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How should university funding be overhauled?

10:58 UK time, Thursday, 10 June 2010

The university system is in need of "radical change" to provide a better deal for taxpayers, the universities minister has said. What do you think?

David Willetts said universities in England had to find cheaper and more flexible ways to teach, such as distance learning at Further Education (FE) colleges. He told the BBC he did not want to prejudge the outcome of a pending review and was not "assuming that fees should rise".

Current fees in England are £3,225 a year and graduates pay the money back only when they earn a salary of £15,000 or more.

Are you a student or planning to go to university? Do you work at a university or FE college? What changes would you make to the university funding system?


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  • Comment number 1.

    Whilst I strongly believe that we are currently producing more graduates than the country actually needs, reducing the numbers through pricing students from poorer backgrounds out of the market seems a little harsh.

    It will also lead the Tories vulnerable to the usual accusations of elitism.

  • Comment number 2.

    Of course it does. We're pumping out graduates in (mainly) Mickey Mouse courses to delay their falling into the unemployment statistics. It costs the student a fortune in debt they're not likely to start paying off anytime soon, it creates a short fall in the job market because there are so few graduates qualified in something of any real-life use and it costs the taxpayer a fortune supporting them until they find some kind of work.

    We need to reduce student entry levels. Only the top 15-20% should be going. 50% is ridiculous and (obviously) unsustainable. Courses should be fllexible but the number of daft, pointless courses should be drastially reduced. A degree in "Golf Management"? Surely a NVQ or similar is fine for something like that?

  • Comment number 3.

    We need to invest in the future education of our people, this is an investment in the countries future prosperity.

    This is just a bit of spin to soften us up for even more cuts.

    Of course it won't affect the wealthy who can afford to pay for their childrens education.

    So much for sharing the burden.

  • Comment number 4.

    I believe that Corporations should sponsor people to get a Degree rather than an individuals paying for the right. Corporations and Companies are demanding a Degree before employment and therefore they should be sponsoring a number of places at all Universities in all subjects. At least a person will get a relevant Degree to the subject they are being employed on and useful for their career. I have had people come to me for employment with a Sociology Degree for a Technical position - totally irrelevant! Make the places relevant to the career being sought and get the Corporations to fund their requirements.

  • Comment number 5.

    Sadly this is a result of the previous Government's plan to get as many people into University as possible. Someone has to pay for it and the more people study, the more expensive it becomes to fund out of general taxation. Students either have to lower their expectations and realise that University isn't for everyone, or fork out for it.

  • Comment number 6.

    It would be good for large companies to sponsor courses and have a say in how and what is taught.

    Course fees could be lowered but there still should be a charge. All courses shiould be delivered online podcasts as well as lectures, allowing students to do courses without attending.

    So much that is taught is useless information that is not required in the real world. Graduate working for 12 years

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    Isn't the main problem with university is that, for many, it is an essential "rite of passage"? There are many skills essential to life of Earth that have little to do with true academic know how and yet, of themselves, have much less kudos than does four years on a campus, away from home, and far away from reality. Imprisoning people in debt may seem a reality but really it is only penny pinching from quite a few and seriously impinging on the many who are fooled into thinking the "rite of passage" is essential.

    At best we can overhaul employment planning in the UK to demonstrate to students at secondary school just where there is real demand for skills, be they in grey matter, hand-eye coordination, creativity, natural observations, communication or whatever else. We can also stop over-valuing much of our employment (because we are scared of losing people) by making students sign a simple agreement that they will work solely in the UK for a certain period (to be determined) in return for not being charged a realistic cost for their education. An alternative for those not wanting to sign such agreements would be entirely private universities.

  • Comment number 9.

    Only the best should go the uni regardless of their parents' background; I people are good enough and wish to go, then go to uni they shall. Under Labour the dumbing down of the education system was plain to see, this allowed more people to go to Uni only to struggle and drop up, wasting large sums of money.

    I do not agree with any increase in fee's, which really should be reduced. However, those who drop up should be made to pay for the cost of their failure and the time wasted on them.

  • Comment number 10.

    I graduated in 2007 and started paying back my loan immediately.

    It's not too much (thanks to my overly generous parents) but it's going to take forever to pay off at my current salary trajectory.

    Education should be free and based on ability that’s why parents paid taxes for over forty years.

    The labour gov betrayed the country when they introduced fees and the tory/libs will no doubt make it ten times worse.

    In this climate leaving uni with massive debt is a recipe for disaster (how many students have declared themselves bankrupt or moved abroad so there never have to pay the money back – one of my cousins moved to Australia and owes the gov over twenty grand it's not goin to get back)
    I can’t decide if she’s smart or immoral . . . ?

  • Comment number 11.

    Conventional universities should consult the Open University to discover ways to deliver well-packaged teaching without incurring exorbitant overheads.

  • Comment number 12.

    Simple - get rid of the all the courses designed by labour to reduce the dole queue and then use the money saved to provide funding to students who want to study subjects that will be of benefit of the country.

  • Comment number 13.

    The ariticle says 'demand [for university] is increasing'. More people want to attend uni but employers don't want more graduates. This will leave more and more students with debts they struggle to pay off as it does look like fees will increase steadily behond inflation.
    Why not encourage young folk to enter trades which have sadly become devalued as people shun areas of the job market that have geniune shortages of candidates. I can see the situation arising where to get people to become plumbers etc, they'll have to create degrees in plumbing. These are skilled jobs that can be as profitable as many graduate jobs. What happened to pride in the trades?
    It appears as if the government (red and blue)want a population of haves and have-nots, those with degrees - with the world at their feet, and those without.

  • Comment number 14.

    I personally think that all UK univerities should charge the same amount rather than reduced costing for Scotland and Wales For it to be a fairer system of all student from the United Kingdom. Why is Wales and Scotland diffrent?

  • Comment number 15.

