New York Times gives editorial attention to English tuition fees

An editorial in Friday’s New York Times took a closer look at the new framework of funding and tuition fees in England. While the writer condemned the violence that has taken place on the margins of student protests, the key point of the editorial was that the new framework is ‘bad public policy, both myopic and unfair’. The key reasons given for this judgement were that the new policy has stripped out too much public funding in what the paper calls ‘arbitrary spending cuts’, and that some (particularly the less well off) will find the prospect of relatively high debts on graduation too daunting and may drift away from higher education.

Interestingly, the need for a contribution by students to the cost of their teaching is no longer a major controversial issue in England, though the amount of such a contribution is; but for most the acceptance of a contribution is still predicated on the assumption that the state will pay a significant proportion. The Browne proposals, as amended and adopted this past week by the British parliament, envisage a very significant withdrawal by the state from this role of funder.

Perhaps most dangerous of all for Britain is the conclusion suggested by the New York Times:

‘Britain’s crisis-swollen budget deficits, like America’s, need to be brought down as the economy recovers. The cutting must be done wisely, protecting investments in the economic future, like education. The sacrifices must be equitably shared. By any of those terms, this new policy is an utter failure.’

The British government will need to work very hard to ensure that its new policy is not seen internationally largely as a plan to disinvest in higher education. Economic growth and new investment may depend on it.

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41 Comments on “New York Times gives editorial attention to English tuition fees”

  1. copernicus Says:

    Ferdinand
    I am surprised you fell for NY times article. NY times is fighting for survival, feeling the heat of Murdoch media empire and these days it has more left-leaning readership and they discovered that they can find it in Europe and not in USA. It is the favourite paper for UCU. You could not find such articles in any other US newspapers. The UCU is quoting it heavily. Oh, dear.

    Your conclusion: “The British government will need to work very hard to ensure that its new policy is not seen internationally largely as a plan to disinvest in higher education. Economic growth and new investment may depend on it” is flawed, as England is in the process of cutting down the run-of-the mill non-EU student numbers(which you get plenty in RGU as they trawl in India looking for them) and would like to have the brightest and best. In that regard, the top universities gain because of the large fund injection they get. Already the STEM areas in the top RG universities are strengthened as they received the slice of tuition fees year on year for the lst 3 years. I am afraid you are too much off the mark, and hence I wanted you to visit UCL and Imperial which attract the largest number of good overseas and home students besides Oxbridge. The VCs of these 2 universities have good influence in the direction of the university funding takes in England. But then,you dismiss them as members of a cartel. Not a good sign for a CEO in higher education.

    Still it is not too late for you to visit the universities which benefit from the tuition fee, instead of relying on foreign news papers fighting to hold onto readership. That is what is expected from some who would want to be engaged in discussion of issues in higher education. Otherwise, you could score some brownie points here and there, and that will be about it.


    • Copernicis, you do have some interesting points to make, but you often spoil it by riding your hobby horses too energetically.

      In this particular instance, two things, First, your comments about the NYT are way off. It is the third largest US newspaper in terms of (US) circulation, and while its numbers have fallen, so have pretty well everyone else’s, for all sorts of obvious reasons. In fact, the average decline is slightly larger than that of the NYT. It is perceived by many to lean to the liberal end of politics, but that’s on social and cultural matters mainly, on fiscal issues it is quite conservative, and in the Gulf War it supported George W. Bush’s policy.

      You wrote: ‘You could not find such articles in any other US newspapers.’ That’s absolutely true, but only because you’ll find no comment about British domestic matters in any other US newspaper at all, whatever the perspective.

      I have not ‘dismissed’ the heads of these two (or any other) universities; my comments were on the Russell Group, for which I don’t indeed have too much time. That doesn’t mean I don’t rate some of its members.

      If, as a university head or anyone else, you want to engage in public debate, you need to have a clear ability to assess and a willingness to lead discussions with clear ideas, but you also need to listen to all sides, not just those you agree with ab initio. That’s my approach. I have no desire to endear myself to any particular drift of opinion – including yours, if you’ll pardon the apparent rudeness of saying that.

      • copernicus Says:

        I can say the same thing about your hobby horses, Ferdinand, as you too often seem to hold a view, but sit on a fence keep on watering it down. Hence I said in another thread ” being influenced by prevailing political views” (sic). This time it is a newpaper editorial. I suggest for once you look at the motive behind NYT spending column inches on a topic not interested to its majority of US readership and when the norm in US is to report US-centric news. It is also badly analysed editorial.

