There’s a merit to this

Close them all down, the rubbish former polys. Or just use them to fleece foreigners. Restrict university admission to the most academically gifted 10% of our students and scrap tuition fees. Expand vocational qualifications, via technical colleges, and apprenticeships. Create an environment in which the kids getting Cs and Ds can see a real, financially rewarding and secure alternative to university.

31 thoughts on “There’s a merit to this”

  1. I’m not sure about the ‘create an environment’ bit – surely it’s the desire to create environments which got us where we are now? But I’m definitely in favour of razing lots of ‘universities’ to the ground and ploughing and salting the earth.

  2. I’m not sure if I see the point in universities any more. Originally, they were founded because books were rare & expensive items requiring hand copying & communications moved at walking pace. So it was more efficient to have a centre of learning students travelled to & where there could be real time dialogue between the teachers.
    Somewhere along the way, advances in communications moved this model from efficient to progressively less efficient. The OU has long shown that it’s possible to have distributed education brough to the student where they are, rather than the other way round.
    So why are university students still treated like a 3rd year junior school class? Are they really incapable of acquiring learning unsupervised?
    Yes, there may be advantages in continuing with the current model where the knowledge being acquired is a craft.. Medicine being an example. Let’s be honest. What else is a surgeon other than a skilled craftsman & technician. How exactly does diagnosing & repairing a body differ from diagnosing & repairing a car engine? But does a medical book read at a university acquire some mystical significance not found when the same book’s read elsewhere?

  3. Good suggestions.

    Combined with the purge it should do the job of smashing the left and their pernicious influence–at least as far as higher education is concerned.

  4. I had a friend who taught at a poly. The boss and his acolytes wanted it to become a Uni. My chum said “the problem is I’m the only one here who went to a decent uni. The others haven’t a clue what it involves.”

  5. Given that manufacturing has largely left these shores, and that what remains is highly-skilled and largely automated, do we still want or need vocational education?

  6. OU was supposed to be disruptive, Moocs were supposed to be disruptive yet the standard 3 year bachelors lives on, with the brightest and entryest going for the grad school for 2 years. The alternatives aren’t as popular as the residential meat space originals. You can say it’s just inertia but i feel we’re still waiting for a killer development that will put the cat among the pigeons.

  7. They don’t need a degree, but unfortunately they do need the credential now – an absurd number of jobs now ‘require’ degree-qualified candidates which absolutely do not need one, just to ensure the mediocre offspring of the middle-classes sew up the jobs market.

  8. Bloke in Spain,

    I think stuff with a high level of knowledge to be imparted, and where people suffer if not done well. Medicine, engineering, physics, chemistry, maths.

    l think with comp sci the best thing for kids to do is build games and apps while still at school, then find a small business in IT and take the most dogsbody programming job and work and learn hard. Unless you’re going to do something crazy like compiler design. You can learn tons from Pluralsight, Lynda, Microsoft, £10 ebooks, blogs etc.

    A lot of comp sci degrees is now project work. You build something that gets assessed by someone with zero experience in the world of work. The theoretical stuff is valuable, but it’s like learning the piano Vs playing in a band. Even if you learn Rachmaninoff, 99% of people want you playing the chords for Poker Face.

  9. One advantage of a decent education is claimed to be that it encourages you to reject lazy inaccuracies such as “manufacturing has largely left these shores …”.

    Whether it really does so I don’t know.

  10. Bloke in Spain

    One of the commonly touted merits of a university education used to be the broadening of one’s social horizons, mixing with peers and teachers from varying backgrounds, being exposed to new ideas, etc., etc. Quite often you met your future spouse as a student, too, a mate of suitable intelligence being harder to find after graduation.

    However, now that the Gramscian takeover of the education system is complete, universities have become little more than Marxist indoctrination centres, so all the stuff about horizons no longer applies. And if you meet a fanciable fellow student, chances are she will have purple hair and be given to screeching.