    The truth is that there are too many university courses, and a lot of them are of variable quality. Unfortunately young people are being forced to go to University by peer pressure and the fact that there are no jobs. It actually has been in the Government's interest to get young people to go to university as otherwise the unemployment figures would be significantly higher.
    The whole loan system is a joke, and will ultimately end in tears as a lot of students will never earn enough to repay the loans. Even at the current tuition fee level my Daughter has built up a debt of £22k, this is is despite the fact that we have paid her rent of £4k per year, if we hadn't her debt would have been £34k. She went to a good university (Reading), and despite this spent 9 months trying to find work. She has now managed to find a job in London which pays £17k, and therefore is paying back some of her loan, however the amount she pays back just covers the interest on the loan. I have worked out that if she was paid average earnings, and assuming interest rates don't rise, it will take over 20 years for the loan to be repaid, and that's assuming she doesn't have a career break to have children. The likelihood is that the tuition fees will increase substantially for future students, which would mean that a large minority, if not the majority will never be in a position to repay their loans and the Government will end up being forced to write off the loans.

  • Comment number 16.

    Why does a 3 year undergraduate degree cost around £12,900 for an English student but nothing for a Scottish student? (or around £10,000+ PER YEAR for international students)

    I'm pretty sure the Scottish universities are just as good quality (if not better) than the English - so how do they manage it?

    Maybe the likes of Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow University can offer some advice on budgeting and keeping costs down? If the costs of university go any higher only the Scottish will be able to afford further education.

  • Comment number 17.

    At present an English or Welsh student studying at a Scottish university pays more than a French or German student studying the same course at the same university. It is clear that a 'radical change' is needed in this regard.

  • Comment number 18.

    The technology now exists to make distance and online learning as rigorous and challenging for students as the 'conventional' 3 years full-time study version of a degree course... the Open University has been doing this for years!

    Funding should be made available to the 'bricks and mortar' universities, especially the so-called prestigious ones, to enable students to study for their degrees without the need to live away from home or to give up full-time paid employment. Perhaps even enough funding so that distance degrees are free, and you only have to pay fees if you wish to go and sit at your lecturer's feet in person!

    I've studied both ways - full-time conventional student for a BSc and doctoral research in botany; then an Open University Masters (conversion course to computing) and I'm just embarking on a 2nd Masters, in Education Leadership & Management, also by distance learning. The academic rigor is demonstrated by the fact that I'm a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, with the OU MSc providing the theoretical background!

    The benefits to the taxpayer are that instead of students costing money (even if most of it is loans that eventually will be repaid), they will be in a position to work fulltime & hence be taxpayers themselves.

  • Comment number 19.

    Here we go. Same old Tories (now with added LibDem lackey power). Willetts is basically saying that access to university should depend on your ability to pay. That sound you can hear is the sound of Old Etonians pulling the ladder up behind them.

  • Comment number 20.

    The first thing to do is to look at ALL those areas of skill/professions that are imported into this country via immigrant labour and seek to provide enough places in university that ACTUALLY meet with our OWN national need/requirement.

    Second, is to cut a number of places which are vastly over subscribed and of NO economic value and replace them with places as needed above.

    3rd, is to provide incentive to make sure that we have uptake of specific degrees to counter the impending cuts in non-EU imigrants, so that our nation is NOT undermined by lack of personel to fill posts.

    4th, should be number one really, we need a basic long term national plan which provides relevent skill base for ALL areas of national need, private and public sectors.

    It is PURE madness to have such a massive education system that then fails in TOTALITY to provide the skills which are then imported.

    Just by proper and realistic planning of university education we could easily create 100,000 high paid jobs for UK citizens JUST by providing them with the skills of those we currently import, whether doctors, nurses or IT specialists.

    The ONLY radical change that University education needs is JUST to be MORE economically relevent.

    But its all very well government talking about teaching new skills in green energy etc, but if there is NO jobs base or industry to support newly qualified students, then it is a total waste.

    IMPORTANT parts of the economy NEED to be planned in conjuntion with education, it is pathetic and pointless and an economic waste/attrocity for students to spend years learning and growing debt, then get a job in Pizza Hut or wherever for 5 years.

  • Comment number 21.

    They complain about how the university system needs to cut back expenditure and charge higher tuition fees for everyone- but one thing stands out here... The process of devolution has somehow allowed for Scottish students to enjoy FREE university, and for Welsh students to enjoy university at a 1/3 of the cost an English student would pay for.

    Who funds it? The UK tax payer. Scottish and Welsh Universities are all paid for (or at least significantly subsidised) by the UK tax payer: so why should English students pay the full price, and the Scottish pay nil or the Welsh a far lower price?

    It’s quite similar to the “West Lothian Question” - An observation which points out that, since the devolution of powers to Scotland and Wales from Westminster in light of giving more localised political power it means that, for example:

    A Scottish MP can vote in both Scottish Parliament and Westminster Parliament; whereas an English MP can only vote in Westminster Parliament.

    Why not remove the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments - both the Scots and the Welsh are apathetic about local politics and their regional elections anyway (reflected in low election turnouts), and apart from Plaid Cymru and SNP (both overshadowed by Labour) nobody would care much if we returned powers to Westminster.

    I don't see how it could possibly be fair to fly the same flag and apply different rules according to what region you come from.

  • Comment number 22.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again - university education should be for the brightest students studying things that will benefit the country as a whole.

    Degrees like medicine, dentistry, engineering, information technology, natural sciences and mathematics should be fully taxpayer funded with students eligible for maintenance grants (as in the good old days before the politicians pulled the ladder up behind them). These are the disciplines that are desperately needed to ensure the future of the British economy. Degrees like music and history are important in preserving the rich academic culture we have in the UK and should also be vigorously defended.

    Other degrees however should not be subsidised by the taxpayer in any way. If someone wishes to study Tourism or Madonna lyrics then they should be able to do so, provided they pay the full cost of their degree.

    I would go further and require anyone who benefits from a UK degree paid for by the taxpayer to actually remain in the UK following their qualification for at least 5 years. I know several people who have emigrated to Australia and New Zealand almost as soon as they finished their (expensive and heavily subsidised) medical degrees.

    To pay for this I would suggest cutting the number of places at university and making sure that only the best students actually get places. When I started university in 1997 there were almost 100 students on my course, last year when I visited the same university the annual intake for my old course was over 200. It was virtually impossible to secure any time to discuss a confusing lecture with the lecturer when I was at university - it has to be much worse now.

