A useful form of rationing

So it’s time to challenge the university shibboleth of the more the merrier. Using better data, we should decide on the right number and reintroduce a cap on student numbers in conjunction with social quotas for every university. These must ensure that places are reserved for young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

Say, 10% of the age cohort and that’s your lot?

Erm, as we did 40 years ago?

The joy being that we get to sack 80% of the current professoriate.

62 thoughts on “A useful form of rationing”

  1. Well, erm, no.

    My experience was that as the student numbers increased, the academic staff numbers didn’t, although the numbers of ‘adminstrators’ skyrocketed. In the 1970s, the student:staff ratio in one STEM department was 7, and the tuition was unparalleled. A decade into the third millenium, it was 150 ! Yes, 150. Agreed, not for long, because even the dregs at the bottom of the barrel knew they weren’t getting a good deal. The staff numbers in 1975 were 20, and today there are fewer of them. Today, it is around 60.

    So, you sack the academics? Go on, I dare you.

  2. It was unusually sensible until she started with the class war bit. And what about foreign students if the overall numbers are being cut? They are charged far more than UK students. Is she advocating a racist (on the Left’s terms) policy of exclusion here, or is she saying English students whose parents can pay £9k up front are evil and should be excluded but foreign students whose parents can pay £20k should not?

  3. How do you decide “disadvantaged” backgrounds?

    I know people who are very alternative. They got useless degrees and aren’t that fond of the rat race. They barely work. Their children will count as disadvantaged based on income. In fact they are so over-privileged it isn’t funny. Allowing them to get degrees will be a waste of the country’s money.

    In NZ there are some scholarships for Maori. They are almost exclusively taken by students who are either White in practice, but who have one Maori ancestor, or Maori from wealthy families. The number of deserving disadvantaged Maori that gain from them is tiny.

    It’s not that I object to reserving places for disadvantaged, but that any such system never really ends up working. France has free tertiary, but their minorities are grossly under-represented in it regardless.

    It is a wicked problem. It cannot be solved by simply allocating a space for an (undefinable) group.

  4. Bloke in North Dorset

    “social quotas” – Fuck. Right. Off. Fix the state education first.

    Make universities publish the median salaries and employment rates of those who have completed the various degrees alongside all the rest of their material.

  5. How do you decide “disadvantaged” backgrounds?

    One guarantee is that the number from ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds will rise the moment such a policy is put in force, as it places a massive, massive incentive on demonstrating that you are ‘disadvantaged’.

    “Affirmative action” programs based on race in the US have ensured that black children from middle-class backgrounds take the places of bright white kids from working class backgrounds. This is apparently fair and equitable.

  6. “the university shibboleth of the more the merrier”: we’ve been through his before; it ain’t a shibboleth. It is a dogma, and it didn’t originate with the universities but with the PM-who-should-be-hanged.

    In fact, the case for abandoning it is made watertight simply by observing that it woz Blair wot dunnit.

  7. I read a document from Manchester University some time ago, which described the differential recruitment policy for the University, which did take into account student background. It appeared very sensible, as it sought to maximise outcomes (degree standards). Thus if it thought an individual from a less privileged background had the potential to achieve a good outcome, they were offered a place, even if their A level results were less than the norm. They then monitored the process to ensure the selection criteria achieved the desired outcome (good degrees) and modified as appropriate. Seems sensible and progressive to me.

  8. If people are dumb enough to go to a bad university and rack up student debt then let them… Make it so that any student who has the academic ability and drive can go to the best uni they can (via loans) but beyond that – you pays your money and takes your choice!

    Fixing secondary education I agree with mind you – not sure how but current schools really are poor (well, in my small sample of local schools to me!)

  9. dearieme, was it not Major who first articulated the political aspiration for 50% of the population to have gone to university?

  10. BiC

    “rack up student debt”

    But if they don’t find a decent graduate job afterwards then that debt is written off so the taxpayer ends up paying instead.

    It’s another tricky issue. People generally will only be put in a position to make sensible decisions if you align their incentives with the actual costs. But in practice, go down that route too far and the risk of taking an expensive degree but not finding a job that makes it worthwhile will drive high quality but risk-averse potential students away. Personally I think income-contingent repayment schemes are a good balance, especially in terms of the risk exposure the students face, but it does mean they won’t shoulder the full burden if uni is a waste of time for them.