        You missed completely(I guess you were unaware)the link between NYT and Guardian and how heavily NYT sources the Guardian. In the case of Guardian it has an axe to grind-the cancelling of government’s adverts contracts, and its failed attempt to implicate Andy Coulson. I am afraid your conclusions are hence as I said are flawed. The UCU is trying to trigger discussion in THE, but it has so far failed singularly.

        “If, as a university head or anyone else, you want to engage in public debate, you need to have a clear ability to assess and a willingness to lead discussions with clear ideas, but you also need to listen to all sides, not just those you agree with ab initio. That’s my approach. I have no desire to endear myself to any particular drift of opinion – including yours, if you’ll pardon the apparent rudeness of saying that”

        The sinequa non attribute of a university head is to lead the discussion holding on to a well thought out line, and hence not changing it any time a report appears from somewhere. It is said that Gordon Brown’s failure as a leader was his propensity of diluting the views he held not by discourse with others but by reading editorial opinions, stage by stage, day by day.

        The reason why I asked you to meet Malcolm Grant is that some one like him knows very well how to hold aloft the reputation of his university (UCL awards its own degrees and is only loosely linked to UL), and he knows well the impact of asking the cap to be raised. Let us not forget that Lord Browne and his commitee took presentations from many parties and the government agreed mostly what he reported.

  2. copernicus Says:

    Ferdinand

    A bit of background

    Ny Times and Guardian cooperate, and Guardian has a particular axe to grind as this government removed the adverts contract for the government vacancies in Guardian which it enjoyed for years under Labour. Guardian then spearheaded a story on Andy Coulson who was News of the World Editor some time ago and is now David Cameron’s press chief. There were allegation that he knew about the phone taps that his journalists made, which he refuted. News of the World is part of Murdoch media empire in Britain. NY Times now under cosh from Murdoch media in Newyork picked up Andy Coulson’s story and ran it. Labour MPs were foaming at the mouth running around saying, even asked questions in the House of Commons accusing how Andy Coulson when at News of the World knew about the telephone taps his jounalists initiated then. The case against Andy Coulson which was closed under Labour for lack of evidence was reopened recently, and there was a police enquiry and Andy Coulson was questioned. The case is dropped now as none of his former journalists including the main one who accused him would come forward to present the evidence.

    The two papers share their frustrations, and hence best approach is to find out whether your conclusion in your article is valid. Hence visit Malcolm Grant, the Newzealander at UCL.

  3. Fred Says:

    I am afraid that the real issue is how much bad publicity the UK HE takes on an international level. This may be quite dangerous since overseas students who are able enough may choose alternative destinations like US or even Sweden and Netherlands. The attitude on some (may be all?) RG universities is that it is now the time to force newer universities out of business (ie closure mergers etc). This policy may be good for the strongest of them but I am afraid that on the long term it may damage everybody. No doubt that many post 1960 and most post 1992 universities will be especially damaged. The scale of cuts is too big to be easily controlled.

    • copernicus Says:

      It may be bad news for post-92s, but not for RG, and not even for Group 94. As for bad publicity, it is a bit of hot air, given the finance situation, and ever increasing number going to universities, I do not see a solution other than this. In England, we can live with this bad publicity. In the case of US, non EU students already encounter visa problems, as US insists that UG courses are developed even in developing countries.

      • Fred Says:

        RG and 1994 groups are in a very simmilar situation on this but other post1960 may face issues (not the strongest ones that belong to 1994G). On the other hand, even for them it will be a dificult game from a point on. My comments on US Sweden and Netherlands aim at postgraduate students who see UK system as uncertain even if the proposals do not affect them directly. Some European final year UG students who are in contact with me have second thoughts about continuing at post graduate level in England. This may be a sign that means nothing but it is not a very good one anyway.

        • copernicus Says:

          As I said, this was coming even during Labour time and hence Gordon Brown commissioned Lord Browne report.

          As for EU students contacting, I wonder why they do not continue postgraduate courses in their own countries. I would ask that question. The better ones do. The slack in posgraduate courses in Europe is not much. As for US, a country I know very well, the graduate courses are competitive and the assistantships available is reduced. My Alma Mater there has cut its funding to foreign students by over 50%.

          Folks miss the bigger picture here. The fee is designed to open up colleges for degree courses which can charge less.

  4. Al Says:

    I thought it was a lazy editorial that only half developed an analysis of the situation.