    The worst thing the government could possibly do is to make it more expensive for poorer people to go to university. How is preserving university level education for those fortunate enough to be middle class really helping anyone on a lower income?

  • Comment number 23.

    My wife works in an Accounts Dept at Liverpool University. She is appalled at the salaries of the Academics, who do very little for the vast amounts of taxpayers' money they hoover up. She is also amazed at the wilful waste of taxpayers' money on hospitality, unnecessary IT equipment and a wide range of other needless costs. She believes that funds should be targeted at learning. She achieved a Masters in Psychology in Ukraine (her home country), where funds are targeted absolutely correctly and University education is taken very seriously.

  • Comment number 24.

    1. Get rid of all of the stupid, uselss degree's that have no place in a university and get funded when in reality the person can never get a sensible job with that degree.
    2. Get rid of targets for university places and only allow people to go to University if they reach the academic requirement for the course.
    3. Bring back proper support for poorer students to ensure that they can get the education that they deserve but that their current social standing may not allow them to automatically be able to get.
    4. Bring student provisions into line in Scotland, Wales, Ulster and England, so that it costs the same to go to university anywhere in the country.
    5. No free education for non British, EU students
    6. If we can get our universities back where they used to be, more foreign students would want to be educated here and they make a contribution to the cost of subsidy of British students.
    7. Have specialist colleges for skills that don't need a university place, being a midwife, nurse, hairdresser etc
    8. People who want to go to Univeristy in the 50's and older pay the full cost of the course. University is to educate the future leaders, not to eduate people who simply don't want to work. I am all for personal advancement, but don't see why I should have to pay for it for older people who had their chance in life and did not take it.

  • Comment number 25.

    As a professional product designer I might be expected to defend design courses from cuts. However everyone in the profession knows that for the last 20 or 30 years UK universities have been running far too many product design courses (there are 2 in Brighton alone, one at Brighton Uni and one at Sussex). Despite being a very vocational degree there simply aren't the jobs for those graduating from these courses - I would estimate that no more than 20% of product design students go on to secure a job in that profession.

    This is the classic case of subjects being seen to be 'fashionable', and universities being encouraged to set up more and more courses to get more and more funding. Although everyone working in product design knows that the flood of graduates every year chasing a tiny number of jobs is a scandal, no-one has been prepared to put their head above the parapet. Time for all involved to take a much more responsible attitude.

  • Comment number 26.

    The government needs to reduce funding for courses that do not contribute directly to the economy. I would imagine subjects like American Studies, Music, English Literature, Fine Art etc would be prime candidates. These are "luxury" subjects that are not core to a strong economy.

    We need funding maintained for Science, Technology and Engineering subjects, foreign languages, vocational "trade" courses (plumbing, carpentry etc) and Business Skills courses.

    As a nation we need these skills to help tade with the rest of the world and help drag us out of the economic mess we are in.

    Unfortunately, I believe Student Fees will need to be maintained. Perhaps students wishing to do the "luxury" courses should pay more?

  • Comment number 27.

    as someone employed as a research fellow i fear for the inevitable tough times ahead that will affect us all. the devil is in the detail and it seems the tory are quite good at shocking us without explaining what it is they plan to do. some of the plans are a little half baked it would seem, while others (eg distance learning) already goes on in many universities.

    I'm not sure how a degree at say oxford could be awarded if you studied at you local FE college. its a bit like asking a driving instructor to issue me with my driving licence when my dad has taught me to drive. i would be opposed to any increase of tuition fees. most students are now graduating with huge debts, yet often go on to make a siginifcant contribution to society and the taxation system

  • Comment number 28.

    Further education is a privilege that should not be abused that is even more true now that bankrupt Britain is completely bust so I would suggest that students of shortage subjects that are essential to the country and its economic success such as Mathematics, Science, Medicine or Nursing should receive a grant.

    All other students should pay for their own education via student loans (and that includes tuition fees) especially if it is for a mickey mouse degree for a non-subject such as Theology, golf-course management, childhood development, leisure and tourist management, etc, etc, etc.

  • Comment number 29.

    One of the problems we have is that under the last Labour government university education was all about meeting targets for increasing the number of graduates, even if the degrees were in mickey mouse subjects and of little benefit to the economy. The emphasis should be on quality concentrating funding and support for universities who produce top quality courses in subjects that help the country to compete with the emerging economies.

    This report also highlights the inequalities between students fees in England and N. Ireland compared to those in Scotland and Wales. Once again it seems that the English taxpayer is subsidising the Scots and Welsh at the expense of English students. These inequalities must be addressed.

  • Comment number 30.

    I didn't go to university, yet I now have several degrees.

    I am always astonished by the wide eyed ignorance of those twenty one year olds who believe that they as a graduate are utterly employable.

    Grads everywhere, please try to understand. There are thousands of you. If you spent your three years in the student bar and came out with a 2.2, then don't bother applying. Better if you left it off your CV completely as it says more about you than you think.

    On funding, it should be really simple. It should be based on results and job availability.

    1. If you get a first, then you get your degree for free. If you get a third, then clearly you've not worked and you should be charged in full.

    2. If your qualification is in a skill shortage area, then you get it for nothing. But if your degree is in media studies or some other garbage subject, then, you pay for it.

    If you choose your university based on the social life, then don't expect society to be happy about funding your three years.

  • Comment number 31.

    Get rid of ‘pyramid degrees’. If a degree only leaves you qualified to teach the same subject then it’s a waste of everybody’s time.

    Return to full state funding of vocational training.

    Provide ‘recreational education’ at cost price. If you are not bright enough to do one of the difficult, numerate, subjects then you are not bright enough to go to university. Get a job, make a contribution to society and then fund your own three year party latter in life.

  • Comment number 32.

    All students, entering university or further education, pay a very high price in several layers, for many reasons, and not of their making.

    1) The 'academic year', as it stands, is ludicrous in the 21st century.

    2) Student costs and loans are higher due to the length of the academic year.

    3) Why? Because students pay for three years of accommodation and loss of three years of earnings - yet only receive 18th months, or less, of education.

    Furthermore, the 'academic' year of our schools causes hardship too. Parent who are working have to fund child care for around 40% of the academic year?

    BTW Parliament enjoy these paid out-dated holidays too? This whole culture has to be re-assessed by our whole society. In other words - does the school and university year run our society - or should it be the other way around?