    Sidenote: for a large number of students who will never repay their loans, but also the small minority who make sackloads of money and would have done so regardless of going to uni or not (perhaps people who get big in entertainment or sports or who are computing wunderkinds), the biggest cost of uni is the opportunity cost. Those two groupings might together make up the majority of students! What else could they have done with three or four years of life, particularly if they’d been upskilling during this time with non-university self-study or an apprenticeship, or just developing useful work skills through experience? But people are irrational about underweighting that kind of counterfactual cost and paying too much attention to “costs” presented as numbers on the bottom of bills (even if, like tuition fees, you may never need to pay them).

  11. Why do el goverino want so many to go to university?

    1) because they sign up for 25 or so years of voluntary taxation via the wrongly named “student loan” system.
    2) unemployment figures for the young don’t look so bad when they’re “in education”

    Of my school friends, only 1 of the 10 I still am in touch with has a job requiring a professional degree. 9 of them went.

    2 of them couldn’t land a job at all and what did they do? Stayed in the system to do a leftie PhD!

  12. MyBurningEars

    The problem with the income contingent repayments are that they punish success or progress – be a lazy f**k and never repay – try and make it pay… I know it’s not the biggest re-payment ever but should just be something like you re-pay 5% or income per year until debt is cleared… that way it is linear and easy to understand and doesn’t massively hit when you reach a certain point…

    I chose not to go to uni and started work instead – I earn more than most of my peer group and have the opportunity to earn a lot more if I tweak my work life balance… I value my spare time more than the extra income…

  13. The key is to give everyone the same opportunity to achieve if they have the ability, not to positively discriminate because of perceived disadvantage. No system will ever be perfect as many parents will always try to game the system, but I suggest getting all children to sit a test halfway through their school career, about 11 years old. If they pass, send them to a school where their ability is nurtured without the distraction of low ambition chav kids. They can then apply to university purely on merit.

  14. Chester Draws,

    Same situation in Australia. White aboriginals from inner city suburbs hoover up all the scholarships and prizes intended for those who are disadvantaged due to the choices of their parents and communities. No aboriginal has to be disadvantaged, billions are spent trying to “close the gap” but the adults choose unemployment, alcoholism, child abuse, domestic violence, etc. My son went to university with a white aboriginal who received taxpayer handouts. You only knew he identified as an aboriginal because he told you so.

  15. BiI–Bliar’s “50% Uni” was so the max number can be exposed to the CM brainwash.

    E-Man “So, you sack the academics? Go on, I dare you.”

    If only I had the power–it would be a pleasure.

  16. Major was pretty feeble but it’s an appalling libel to accuse him of being as bad as Blair. Brown wasn’t as bad as Blair. Antony Eden wasn’t as bad as Blair. Heath-Wilson wasn’t as bad as Blair. Lloyd George wasn’t as bad as Blair.

  17. I actually think Heath was every bit as bad as Blair. Blair was happy to sacrifice the lives of British servicemen, Iraqis and Serbs to further his ambition. Heath was prepared to deceive and sacrifice those he was elected to represent to further his. Utter cunts both.

  18. It was 15% when I was at uni in the 1980s.

    And you don’t need to “reserve” places for disadvantaged applicants, just take 15% of the population uniformly across the population, then disadvantaged applicants get places automatically. My grandmother and grandfather didn’t get places at uni because they were disadvantaged, but because they passed their exams. They got *funding* because they were disadvantaged.

  19. Bloke in Cornwall – so currently if I earn below £15k then I pay nothing, if I earn £20k then I pay a percentage of the amount over £15k.
    5% of income per year is a lot of money when you first start work. Its considerably more than most of the graduates will pay even in well paid jobs.

    And around the time I retire the graduate tax no longer applies to me. Joy.
    All that free education and they gave me free money too.
    Not bad for someone who was a full time student and a full time worker.

  20. Martin

    The 5% was just a number – could be anything really… It’s more to encourage people to try harder and stop the current cycle of punishing people when they earn more… The payments would only happen until you’ve repaid your total borrowing (as currently)… The truth of the current system is that most of the debt falls on tax payers in the end because people don’t repay it… I think it should be a case of “want to go to uni, that’s fine but as you want to do it you pay for it…”

  21. Can this be combined with my 50/50 gender policy, whereby universities with unequal intake and results are fined?

  22. @ PaultheManc
    Good for Manchester. Oxford does the same and my old college provides bursaries for poor students so that the cost does not prevent them getting a first-class education. Fulfilling the purpose for which it was founded, so actually highly reactionary.

