Denseman on the Rattis

Formerly known as the Widmann Blog


Fewer students

Glasgow University (2)
Originally uploaded by ScubaBeer

In an article in The Herald it is claimed that “Scottish universities want to charge students fees of £12,000 for a four-year degree”.

Shocking as that is in its own right, I found the last part of the article even more interesting:

[U]niversities agreed with the Scottish Government to maintain student numbers this year, despite cuts to the teaching budget, by paying a portion of the costs themselves.

As a result, in 2011/12 some 19% of students, or nearly 28,000 learners, are “fees only students” – which means the Government pays only around a quarter of the cost of teaching them.

[…] [A]ny reduction of student numbers would hit first year students disproportionately hard, because universities cannot alter numbers in any other year. And it uses the example that, to achieve a 10% reduction in student numbers for a four-year course, first year admissions would have to be reduced by 40%.

Under last year’s total intake to Scottish universities of some 35,000 UK students, that would mean 14,000 fewer next year – although it is inconceivable cuts of this magnitude would be sanctioned by any Scottish Government. “If universities are not confident of the urgent introduction of a sustainable funding model, they will be forced to act to bring the student population back to a level which is closer to the number of fully funded student places. Failure to do so could jeopardise the quality and long-term reputation of Scotland’s universities,” the circular states.

“If student numbers had to be reduced, this would mean that increased numbers of well-qualified applicants would face rejection over late 2011, early 2012.”

I actually think it would be good to lower the number of university students in the medium term. There are far too many young people studying for degrees that aren’t going to help them find a job.

However, it’s not the best universities – such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and St. Andrews – that need to downsize; it’s the new ones that clearly aren’t as highly rated by employers.

Also, of course the government should create lots of good alternatives to a university study – I don’t suggest for one minute that the best alternative to going to university is simply to find a job straight after school.

Finally, it’s paramount that any change happens slowly. Reducing the number of university places by 40% in one year would be absolutely disastrous, which of course the universities know, which is why they’re saying it to call the government’s bluff.

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