  • Comment number 33.

    An overhaul is long overdue. I can only speak as an outsider but even to my untutored eye it is clear that many graduates leave with little prospect of full time employment.

    Hopes are raised for youngsters and shallow promises of a better future with a degree are pie in the sky.

    What my father would have called 'proper degrees' - ones which do offer good opportunities - must take priority over the unkindly called 'Micky Mouse' degrees.

    My granddaughter has a degree in Theology and was unemployed for a full year after leaving university. Her fiance with two degrees has also found full time employment very difficult to find.

    Now I have two other granddaughters anxious to be involved in the 'Arts' at some level but even with my limited experience I know that so many youngsters like them are following the same route and chasing just a handful of jobs.

    Be realistic when offering university places and tailor them to the needs of industry and to where they will do most good. Most politicians obtained their degrees at no expense to themselves so it seems morally unfair of them to ask students to fund their education themselves.

    The Universities should take a long hard look at how they justify the salaries of tutors - to charge over £3,000 per student per year for just a couple of tutorials a week is ridiculous.

  • Comment number 34.

    This will have a negative impact on all students in the U.K, The places will all be given to fee paying students from over seas' the long term result will be very few, British students in industry or commerce and this countries future will be bleak.

  • Comment number 35.

    Scotland: Free to Scots, £1,775 to other UK
    Wales: £1,285 to the Welsh, £3,225 to other UK

    I think the first thing that needs to change is that fees accross the UK are bought in line. It is unfair that the Scots don't pay any fees and the Welsh pay less than half the price compared with students in Northern Ireland and England.

    Secondly I think the target of 50% of students to go to University also needs to be dropped as I feel it should be for the brightest few rather than 50% of the population. That has caused a huge increase in the number of students which has become unaffordable to fund from tax payers, with the result that fees will continue to go up and up.

  • Comment number 36.

    The last government aimed to get 50% into higher education. This has resulted in a glut of graduates many not able to find work in their chosen fields.

    Therefore reduce this figure substantially, merge or close universities,create more engineering courses at the expense of other vocational ones.

    Use distance learning via video beamed across establishments and reduce the number of lecturers.

  • Comment number 37.

    I am only 21, about to graduate and I am £21000 in debt.

    I am terrified by the prospect of being in so much debt and that if I do managed to find employment that pays above minimum wage I am then faced with the prospect of student loan repayments on top of paying taxes.

    I find it appling that Scotland's Universities are free too Scotts and yet this is funded by central government. I find it ridiculous that when I do find a job that my tax will go to fund free university for other people in the same country as me. Furthermore the government expects parents of English and Welsh students to help fund their children's degrees whilst also paying tax to fund scottish students degrees. I really feel this is a grossly unfair system.

  • Comment number 38.

    Remove all funding for arts, media studies and all other degrees that aspire to a work function that ends up with the words 'do you want fries with that?'
    Fund physics, science, technology and medical i.e. degrees that contribute to the UK GDP.

  • Comment number 39.

    I'm looking to start at University in September 2010. I'm already worried enough about having to pay over £3000 a year in tuition fees, let alone have the potential risk of an overhaul while I'm studying. David Willetts said on the video that he wanted to reduce the burden on taxpayers, but surely the students are also tax payers? When I leave university in 3 or 4 years time, I hope to have a higher earning job than if I went into employment now. This also means that I will, regretfully, be paying more tax than I am now. So doesn't this mean that the government will have more from me overall? Plus the skills that qualified people have will benefit the whole country. Such as teachers, doctors and paramedics etc.

  • Comment number 40.

    University funding is a scam. For starters where else do you pay for something and have no control over what you are buying/paying for. Universities charge high tuition fees and then treat students as though they should feel privileged for being at university! Students have no say in their tuition, quality of tutors, how much money they can loan, when they do their work and its all about profit. It was the Tories that introduced using education as a commodity for profit.
    The way things are going one of the major issues facing me is that I don’t think I can afford to continue with my degree. The major problem with not finishing a course is that policy dictates that any grants received have to be paid back if the course is not completed, as well as the student loan and tuition fees. The scam is that you can’t apply for a grant unless you take out the student loan! So, now I am in a catch 22, if I end my course prematurely then I pay back loan, tuition fee and the grant, if I stay I accumulate huge debt with a proposed increase in interest payments. Student finance has me well and truly screwed.
    The whole issue of student finance is riddled with discrimination and inequality. It is still the case that students who succeed are generally the ones from affluent backgrounds. I am a mature student and I have no rich parents to pay for my education, and I am worse off than being unemployed claiming benefits, I have worked out my spending and I have less than £25 a week to buy food, clothes, books, stationary etc. I know for a fact that I could have achieved better results this year if it were not for my constant worry about my finances.
    One of the things that I would like to see changed is the amount of grant increased to a realistic figure. The amount awarded should be means tested. I am a single parent but my ex wife claims the child benefit, which means I have no entitlements to any financial help regarding my child.
    The whole idea of education is so people can improve their lot, increase mobility and aspirations, it turns out that many students end up in huge debt, no job or doing a job they are way over qualified for. The thought of finishing university with a debt upwards of 18K is frightening.

  • Comment number 41.

    I have done my undergraduate and my masters degrees in England, and both were self-funded because I could not get a student loan as an EU national. I was lucky enough that my parents could afford it. Now I am doing a PhD and am finding it almost impossible to get any funding because of the fierce competition with other candidates. I worked full-time for two years in order to pay the £5,850 a year tuition fees. I was working abroad but my university called me back to England recently. So I had to quit my job, and change to part time status because I cannot afford the full time fees anymore. It's a real shame because now I am continuously stressed to find work in order to pay for my remaining years. And I count myself lucky that I don't have to pay the overseas yearly fees of £13,000!

  • Comment number 42.

    The same can be said for all public sector services eg. the NHS, Government Departments, etc., & the rest, tell us all about it!

  • Comment number 43.