  23. http://www.aei.org/publication/chart-of-the-day-administrative-bloat-in-us-public-schools/print/

    American education growth, 1950 to 2009: Students 96%, teachers 252%, administrators 702%.

    Fire them all and start over.

    As an educated related cost anecdote I have just tried to buy a door knob, door handle for you Brits, is it?. It needs to be keyed inside and out for a tenant who keeps locking herself out. Such a thing exists and is called a ‘classroom security knob’. The one I want is made by Schlage who make ordinary single key on the exterior knobs for about $CAD40 because I use Schlage locks elsewhere. Other than a second key cylinder and a slightly different connecting rod I am unable to see any difference between them.

    The education sooper dooper lock is $CAD500 plus. Other suppliers, similar prices.

    I don’t blame Schlage but I would cheerfully lash every school administrator who failed to argue with Schlage and all the other suppliers busily profiteering off the education system.

    Oh well, no doubt your NHS gets a great deal on hospital hardware, ha, ha, ha, time for Fruehschoppen.

  24. I’d like to believe the countless graduates whose 2.1 in Creative Writing I helped fund and who are currently earning minimum wage in a warehouse somewhere will one day be contributing to my state pension. But I won’t hold my breath.

  25. “…will drive high quality but risk-averse potential students away”

    There’s a good argument that this is a contradiction in terms. In the real world nothing is free of risk. The student is best placed to asses their own aptitude for education & whether they will profit from that education. If they’re not willing to take the risk, why should society as a whole take it? Unless you’re taking the point of view that education is worth it for its own sake. In which case no student should be paying for their own education.

  26. Chester Draws. You made me smile. I’m about as white and Celtic looking as one can get, but I got a little melanin into the family by marrying a dark eyed, raven haired señorita, and producing a couple of underprivileged minority kids entitled to special consideration. Just ask ’em.

    What concerns universities more are declining birth rates which mean fewer kiddies each year which eventually manifests itself in fewer college applicants. This is already being felt in the States by some historically black colleges with some closing, and many other good but not prestigious schools are really feeling the pinch.

    Couple this with college budgets having been bloated by more administrative staff, state budgets being crimped by pension obligations reducing the portion the state contributes to college budgets out of general tax funds, and the colleges having to rely more and more on tuition, and you’ve got a whole bunch of sociology profs learning about cash flow for the first time (which, of course, in a just world they wouldn’t have to do).

    That makes for a scramble for student bodies and an increasing emphasis on foreign and adult students.

    So, if there is a certain pleasure in watching many college professors and administrators fret and squirm, it’s a comin’.

  27. BiS

    Very fair point. Certainly if someone intending to study banking or economics utterly misunderstands the costs of university so decides not to apply after all, that’s likely no great loss to the world of finance. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say everyone put off uni because they’re too dumb to understand finance didn’t deserve to go in the first place. Because there are smart successful people in other fields whose ability to deal with even basic personal finances is very poor. (One thing I very much agree with Martin Lewis on is that there ought to be better financial education in schools.)

  28. I see a lot of people on here have a problem with social quotas for university; I have a problem with centrally imposed quotas full stop.

  29. @MBE
    It’s not a matter of expertise with personal finances. It’s a simple question. Does the student believe there’s sufficient demand for the skills they intend acquiring to justify the expense of acquiring the skills.
    Essentially, it’s the same question all of us have to consider when choosing a job. Is it going to pay sufficient to cover our outgoings?
    How much do you want to protect people from the consequence of their own choices?

  30. Dearime wrote “Major was pretty feeble but it’s an appalling libel to accuse him of being as bad as Blair. Brown wasn’t as bad as Blair. Antony Eden wasn’t as bad as Blair. Heath-Wilson wasn’t as bad as Blair. Lloyd George wasn’t as bad as Blair.”

    I’d argue that not even Jack the frickin’ Ripper was as bad as Tony Blair – compare bodycounts for example.

  31. jgh:

    No, we use a double lock system here in western Canada with two holes in the door. One has a deadbolt, usually keyed outside with a thumb latch on the inside, sometimes with a keyhole. The other hole has a knob or handle, keyed on the outside, with a push or turn button on the inside to lock up.

    There’s the problem. Tenant turns button, leaves without keys, pulls door shut behind her and is locked out. I need something she can only lock with the key in her hand. Such as https://www.americanlocksets.com/schlage-d70-classroom-lock-p-467.html

  32. My brief stint in politics taught me to always ask:
    – who decides
    – who pays

    When these are ‘aligned’ then things generally work. Might not be what everyone wants of course.