    The rot set in long ago. I went to Sussex in 1968 and was very much a square peg as far as student politics went. I used to wear a three-piece suit and tie, had a short haircut, and claim that my ambition was to get a job at Barclay’s Bank — this at a time when Barclay’s was being boycotted for its activities in South Africa. Great fun winding up all the middle-class boys and girls with rich daddies and mummies, though I could never keep up with who was in which caucus at the time. The names of these were variations on Marx, Trotsky, Lenin and Mao; the members kept splitting and reforming, like the Monty Python PLF scene.

    So yes, shut down the polys by all means, but it’s high time the others were shut down as well.

  11. Rob,

    Actually that isn’t that true.

    The credentials are almost entirely about big companies, and that’s a load of levels of HR cover-your-arse/ignorance.

    One of the reasons software got outsourced, what’s known as the ‘internal exit’ is to avoid all the HR crap. And small software houses don’t care. They hire on experience and their own tests. I’d rather hire someone with a GCSE and a half-broken Android app that they built themselves on weekends that can talk about it than a comp sci graduate who can’t show me anything.

    Because my boss won’t care why I failed. It’s my job to get the project done. And that’s what works.

  12. As a Chartered Engineer who has 3 degrees (2 from Britain’s top place for Engineering) and who taught at a Polytechnic, I can add some light to this. When the Polys started out, they had 3 terms of thirteen weeks, with intensive tuition, to compete with the sometimes not much older Universities with short terms and relaxed tuition timetables. Quite a lot of the students who had come through technician routes had a grounding in most of the subjects anyway, and the nett effect was to produce a comparable, and sometimes much more suited to industry, graduate. We were in those days really sparing with the higher grades, and just about everyone who graduated was immediately employable.
    I’ve worked with Oxbridge graduates, and they are pretty much up themselves, telling Poly folk that their Oxbridge Third was better than any grade achievable in the place of employment, and frankly, most Uni snobs like that are simply wankers who contribute fuck all but boast about where they studied.
    Today, though, with ex-Polys down to 2 10-week Semesters in a year, and the same hours taught in Engineering as in Muslim Wimmin’s Studies, you probably have a point. The professional bodies now insist on 4 academic years not 3, and probably 5 are really needed.
    Also, the staff:student ratio is now a far cry of the 1:5 or so of the 1960s and 70s, to more like 1:40 or 1:50. Trust me, I’ve been an External Examiner at a half-dozen Universities of old and new ilk, and there isn’t much to choose between them. The whole system has been fucked over by Socialists in the interests of VCs salaries and Equal Opportunities.

  13. Andrew M,

    How does that get calculated? Is the tea lady working at a factory a manufacturing job? Are HR? And if so, if they outsource HR to an agency, do the ‘manufacturing’ jobs remain?

  14. @BiSw
    “I think stuff with a high level of knowledge to be imparted, and where people suffer if not done well. ”
    I can see that where the knowledge impated is qualatitive. I’ve learnt several crafts over the years & there’s an enormous advantage having someone at your elbow showing how a thing’s done & correcting your mistakes when you have a go. So I can see your point with medicine & the dirty hands end of engineering. But physics? Chemistry? Sure, if you’re training lab technicians. But why would you require a degree for a lab technician? It’s manual work.
    Maths? If you can’t learn maths from a book, shouldn’t you be doing something more within your capabilities? McD’s is always hiring.
    I’d favour Mr Fuller’s submission. The attraction of a sort of high end social club. But mainly, like so many things, it’s just the Guild with a different hat on. Create a monopoly & then sit on it, fighting off challengers. Universities haven’t been about disseminating knowledge for centuries. They’re about restricting knowledge..

  15. Andrew M:
    Manufacturing employment numbers are irrelevant to the question, partly for the reason Bloke in Swindon mentions but also because increased automation means that manufacturing employment is decreasing globally.

    As a share of GDP is also pretty meaningless, that just indicates that other parts of the economy are growing faster.

    What you want is inflation adjusted output in Sterling.

  16. Bloke in Wiltshire

    bloke in Spain,

    The thing with chemistry and physics is also the testing. I think for high knowledge subjects there’s some sense in that. and in certain aspects there are high costs to failure. I don’t know enough about them, to be honest.

    I’m watching for the smart money quitting degrees. Programming will be the first area. And my guess, it’ll be code camps that take over. 4 months away. Business days of work. No holidays. $10k all in. Linked to what employers want.