    Courses costs should be measured against the benefit they bring to society and the salary they command - for example training for nurses or dentists should be subsidised fully- so long as the nurses and dentists commit to work for the nhs or a pediod after, but the somewhat more pointless/oversubsribed or subjects where there is no
    demand in industry should have higher fees and no subsidy. It is right that students should not have to pay back until they command a respectable salary or there would be no incentive for graduates to work at all when they have to compete in a hostile market.

    Universities need to be more realistic about how many of their graduates actaully get jobs in the subjects they teach, and not run courses where there is little chance of employment at the end of the course.

  • Comment number 44.

    If the course the student studies is in the areas of science, engineering or other such subjects the business communitiy needs, then the course should be free (if completed). If it's in subjects such as art, drama etc then the student should pay the full cost of the course.
    We have been paying far too long to support students taking useless courses, just so they can live the student life for 3 or 4 years and come out of it with a degree that's neither use nor ornament to the student or businesses in this country.

  • Comment number 45.

    Reduce the number of uni entrants to the top 10% of the education stream and you'll probably even be able to reduce the fee's too.

    And let the rest make more use of of further and higher education courses such as HNDs, HNCs, Apprentiships, Vocational courses, City and Guilds etc etc etc.....

    Uni is not the be all and end all. Although that's what they want you to believe.

  • Comment number 46.

    I should have added to my earlier post (15), that I also have two sons at University. In my opinion neither were really good enough academically to go to University, but because of the expansion in University places, and the fact that there is nothing else for the majority of young people to do as they are very few jobs, they joined the herd and went to University.
    My eldest is studying to be architect, this has meant completing a three year university course which he has done, and he now is halfway through a two year postgraduate course. Fortunely he started his course when tuition fees were lower, but still will have a debt of over £25k outstanding when he qualifies.
    My youngest son has just completed his first year and has a debt of £7k. He is seriously disillusioned with his course and is likely to give up rather than incur a further £14k of debt. Out of 32 people who started his course, only 8 remain. Teaching on his course ended at the end of April, and doesn't start again to September. Why there needs to be a 4 and half month gap is beyond me. If courses became ful time it would be possible to complete them in 2 instead of 3 years, significantly reducing debt.
    I am all in favour of distance learning, and any other initatives that reduce the cost of education, but unless there are jobs for young people at the end of their courses it largely is a waste of time and money.

  • Comment number 47.

    Some subjects/professions you really don't need a degree in. For instance Travel and Tourism, when I left school in the early 80s I went into the travel industry on a two year Diploma straight from school. I didn't even need to do that, it was also possible to get a trainee job on Youth Opportunity apprentice schemes. I say bring back more vocational training, downgrade these type of degrees into more NVQ type courses at local colleges. Promote apprenticeships and on the job training as an alternative. Also its ridiculous when I see secretarial/administration type jobs wanting people "educated to degree level".

  • Comment number 48.

    Labour have introduced so much Soviet-type red tape, process control, process reporting, success reporting, improvement reporting, reporting about successful reporting, political correctness control and reporting, etc. etc. into the unveristy system that making huge savings does not seem to me a problem at all. I would easily half the self-reproducing bunch of unversity Human Resources, the PR lot, various smooth-talking Co-ordinators and sub-deans - they have zero impact on teaching, research or university standing and no one will ever notice their departure.

  • Comment number 49.

    Well, there you have it. The Cons haven't got a clue what it's like not to have money. Thanks for voting them in, people.

    There are probably scores of potential Einsteins who will never go to uni because they can't afford it.

  • Comment number 50.

    Fees should be at 500% increase for the first year
    10% of normal for every year after.

    If you complete a qualification without missing any tests, classes or lectures, then the fees should be waived.

    I would hope to discourage people who want university for the social scene rather than the academic scene. I also would want a real incentive for those to study hard and make every effort.

  • Comment number 51.

    I fancy doing a research project on this...'cheaper and more flexible'' It's called the Open University.

    My that didn't take long. Still* that will be £50,000.
    thank you.


  • Comment number 52.

    Sadly, do not trust David Willetts to be ALLOWED by Conservatives to think laterally. Plus assume he has been given a brief, that the ONLY mission is cost CUTTING, but NOT cost EVALUATION?

    What has not been mentioned is that the Student Loan Company has raised their interest rates onto existing graduates loans of three years or more paying back direct from their salaries - so a breach of contract?

    While posting - have to say how increasingly disturbed and concerned our family are at the lack of Liberal Democrat public information on all political and economic issues right now? What's going on?

  • Comment number 53.

    There is a core of subjects and courses which is directly beneficial to society in the broadest sense, for example medicine, nursing, dentistry, etc. There is, it seems to me, a very strong case for tuition fees on courses such as these to be heavily subsidised by the government (maybe with strings attached to commit recipients to a minimum tenure with the NHS).

    Undergraduates studying subjects which help to provide a highly qualified workforce for the commercial sector should have their tuition fees subsidised by the commercial sector through some sort of corporate graduate tax.

    There are also a lot of degree courses in subjects which have no obvious benefit to the rest of us. Undergraduates on these courses should pay the large majority of their tuition fees.

    Finally, where a course had its fees subsidised, these subsidies should be means tested. This would help to close the ever-widening gap in opportunity that exists between students from the private and the state education systems.

    Here endeth my manifesto. Vote for me.

  • Comment number 54.

    as a student i know i am going to leave university with debt, simple. however, i have chosen a worthwhile degree in pharmaceutical science. I do accept that something has to be done, and i believe atleast one of the ways to be looked at before fees are increased is getting rid of micky mouse courses. i know of so many here who are on degrees which are completely useless. i accept that i am going to be in debt, but for a good career and a job i love. Golf management?!!?! give me a break

  • Comment number 55.

    a) Given the lack of financial support from the financial institutions for spin-outs based on university R&D then I think it's fairly obvious we need to slash the number of research units probably by as much as 75%.

    b) Thanks again to the financial institutions the number of high tech value adding jobs in the UK is now relatively small so we could easily reduce the number of science and engineering departments by either killing them off or merging them.

    c) Shut down all courses offering MBA degrees.

  • Comment number 56.

    I think the problem is that University's are doing more for less and have been for sometime. That doesn't mean however, that they should have been doing 'more' in the first place.

    The problem with HE in the UK, is that government has created a system where Universities spend half of the time not knowing which direction to turn in terms of funding.

    Should we concentrate on research? Should we concentrate on business? Should we concentrate on teaching? Should be do them all?

    As a result a lot of University's have ended up exhausting huge amounts of time and resource shifting their emphasis to chase funding.

    The other problem is University's often don't see themselves as businesses and being a businesses isn't a bad thing.

    As a business your aim is to make profit to re-invest in your activities, which for Universities would mean improved, facilitates, resources etc.

    Unfortunately the way Universities are currently structured with an emphasis on academic leadership, not business leadership this problem will never be overcome.

    And Universities will always fail.

  • Comment number 57.

    7. At 12:04pm on 10 Jun 2010, TrueBlueTory wrote: Children who come from better off families tend to be more intelligent, this has been proved to be genetic, so excluding the poor is actually doing everybody a favour as they are essentially wasting their time and money doing useless worthless degrees.

    The occasional exception will always rise to the top anyway, let the riff raff do what they are suited to, menial manual jobs. I'm sure many would get qualifications from McDonalds which are more suited to their intelligence level.

    I am the first in my family to go to university, my parents dont earn that much but they certainly aint 'riff raff'. i am doing a pharmaceutical science course so i can go and work at places like glaxo smith kline etc and work on drugs to help others. you tell me that because of my parents i shouldnt do this?!!?

  • Comment number 58.

    Either Higher Education is an important aspect of education or it isn't. I come from a low-income background and benefited from a state-funded degree which opened that opportunity for me. In the current climate I would undoubtedly not have gone. Pushing up fees (and fees in the first place) is the single biggest way in which the Government can ensure access to University is based on ability to pay rather than academic ability. Is it a wonder we have a nation where indebtedness is endemic when we force our brightest individuals to start on their working lives with a massive burden of debt.

    If we can't afford free university education then how's this for a compromise to support the brightest and hardest workers.
    1. Every student who achieves a 1st Class Honours degree gets their tuition fee debt cancelled. Also, every student who goes on to achieve a PhD gets 100% reimbursement.
    2. Every student who achieves a 2:i Class Honours degree gets 50% of their tuition fee debt cancelled.
    3. For a 2:ii 25%, less than a 2:ii you have to pay the lot.
    4. Additional debt cancellation for certain public sector workers such as teachers.

    Also, don't forget, graduates earn more over their working life and therefore pay more in taxes.

  • Comment number 59.

    A number of years ago, the UK may have been behind other countries in creating Graduates - have we now gone too far, where Students leaving school/college think it's a "right" to have a degree, and some start Uni not knowing their career path and choose a completely unrelated course?

    Also, why should UK taxpayers and UK students subsidise EU students. If EU students want the services of a UK university, then let them pay in full as the rest of the world does. This might offset budget issues elsewhere.

  • Comment number 60.

    How about a fair system across the whole dis-United Kingdom? Currently it's the English that have to pay and the English that can expect fees to rise. English students are leaving higher education around £10,000 more in debt than Scottish students who have their fees paid for by the State.

    The English get the lowest per person funding in the "UK" and rather unsurprisingly also get the worst and most expensive services. In education, in health, in transport and every other area of service provision.

    Time for some equality - fair funding for England now.

  • Comment number 61.

    Yes, the system does need an overhaul and so does Vice Chancellors' and senior staff pay. The average 'rise' for lower paid staff has been 0.5%, yet some VCs have been offered very generous rises despite the current financial climate and with clearly no conscience about accepting them - notwithstanding that a very nice car comes with their package.

  • Comment number 62.

    I have just heard on The World at One the statement that Student Loans are interest-free. This is simply not true, as anyone who looks at the their child's annual statement from the Student Loans Company will gather. Interest accrues from Day 1 of the money being advanced. The fact is that for the current financial year only (commencing September 2009) interest is at 0% because that was the applicable RPI measure at that date. This is NOT the same as the loans being interest free. For the year commencing February 2008 and before, and no doubt for the year commencing September 2010, interest rates will not be 0% and real interest will be added to the loan outstanding.

    Why are journalists so lazy and ill-informed when it comes to financial matters? A similar example is allowing the oft-repeated lie that ALL public sector final salary pensions are unfunded.

  • Comment number 63.

    Have a simple system where the amount of government (taxpayer) grant for a student is based purely on how well the student has done in state high school & sixth form. I'm not sure about means-testing as that usually doesn't work. The best couple of percent of students across the country get university completely free. The next couple of percent get tuition paid for only. The next few get a partial tuition grants. Everyone else pays all costs if they can afford it. University isn't for everyone, it's for the brightest. Then the government should concentrate on making state high schools a fair & even starting line for bright kids to get to university. Students outside the state system are not part of it.

  • Comment number 64.

    Universities should be places of excellence yet they get full of semi-thick people telling you that they're going to Uni. I've worked with students and a great many of them take studying as a bit of a bind, going out on the pop and smoking weed and having a larf is more important to them. Solution, have a better selection process that takes only the best and discards those who just waste everyone elses time and money.

  • Comment number 65.

    Post No 7. TrueBlue Tory

    I hope your post is a joke otherwise you are a very scary individual indeed. I sincerely hope the Con-Lib coalition do not think like you.

  • Comment number 66.

    Why are students who have effectively failed all of their A Levels still able to go to University? Draw the line at 3 B's. Anything less than that means you're not academically capable of going to Uni. You'll soon see numbers and costs drop significantly.

    Secondly, staggered pricing of the courses needs to be introduced. Charge huge fees for the pointless courses and with the money that generates, subsidise students studying engineering, design, maths, medicine etc.

    University is supposed to be the pinnacle of academic achievement. Yet it has become an escape for freeloaders with neither the aptitude or the desire to get a strong degree.

    University's must accept students based on ability and determination to succeed, not on wealth. Clear out the jokers who are just looking to spend three years getting drunk and make University what was designed to be, a cutting edge research and educational institution.

    Only then will the country and the students start getting value for money.

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    I am a mature student...lack of Jobs and needing to retrain.

    Surely the obvious answer is to link proposed policies. Allow students the option of repaying tuition fees under the current arrangement or exchange fees for fixed number of 'Volunteering days' each year.