    Old system: 5% uni, govt decides and pays
    Now: students decide and pay themselves

    Seems obvious to me that any other system is just not going to work.

  33. @FredZ
    You’re describing a very common problem. The solution I’ve always used is a Yale type key lock which works a dead-lock rather than a spring latch. But on the inside the lock’s operated by rotating a knob. Means the door has to be positively locked when leaving. You can’t lock the door unless you have the key. Likewise it has to be positively locked from the inside, rather than just slammed.
    Fitted these to not only most places I’ve lived but all of the tenanted places I’ve managed.
    For rented properties, it also makes it very easy to change the locks. Just swap in a new cylinder.
    Cost’s not much more than fitting a standard spring-latch. I seem to remember there’s also a version that’s surface mounted on the inside of the door, rather than mortised in. Quicker to fit but makes the door vulnerable to being kicked in because the frame plate’s only held by a couple small screws, rather than being mortised into the door liner.

  34. One guarantee is that the number from ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds will rise the moment such a policy is put in force, as it places a massive, massive incentive on demonstrating that you are ‘disadvantaged’.

    Similarlu with the discovery of ‘disabilities’ such as dyslexia and dyspraxia, which granted sufferers an extra period of time in exams. Cue lots of Jemimas and Tarquins suddenly being identified as dyslexic in order to improve their exam grades (teachers quite happy to cooperate, of course).

  35. @bis

    “How much do you want to protect people from the consequence of their own choices?”

    Depends on whether there is a tendency to underinvest or overinvest in acquisition of skills (or certificates, not necessarily with skills attached). At the moment the tendency is to overinvest which suggests students are overpretected from costs and consequences. At some point the balance may tip the other way, though my feeling is that that’s quite a long way away so it would make sense to be quite a lot harsher on the wee’uns, for their own good.

  36. Mr Ecks,

    Presumably, bridges, cars, aeroplanes, water supply systems, power stations – the list is endless – will be designed by people who haven’t had a technical education. Good luck with that.

    But: Grenfell Tower and countless other examples show what poor education gives you.

    The problem is with degrees like ‘Irish Wimmin’s Studies’.

  37. Bloke in Costa Rica

    “[…]reintroduce a cap on student numbers[…]”, “[…]ensure that places are reserved for young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.”

    What’s the point of restricting student numbers and then letting hoi polloi in and dragging the tone of the place down? It was bad enough when I was up; almost 50% (and rising) of the intake hadn’t been to public school. But at least they knew their place. I have a dreadful feeling that this ‘new’ university system would be frightfully egalitarian or some such nonsense.

  38. The weird thing to me is how much you can learn without one now, yet we are doing them in bigger numbers. If you did computer science in the early 80s, it was because no-one could afford a half-decent computer at home. Same with film school. Do you really need university for psychology? Isn’t it all out there? Freud, Piaget, Jung and all that?

    Almost no-one does classroom training in software any longer. You use Udemy, Udacity, Pluralsight, Lynda or whatever.

  39. @ BiCR
    When I was up, Oxford had over 50% from grammar schools, Cambridge nearly 50%, and the younger universities generally more. [Sandhurst was overwhelmingly Public School and I assume Cranwell also, but they aren’t classified as universities]. You sound like a septuagenerian Cantab or someone witnessing the impact of Comprehensive schools on the quality of state education.

  40. That was my experience, too, John. Bu then (early 70s) almost everywhere had grammar schools and (crucially) direct grant schools as well.

  41. EMan–Not proposing to sack science/engineering teachers. Just those from the left’s hunting grounds–so called “humanities/arts” etc. S/E deals with reality and how we must work via its laws.

    Though known science leftists would get the boot also.No mercy for any enemies.

  42. “(One thing I very much agree with Martin Lewis on is that there ought to be better financial education in schools.)”

    I find it so weird that people keep saying this, we had financial education when I was at school in the 1980s, it was a module in Design For Living, the course that covered stuff like sexual & personal health, governance & citizenship and stuff. Surely they still teach this nowadays? If they don’t, how on earth can they justify NOT teaching it?

  43. BiS/FredZ “Single-sided lock” as in search:”Schlage L464″. Basically a Yale-style lock but with a square barrel so you can’t pull it closed behind you.

  44. Bloke in Costa Rica

    john77: I’m just playing. But Cantab? Heaven forfend I should have attended one of those ghastly provincial universities.