    • copernicus Says:

      @Al. Please follow fortunes of NY Times and Guardian. They have become strange bed fellows, both squeezed by mighty Murdoch media empire. Guardian lost its lucrative contract for British government adverts.

      The government here wants to control the number of non EU students coming in, and wants to put a beak on EU sudent numbers. These may go to Ireland and Scotland. There is also a proposal to remove the 20 hours of work entitlement per week for non EU students, and restrict this entitlement during Summer only. Australia is carefully watching as its overseas student numbers swell.

      • Fred Says:

        Copernicus “The government here wants to control the number of non EU students coming in, and wants to put a beak on EU sudent numbers. These may go to Ireland and Scotland”:
        The govermwent proposals exclude Scotland?

        • copernicus Says:

          The problem with non EU students is that they swell the numbers in newer universities. As for Scotland, which needs immigrants, that is what Alex Salmond says, the problem now is that universities over there which go to say India and recruit will find that these students move to England after graduation. There are now emerging poilicies to prevent this happening so that they do not come to England after graduation.

  5. copernicus Says:

    The slack I meant for UK students.

  6. Fred Says:

    @Copernicus:”Folks miss the bigger picture here. The fee is designed to open up colleges for degree courses which can charge less”.
    Exactly I agree 100%. A lot of them may be private.

    As for EU students: Some of mine come from nothern EU countries were the postgraduate capacity is not high and the places are given in a not very transparent way as they say, so UK was a popular destination.

    • copernicus Says:

      These colleges I refer to are public institutions now, offering diplomas. There are some private ones, and they are not many at this level. Dr Vince Cable openly said he wouldn’t mind a few newer universities closing.

      Again, in England, the PG courses are dominated now by overseas students and this will ease. As unemployment bites, the home students would like to study PG courses.

    • copernicus Says:

      Fred

      This is an opportunity for Scottish universities to join as a consortia and bid for English students,(in a way St Andrews does it) offering lower fees. As a CEO, and VC, Ferdinand could easily establish a RGU office in London, and pick up good students who would be attracted to lower level of fees. The problem though is that these fees are to be paid upfront, where as in England no upfront fees are demanded as they are loans.

      • Fred Says:

        Agree again Copernicus🙂
        It is an opportunity provided that the gonverment there would take some clever decisions(?).
        Fredinand has some tools. For the time being RGU has a good reputation (especially) compared to other post-92. Some PR and/or an office in London may be a good idea(some English Universities outside London have already done it) and building on the oil profile of this university and look at the other side of North sea could be equally helpful.

        But as you said both the upfront fees could be a trap and the fact that RGU has currently an expensive plan to move totally to Garthdee could be barriers. From my point of view the sooner the relocation to Garthdee and the sell of older buildings, the better.

        • copernicus Says:

          Fred

          You are spot on in your analysis.
          You and Al are the only ones I can have argument with without getting bashed on the face!

          My own anguish is better Scottish universities do not market themselves well in England with the exception of St Andrews. May be partly the fear of “domineering English”! The attraction they face in places like India is its potentially large market, but then they do not understand that the best students go to US ,better come to RG and and good students to Group 94. As for the rich picking of fees,it is a bit of a gamble. Hence marketing in England with a package fee of £10-12,000 for a course until grduation has its attactions.

  7. Fred Says:

    On tuition fees in general. We had an interesting discussion with a student. Most UK student are against fees and pretty much only post 1992 VC (read: Million+) support them publicly (for a number of reasons). Generally other VC are neutral at best and in favor of fees (RG). The question raised is what will happen if a majority of students turn their back on Russell Group and favor Million+ just because it back them !?

    It was something that a student thought…

  8. Fred Says:

    Should be:UK students

  9. Derbie Says:

    @ Fred
    “The question raised is what will happen if a majority of students turn their back on Russell Group and favor Million+ just because it back them !?”
    Interesting thought and probably a good marketing argument for Million+!

    • copernicus Says:

      There is a flaw in this argument. First, students carry a burden of loans and there is no upfront fee. Second, all million+, the former polys are thinking of charging between £6000-£7000, and the RG at £9000- a difference of £2000 if as it is believed the Million+ think of hitting £7,000. To save about £6000 for a 3 year degree course which is loan, the students have to study say in London Metropolitan University instead of its neighbour the internationally reputed UCL. Third, if we rephrase Fred’s question: “what will happen if a majority of students turn their back on million+ and favour public colleges”, not forgetting that thse public colleges can undercut million+ by as much as ny £3000 per year and the punters for the millon+ have always been the students with poor grades.

      The HE is stratified and there are different client bases for RG, Group 94 and million+: The first attracts students with A* grades( independent schools, grammar schools and good comprehensives)the second students with a mix of A and B grades (inner city better comprehensives) and the third , I am afraid from inner city sink schools. I do not see this trend changing.

  10. Al Says:

    I fear the fees issue is obscuring greater issues facing higher education, in terms of relevance to a changing world, conclusions that can be drawn for a statement of qualification or certification, actual development of abilities and skills that are capable or experienced in a working environment.
    In a sense, these issues reflect the socratic challenge to the Athenian sophists on their educational claims.

    • copernicus Says:

      I accept what you are saying, but why RG attracts
      the sons and daughters of my colleagues at million+ and why without exception all of them send their kids to RG, and not to million+?

  11. Derbie Says:

    @Copernicus “… to study say in London Metropolitan University..”.
    With true respect to the academics there (as there are some very good researchers/academics) :
    You couldn’t find a weaker university!

    There are different clients, this is true but if this anger (of students) carry on then…I don’t know. But on average students won’t turn their back in Million+ because in due case it is their last resort (in terms on entry requirements and now probably fees).

    • copernicus Says:

      I gave it as an example as it sits just 2 tube stops from UCL. As I said there are 3 distinct client bases. I do not see any inter movement there, because at the end a triple A* student will not walk into million+ to save £6000 as loan money.

      • copernicus Says:

        Also, I am told that RG have no cap on numbers admitted to STEM courses.

        • copernicus Says:

          About the student anger. The protests in London were mainly from humanities students. Imperial purely a STEM-oriented institution had literally no student occupations. In UCL, the occupations were by arts and humanities students. This I know well as my neighbour a single mother worried requested me to look for her daughter in UCL who is studying biomedical sciences, as she did not arrive back at the expected tima and did not call home. I had to go around the occupied rooms in UCL to check for her, but the student was safely in her labs doing coursework experiments.

  12. Derbie Says:

    If we define the Russell and 1994 as one group and the Million+ as another (2 extremes)I wonder were the un-affiliated universities fall? For example Hull were I was a week ago is a good university but for various reasons has some problems in attracting students. They remain in silent…

    • copernicus Says:

      It is a good question. Hull and York have a joint medical school established recently which has attracted students. Hull was never a good university (Ferdinand will curse me for this) although it was a pre-92 university like Salford which is also an unattached pre-92 and is also struggling to attract students. Similarly, The City University and Brunel University in London, the former has a successful business school and the latter has a successful engineering departments, but both run clearing, and are sidelined by UCL and Imperial. They shoukd form their own group: ” the dangling group”.

  13. Fred Says:

    Yes a good question actually. I will be clear that I fully respect Universities that do not want to belong in a (quite political) group of universities. But Hull had always some issues with its home city (not a very attractive one) so I dont know who will pay something between 6-9000 to stay in Hull when York and Leeds are not that far. On the other hand (and the reason why Ferdinand will not curse Copernicus!) is that Hull uni had always have a strong social sciences faculty, so mixed feelings there.
    Salford is actually an affiliated uni to the “University alliance”. But the reason there is probably the fact that Manhester and Manchester met are very close with Salford and in a more interesting city after all.
    Both of them are regularly behind some post 92 unis (affiliated or not) so they will probably have the same problems.

    • copernicus Says:

      Fred
      Good comment about Hull, shall I say a boring place compared to York and multicultural Leeds. But it is not the only reason. This university did not take off ever as its problems had always been trying to discover ” what it is”- an identity issue!! Salford is at a distance from U of Manchester, and my colleague there hopes that moving large chunks of BBC to Salford could help. MMU is an useless place except its bars, the U of Manchester students say is cheaper!! I agree both underperform mainly due to self-inflicted wounds from time to time. Add to this Bradford, which is surving because of its Islamic clients.

      Then City U is shrinking fast,is kept on ventilator because of its Law and Business faculties, and Brunel wants be a part of London U cluster, as it has an outreach at Egham next to where Royal Holloway is located.

  14. copernicus Says:

    BBC chunks are moving to Salford.

  15. Fred Says:

    …things..

    • copernicus Says:

      About York and Leeds. Although York is Group94, it is an excellent university in a beautiful place, and it should be really in RG ngivn its excellence all around. Leeds is RG. York and Leeds require strong entry grades compared to Hull. Hence students put up with its dull environment. I cannot see how it can set fee level at £9000.


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