    This way, government would be able to deliver on its decentralised services policy. Charities, voluntary and community groups would then access to the additional resources they need to meet this objective.

    It would also give Students some life experiences and discipline that may otherwise not have and ready them for employment.

  • Comment number 69.

    With a million youth unemployed in this country I don't see much point in churning out even more graduates who will have no chance of finding a job in the short term.

    By all means put up the fees as this might deter a lot of young people from wasting their time getting a degree which in the end will be of no use to them.

  • Comment number 70.

    If the country is not prepared to contribute to funding degrees, then it should not subject higher earning graduates to higher income tax brackets. It's always been understood by previous generations that a graduate could expect to be in a higher tax bracket and thus over their life will more than payback the cost of their education.

    Perhaps we should fully fund courses in areas where we have skill shortages like science and engineering, and let those wanting to do soft subjects that have little chance of offering a return to the taxpayer to finance them themselves.

  • Comment number 71.

    As per my previous email. Just discovered that Vince Cable is with me on this... He contrasted the attitude of university heads with that of managers in the private sector where some were taking pay cuts to help keep their firms going. The average pay for university bosses is above £200,000 which is outrageous.

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 73.

    19. At 12:23pm on 10 Jun 2010, Jaundiced_Eye wrote:

    Here we go. Same old Tories (now with added LibDem lackey power). Willetts is basically saying that access to university should depend on your ability to pay. That sound you can hear is the sound of Old Etonians pulling the ladder up behind them.


    Just as labour started doing. That is irrelivant. Expecting so many people to go into university was always going to cause problems. Just reduce the number of places and only charge excessive amounts for useless degrees. General skilled subjects required in most jobs should be taught at a reduced price and more specialised ones slightly higher (less likely to employ).

    This would cut down university costs greatly. However I dont feel this should be the end. Employers should be encouraged to invest in their employees and send them on courses to train them, with assistance form the gov.

  • Comment number 74.

    Ref #7. Children from better off families are not necessarily more intelligent, better educated and, perhaps, more knowledgable, but that is not the same thing. I am from a poor familty. There were 7 of us and my father, a labourer, died when I was 14 yrs, and I was next to the eldest. 6 out of the 7 went to Grammar School but never progressed, we could not afford to do.
    I am now 73 yrs, I am awaiting the results from a History degree, and depending on the results, I'll try for a masters, as long as the Tories don't exclude all but the well-off. Oh! and I also managed to qualify for admission to Mensa when I was 69 yrs.
    I really do wish that some people would learn to think before they criticise......but, then, one can't learn to think. Educated or not.
    Ref #27. As a Research Fellow, the contributor should know that the University sets the standards, assesses and awards the degree, it is not reseponsible for the tuition.That is the responsibility of the colleges and schools.

  • Comment number 75.

    Just another ploy in this government's budget to scare and divide the public.

    So don't be surprised when fees go up and only children from well-off families can afford to go to university.

    By all means, though, make your suggestions as David Willetts and George Osborne have no clue what they're doing and are hoping that YOU will do their jobs for them. Pretty clever, right?

    If these guys could have read "Passing the Buck to the Common Man" at Oxford, it would have been an oversubscribed subject!

  • Comment number 76.

    Good idea, I think this country has enough basket-weavers already, I would like to see a return to apprenticeships for essentials like plumbers, electricians, bricklayers, etc.

  • Comment number 77.

    I left university 8 years ago. I have around £12,000 of student loan. On my current wage about £350 a year comes out of my wages to pay off my loan and I get about £330 added on in interest. I cannot afford to pay off more at the moment so its going to be a long time before I get rid of the loan. The poorest students wont have to pay any fees and the well off students can afford the fees so once again its the people in the middle ground like me who get shafted.

  • Comment number 78.

    I think the Tories have cleverly phrased this to imply that the only the dusty old lazy academics and the beer swilling students will be smartened up and kicked into touch by their upcoming cuts. The image of a fusty higher education system and its 'Mickey Mouse' degrees as so many phrase them, died off since the eighties. There is in fact so much more to universities than 'useless' degrees for 'lay-abouts': from world class research in science and engineering which actually stimulates growth and production in industry, to the other extreme best and most innovative thinkers and artists who keep Britain as an important force in contemporary culture.
    Further cuts will only pressure universities to take more international students, who will take their skills back to their home countries and leave the UK without industry or culture of any note. What's more, Higher Education is one of the remaining areas we excel in as a nation; without that, we will end up much poorer in mind and in pocket.

  • Comment number 79.

    Three Action Points:

    1. Get rid of high paid profs, they just put their name on other peoples papers after proof reading them,

    2. Get rid of rubbish universities.

    3. Get rid of rubbish courses.

    Aside from that we should remember New Labour's figures stating that the average graduate earns £400,000 more in a lifetime than your average non-graduate: that's £100,000 more in income tax the UK governement gets from the graduates (assuming the additional income is all in the 25% bracket).

    Are you telling me that the UK education system costs more than £100,000 per student to educate?

    If this is so, then they are losing moeny from the system, if they don't cost £100,000 to educate someone to degree level, then UK Government (and tax office) are GAINING from the education of graduate (by their own figures).

    This excludes the Unemployment Benefit they don't have to pay a Student (or the person they would displace from work) whilst they are in Full Time Education.


  • Comment number 80.

    54. At 1:00pm on 10 Jun 2010, doncaster_lad wrote:

    as a student i know i am going to leave university with debt, simple. however, i have chosen a worthwhile degree in pharmaceutical science. I do accept that something has to be done, and i believe atleast one of the ways to be looked at before fees are increased is getting rid of micky mouse courses. i know of so many here who are on degrees which are completely useless. i accept that i am going to be in debt, but for a good career and a job i love. Golf management?!!?! give me a break


    Perfect comment, it shows that people will pay for a proper education.

    Gold management? Get real if you even consider wanting to study that.

  • Comment number 81.

    I can't believe what #7 wrote.

  • Comment number 82.

    Comments about Scottish Universities not charging a fee to Scottish students are interesting, but often misguided.

    An inevitable feature of devolution is that those areas which are devolved (including all education, health, transport, and so on) are dealt with differently in Scotland. This includes funding, of course, which successive Scottish governments have decided should include no top-up fees for Scottish students. Calls to somehow introduce a compulsory level across the UK entirely miss the point that Scotland has had its own parliament for over ten years, and that the Westminster government has no power whatsoever to dictate such a policy.