  45. bloke in spain/jgh

    Thanks for the comments, but you are writing in the British language, with which I am not familiar, especially technical terms, understanding only my Canadian variant. “Yale type key lock” is unknown to me, “dead-lock” is probably what I call a dead-bolt and a “spring latch” is probably what I call a knob with striker.

    But it seems very much as though you understand my problem perfectly and have a solution readily in hand. Might I beg a few links to people selling these wondrous objects? The Americans understand, and sell solutions, but at absurd prices designed to rape their school systems.

    I am in Spain via the UK every year or so and will personally deliver large quantities of the intoxicants of your choices to return the favour, or get my friends from Amazon to do so.

  46. ” Using better data, we should decide on the right number”

    Uhm, no.

    You should use that better data to determine the perfomance metrics that students who will have a high likelyhood of succeeding should meet for acceptance.

    If *everyone* can meet those standards then everyone gets to bid for the places available.

    Not ‘the top 10% get in and everyone else can bugger off’.

  47. Excavator Man, at February 20, 2018 at 10:35 am, gives various comparative figures for university staff/student ratios, going back to the 1970s. I do not have easy access to such figures and would appreciate a link (or something) to the source(s) of his figures.

    The particular concern that I have is that the figures might not be properly comparable across the time when polytechnics (and other tertiary educational establishments) were renamed as universities. Prior to John Major’s (strange) decision in the 1990s, polytechnics were recognised as mainly teaching establishments and so staff concentrated on that; universities were mixed research/teaching establishments and so had many academic staff otherwise involved than in teaching – and hence lower overall staff/student ratios.

    If my concern is justified, only if the newer (renamed) universities are now conducting research of both a quantity and quality of the majority of universities in the 1970s would comparison of staff/student ratios then and now be properly relevant.

    Best regards

  48. @FredZ
    This is the sort of thing you need:


    Unfortunately, they only illustrate the keyed both end cylinder. The “escape” version cylinder will have a thumbturn on one end. It’s “escape” for the obvious reason that you should never install a lock requiring a key on an escape route.
    So try the magic word “escape” with your lock suppliers & see if that produces something.
    If not write to the admin at terminalblues_dot_club & he’ll try & source one for you.

  49. If I remember correctly people were kicked off courses in the first year if they were not up to scratch and that was when it was 10% , now all are winners, was that figure roughly 1 in 3 ?

  50. What is it with the left that they believe the poorest kids are the most intellectually gifted? Odds are far more likely that poor, stupid parents raised poor, stupid kids. A few exceptions blah, blah.

  51. Why isn’t this just…private? What possible good has the government done by interfering in tertiary ed? All that needs to be done is to control certification to keep a level of quality. No setting prices, preferred subjects, preferred student ratios or anything else. Definitely no minimum time period or enforced academical term limitations. Set the unis free! Whether they like it or not.

  52. FredZ: Searching US suppliers gets the term “single cylinder deadbolt” from 12 dollars and upwards here: http://www.directdoorhardware.com/Single_Cylinder_Deadbolts.htm

    If you want one with integral knob from 18 dollars: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Defiant-Brandywine-Stainless-Steel-Entry-Knob-and-Single-Cylinder-Deadbolt-Combo-Pack-B86L1/100352219

    I personally don’t like cylindrical door knobs as there’s nothing to grip, but it seems to be the leftpondian standard.

  53. @ BiCR
    Just because I turned down a place is no reason for me to call Cambridge “ghastly” – or was that a typo for “ghostly”?

  54. @ wiggieatlarge
    That only applied to some universities/colleges, notoriously Imperial College, London, in my day. One of my colleagues decided after one year that he wasn’t up to completing a Maths Degree, despite getting a 2nd in Mods, and our college arranged for him to switch to Physics, after another year he gave up on Physics and they arranged for him to read Economics (“PPE”) and he got a PPE degree after one year of studying the course.
    [That could, of course, be one of the many reasons why I rate Mahematicians more highly that PPE graduates]

  55. wiggiatlarge – students still get kicked off courses. You don’t get at least a D in a module you have to repeat the assignments where your maximum grade is a D no matter how good it is, fail that and you have to repeat the module or do a different replacement module.
    You need 360 points for a hons degree, passing 345 points worth doesn’t get you what you need.
    Don’t get enough points in first year and they can and do kick some off the course.

    There are also still those who attend university to get their MRS degree. Usually female but males can do it too.
    When I think of some of my classmates in the first year…. some really struggled with the puny first year workload. Wow 3 lots of a couple of thousand word assignments and 10 weeks to write them….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *