed. In australia, the fees would have been nominal at worst, and on many things non-existent.

In america, employment is down, but your country would not see the huge rush to study opportunities, less work means less money to pay the bills to study to get the work.

There are positives and negatives to both systems, I personally much prefer mine, you much prefer yours, they are what we are used to more than anything. I'd rather wait a couple years to get into university, and pay for it as I study knowing I will be better off afterwards, than get into uni instantly, knowing I have to hurry up and find a good job because I now have a debt of tens of thousands of dollars.

Anonymous said...

I agree with abba on this one. I am an Australian who went through the Australian university system, and now live in the UK. I would much prefer a system where learning is affordable, even if you have to wait another year or so. Private universities, in Australia and the US, often have lower standards. It's a fact.
Also, you seem to regard universities in the UK as government run institutions. They are not! There is a huge difference between receiving government funding and 'too much government regulation is stifling education'. Having good degrees, and degrees that will result in employment/good learning is better than having open slather allowing crap universities to offer degrees that are never going to result in anything.

And on health care - 'rationing' of health care in the UK??? Seriously? If you are ill in the UK you get the care you need. And you don't have to pay for it if you can't. Very different than the US.

I appreciate that you are trying to understand a system different than the one you are used to dealing with, but you seem to be viewing the information you are reading through a certain ideological focus, and that is skewering how you see things.

Janine Cate said...

I still don't understand the benefit of the British government's near monopoly on higher education. More education options, like private universities, would help everyone.

>If I lived in america study wouldn't even be an option, the cost is uncomprehendable to me, to be paying off a study debt that large?

In the US, there are so many ways to pay for college. There scholarships of incredible variety. My daughter just sent in an inquiry for a scholarship from the "Tall Club of Silicon Valley." [She is 5' 11"]

There are also inexpensive colleges. [Between summer jobs and a small scholarship, I graduated with no debt.]

Then there are grants and work study programs.

Times are tighter than when I went to school, but it is still very doable. If you really wanted to go to college, you could find a way.

Jean said...

Thanks for this explanation; I understand more about the system now. It definitely explains a few things I couldn't figure out.

To the Aussies, there really are many ways to pay for college. My husband grew up very very poor, but he and two brothers went to the top state university with grants and work-study, and paid off what debt there was in a few years. I got this really great private grant/loan that paid for a lot.

I don't particularly want to argue health care, but self-employed people can and do acquire insurance. Our system is in some serious trouble these days, but I don't think that it's going to improve from this new plan.

Rose said...

I'm doing a persuasive school paper on why parents should consider homeschooling as an alternative to the conventional classroom. I also have personal experience with this since I homeschooled my younger brother who was diagnosed with Aspergers (high functioning autism disorder) and was pulled out of school.
I saw your post regarding the Phantom Toll Booth and I had to respond. This book was my all time favorite as a child. I've thought about it often as an adult and I've referenced it many times in conversations. I'm always surprised when someone hasn't heard of it.
I always think of the whether and weather discussion when I have to write the word. It's funny how certain things stick with you so strongly and I really wish there were more books like this one available. I'm going to check out the other book you mentioned and I think I'm going to dig up a copy of The Phantom Tollbooth to read to my 7 year old brother.
Thanks for the inspiration and the walk down memory lane:)

A said...

How big is the demand for more universities in the United Kingdom? That is, is the shortage based on below-par students wanting to go but not being accepted, or on a lack of placements for qualified applicants? In the United States, a large number of public universities accept anyone and everyone, regardless of qualifications. These under-performing students are herded into pre-college level courses.

Free Interactive World History Games to Play Online