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How do we solve this?

Universities have been accused of continuing to offer “Mickey Mouse” degrees in subjects that will see students earn less than their non-graduate peers, despite Government scrutiny.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance has found 10 examples of undergraduate degrees in subjects such as “wildlife media” and “tourism studies” which analysis shows expected earnings five years after graduation will be below average earnings of £26,000 for non-graduates in England.

The obvious method is by price. People tend – tend, it’s not an absolute – to not do things which make them worse off, to do things which make them better off. The current system says that if your degree makes you spit then you don’t have to pay back the fees – loans are only repaid if you’re on median earnings or about.

So, change this system.

If we actually want the kiddies to study degrees which make society as a whole better off – ie, not waste resources on these M. Mus things – then we should invert that repayment system. Those who do grievance studies repay their entire costs, plus healthy interest. Those who do finance and go into high paying jobs get their loans written off.

The lower your post-graduation earnings the more you get charged for having wasted the peoples’ time and money.

21 thoughts on “How do we solve this?”

  1. Charming notion. But those who get crappy degrees are the ones that make the most noise.

    So I fear it’s a political impossibility.

  2. Allthegoodnamesaretaken

    Change the system so that the debt is owed to the University. Mickey Mouse degree offering ones will soon go bust. The rest will focus on their top courses and let weaker depts go to the wall.

  3. Why not allow universities to set their own tuition fees with government subsidies for specific subjects e.g. 100% medicine, 0% media studies.

  4. The universities should be required to pay the expenses (fees + lost earnings + interest) for any graduate earning less than median wage after say five years. The only exception would be if the university had proclaimed up front that the particular degree led to poverty. Bad courses would no longer be run, bad students would no longer be accepted, bad universities would go bankrupt.

  5. Make universities provide honest employment e.g. there are 7,000 psychology jobs for 78,000 studying psychology. There are fewer than 30 cabinet ministers but hundreds studying PPE.

  6. Let’s try rewording it.

    You would also need to somehow force the universities to actually advertise their courses correctly. In the 1980s I was “into computers”, having programmed computers and designed and built my own computer hardware for six years prior, so of course I naturally wanted to “do computing” at university. After three years I was still thinking “when are we going to do some, y’know, actual computing?” Only something like the final three months of that three-year course provided anything additional to what I already knew. I learned more from the Japanese course I did at the same time.

    Nobody told me I should have been looking for and entering an *engineering* course, particularly not the school careers advisor who specifically provided me with lists of university computing courses, and the head of sixth form who specifically got me a computing course through clearing. In fact, if anybody *had* told me to do engineering, I’d have been gobsmacked – I don’t want to be a mechanic! I want to program computers!

    The one-year *ICT* course my to-become-wife did at the same time did what I was expecting my *computing* course to cover. She wrote and documented a machine code assembler, disassembler and monitor, I was being taught how to type. WTF?!?!?!

  7. Penalise by lifetime higher rates of income tax undergraduates who study subjects that undermine the cohesion of society, ie any grievance studies (race, gender studies etc) any course at SOAS, and any course taught by Richard Murphy.

  8. In the States student loans are often guaranteed by the federal government, so banks are happy to make the loans. Stop guaranteeing the loans and banks will become cautious about lending to someone who wants to get a Mickey Mouse degree. That’ll also put the squeeze on colleges who’ll be forced to cut many departments, though I imagine we’d then be faced with scores of unemployed professors with signs around their neck saying “Will teach grievance for food”.

  9. Just keep government out of higher / further Ed altogether; nothing beyond the same regulations that apply generally to commerce and contracts.

    It’s for adults. Supposedly the brightest adults. Leave them to it.

  10. @ jgh
    Sometimes the comments system just fucks up. If you’ve put some time into a contribution, it pays to at least copy it to clipboard before posting. If there’s any weirdness, just F5 the page, check to see if it posted and if not, paste and try again. If it still doesn’t work, paste the text somewhere safe and try again later.

  11. Hold universities responsible for either false advertising or fraud. Interesting how they’ll go after Phoenix University but not Wellesley for duping applicants into debt.

  12. I believe the best answers is Markets and Information. When the youngsters get wise on which areas of “Academic Study” will offer very little chance of ever earning a decent pay, most will look somewhere else. And as a result the Mickey Mouse offerings will atrophy and disappear.
    (and probably replaced by new fads, but Academia will academia….)

    Mind… This does require that the kids are taught they’re supposed to actually Earn a Living later on in life, and that their choices now have a rather significant effect further up the road, in secondary school. Preferably early on.

    Of course, given the current state of secondary education (general, not just the UK..), that would require feeding a fair cohort of the current crop of secondary school “teachers” to our feline compatriots, but that’s an entertaining bonus.

    The biggest problem is not Academia, but the utter lack of preparation for Adult Life™ you get in secondary education.
    Fix that, and the Mickey Mouse degrees will mostly disappear.

  13. Incidentally, I think one of the underlying problems in english is that the Long March has managed to shift the meaning of “secondary education” towards college/uni level.
    As if you need an academic degree to “complete” your education when you most definitely don’t.

    Call me oldfashioned, but:
    primary education = primary school, possibly “junior high”.
    secondary education= highschool/grammar school, trade schools, up to 18 yrs.
    tertiary education= apprenticeships, college, university up to bachelor.
    quaternary education = postgrad, PhD.

    That’s the tiers I once learned, and they work, especially when you point out that tertiary and quaternary takes a lot of personal investment in time and money with no guarantee of it ever paying off, unless you’re really good at Stuff.

  14. Government just needs to Foxtrot Oscar.
    Let a plonker study “Golden Ball’s Saris” and fork out £50,000 and really enjoy life…

  15. The discussion is hopelessly flawed by the tacit assumption that people are all clones, so the difference in earnings is caused by the course they take. Maybe a student who would have earned £10,000 a year gets their earnings boosted to £20,000 a year by doing a “mickey mouse degree”. It would still be great value for them even thoug it leaves them earning less than the median. And maybe if that student had been persuaded to do a “high-earning” degree, they would have failed the course, dropped out and gained nothing from it.

    And why five years? Shouldn’t it be measured as the effect over a lifetime?

  16. “Those who do grievance studies repay their entire costs, plus healthy interest.”

    How interesting it would be should it turn such courses into a Veblen goods.

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