  17. If I compare myself and my two brothers:
    I went to uni at 18, straight after A levels.
    B left school at 16, went to college and got a cooking qualification, worked in kitchens for five years or so saving up, then went to uni, while working part-time in kitchens.
    C left school at 16, went full-time in his part-time shop assistant job.

    Guess which way our income/asset profile goes. 😉

  18. @Andrew M: the very blogger himself wrote about this, seven years ago I’ll grant you.

    BIS also makes a strong point: “How does that get calculated? Is the tea lady working at a factory a manufacturing job? Are HR? And if so, if they outsource HR to an agency, do the ‘manufacturing’ jobs remain?”

    Matty J’s points are also strong: you said “… manufacturing has largely left these shores …” but the figures you mention simply don’t cast any light on that.

  19. @Andrew M, August 20, 2017 at 9:53 am

    …do we still want or need vocational education?

    Yes: Ye Olde Tradesmen Guilds – plumbers, electricians etc. Day-release rather than FT for many trades.

  20. Bloke in North Dorset

    “As a share of GDP is also pretty meaningless, that just indicates that other parts of the economy are growing faster.”

    Indeed. During that period Governement share of GDP shot up.

  21. BiW

    “I’m watching for the smart money quitting degrees. Programming will be the first area. And my guess, it’ll be code camps that take over. 4 months away. Business days of work. No holidays. $10k all in. Linked to what employers want.”

    A point of comparison is flight school. Interesting that we don’t think do commercial pilot training at university. That’s also a skilled job, for smart people, and (perhaps more than programming does – lots of the best coders are autodidacts) absolutely requiring extensive tuition. But not the kind that is best delivered by lectures, rather best learned by doing. There are some professions where a commercial equivalent of flight school seems viable and programming smells to me like one of them.

  22. I suppose that flying is such fun, and so remunerative, that nobody even pretends that training needs taxpayer subsidy. Or does the RAF count?

  23. dearieme, others,

    Timmy’s 2010 article that you linked states:

    it is also gobsmackingly obvious that fewer people are employed in manufacturing than in the past

    Since there are fewer jobs in manufacturing, it follows that there should be fewer manufacturing-related courses taught in former polytechnics.


    You’re absolutely right, we still need plumbers and electricians. Although faced with stiff competition from Poland etc., I can understand why young people are reluctant to enter the trades.

  24. Andrew M

    “Given that manufacturing has largely left these shores, and that what remains is highly-skilled and largely automated, do we still want or need vocational education?”

    Still a lot of manufacturing in Britain. I can point to over two dozen companies doing manufacturing within a mile from my house.
    We are where in the global manufacturing rankings?


    Yes, that’s behind the US, China, the EU, Germany etc but 9th is still a LOT of manufacturing.

    Just we are no longer number 1, much to the annoyance of those who want us all to work in factories producing stuff. While they oversee of course.

    Sorry, that’s a previous century they are stuck in. Now we have people doing all sorts of jobs.

  25. Martin,

    Again, we’re talking about what former polytecs should teach. It’s the number of jobs in manufacturing which matters; not the output.

  26. The output will matter. What are you wanting taught?
    How to manufacture? How to run an XLS9000 machine? How to design? How to run a production line? How to grind metal? How to load ingredients? How to prevent accidents at work?

    Rather a lot does depend on what you want people to do. Some of which appears to be requiring people with engineering degrees?

    Here’s an interesting question – is hydroponics a manufacturing process or an agriculture process?

    Now if you want a really efficient sector is one person employed per shift to oversee and correct issues what manufacturing should be aiming for?

    A few thousand people producing a few hundred million in output – is that not a good thing?

    We have a LOT of manufacturing. Just does not require the same ‘workers’ on the shop floor.
    Ever wondered how much support it requires? Machines need fitting, machines need repairing, machines need replacing – none of which will be that manufacturer themselves!

  27. Not sure why anyone gives a toss about “manufacturing” jobs. You can spend £10 on a cd and create manufacturing jobs, or £10 on a lapdance and have little effect on manufacturing (glitter? heels?). But both put food on people’s tables.

    Is it some sort of ‘honest toil’ thing?

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