    However, an implication of this for all Scottish Universities is that they depend far more on Government funding than their English counterparts, as the Scottish funding council certainly does not provide Universities with huge amounts per student.

  • Comment number 83.

    Another day another warning from the current government again without detail.

    A review is underway, but Mr Willetts states " I do not want to prejudge", but that's exactly what is happening. Please can we hear what the review has to say and then we have something real to comment on.

    In response to the HYS questions -

    I left the university system in the early 80's, but will be returning hopefully as a parent in the forthcoming years. With that in mind I would like to see the following -

    a. Review of courses, taking more vocational subjects such as Lawn Technology & Management out of the University system

    b. Expanding access for poorer students by removing fees for key courses (e.g. Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, etc.) and charging a higher rate for students from high income backgrounds

    c. Make the giving of donations to Universities for Bursary/Scholarship funds more attractive for individuals & companies by means of enhanced tax rebates/allowances

    d. Expand the Open University which has been at the forefront of distance learning for some years

    BTW to those wondering why such subjects as Theology, or Music are funded, take a look at the first degree subjects studied by many of the high flying Financial Directors, Accountancy Partners, Lawyers, CEO's. A good degree, from a good university will only be gained by those who are bright and willing to work.

    Access to University is so vital for bright children from poor backgrounds, because among them may be an extraordinary good History/English student whose single vision and drive will help push forward a British company two decades later.

  • Comment number 84.

    How about funding degrees based on the percentage of students that are in full time employment after graduation? So science, engineering, maths and medical courses get far more funding than english, art or history of music because they produce graduates that contribute to the UK economy.

  • Comment number 85.

    Fees can't really afford to rise. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the (melodramatically put) "Mickey Mouse" degrees - more educated workers should not be a disadvantage. If a degree in "Golf Management" (as someone put) opens doors to a career you want, then do it.

    However, to counteract the effect of so many graduates, postgraduate funding NEEDS to increase. There needs to be more inter-disciplinary research and more PhD's with taught components (a 4-year taught+research PhD would have been financially more beneficial to me than my Masters and pure research PhD), along with more funding for capable graduates to stay on at university (either via distance learning, LEA loan extension or living grants), so we maintain a better distribution of HE leavers.

    Also, some distinction between courses offering variable difficulties should be found. E.g. I know a graduate teaching assistant who would have failed most undergraduates on a Law degree she was marking at another university to her own red-brick university, but was told to "go easy on them".

  • Comment number 86.

    I graduated in 2008 with a large debt. I managed to keep it a bit lower by living at home, working part time and I started my course before the top-up fees increased.

    However, I couldn't help but feel completely ripped off even then (so I feel sympathy for those studying now!)

    We had a very short academic year (just over 8 months) We started at the beginning of October, had 4 weeks off for christmas, another 4 weeks off in April and finished around the 3rd week in June. Those in halls were kicked out of their rooms during the holidays so couldn't stay on campus.

    Some modules only had 10 or so lectures per semester. We had about 5 lectures a week (maybe 20 hours tops), very little time with tutors and lecturers (to speak to them you had to email and wait days for a response - it might as well had been distance learning), we had to buy our own books (when the library only had 3 copies of the required book - written by the lecturer), no work books and other resources supplied.

    I know the course hasn't changed and those now paying £3,225 are not getting much for their money. What are our fees actually going towards? I am all in favour of long distance learning. In hindsight that would have been a better option for me.

    I have had to pay over £14,000 for a piece of paper to do the job I really love, and I hope it will be worth it in the long run. I am slowly paying back my loan each month out of my wage but am terrified the Government will raise the interest rates.

    I will be repaying it for decades to come but if the interest rates rise further I will be paying it back forever and over and over again. I have no mortgage or other debts but hate the idea I will have this hanging over me for most if my life - especially when if I had been born in another part of the country I would have the degree and job opportunity WITHOUT any debt. I wish I wasn't English.

  • Comment number 87.

    When I arrived at University in 2003 I felt secure taking the student loan because I was made to believe it was an interest free loan. After working dam hard for 3 years I graduated in 2006 with a first and got my first job. I was initially only paying back small amounts, but as my salary grew so did the re-payments.

    The shock arrived a year after I'd graduated when the student loans company sent me my annual account details. The interest they were adding on the debt was unbelievable, more than I had paid in over the year!

    I agree with a number of other people commenting here... Education should be free and based on the ability of the individual in their chosen field. If this means entrance exams then so be it.

  • Comment number 88.

    I would like to see tuition fees at a variable rate to reflect the countries need for certain skills, this would reward those finishing with skills we currently need to employ people from abroad with, they would see a much lower student loan than say someone studying something like media studies that we really have enough of now.

  • Comment number 89.

    I attended one of the best university's in the country and came from a single parent background growing up with very little compared to some. The comments by TrueBlueTory are simply not representative:
    "Children who come from better off families tend to be more intelligent, this has been proved to be genetic, so excluding the poor is actually doing everybody a favour as they are essentially wasting their time and money doing useless worthless degrees."

    Wealth is no measure of an individual's ability to succeed academically and indeed my younger brother also excels at school despite growing up in similar circumstances. At the top universities in the country poverty is no barrier to access and there are many student support bursaries to held those in financial hardship. Likewise my husband, who I met at University, also came from a poorer background and he achieved some of the highest marks in the University throughout his academic career.

    The real problem with University is that there are too many mickey mouse courses as mentioned many times by people on here, secondly there are too many institutions floundering at the bottom of league tales when they such probably be cut off from government funding all together. There was once a time in this country that having a degree meant something, sadly this is not the case anymore with every Tom, Dick or Harry having a 'degree' from some worthless insitution in meaningless 'subject'. By trying to get 50% of young people into University all this has achieved is a huge devaluation of degrees from proper Universities. I am all for reducing the burden on the taxpayer by increasing Tuition Fess, so the wealthy will still be able to attend University but so too will those from poorer backgrounds with the help of hardship funds. Perhaps it will make those who consider a mickey mouse subject at a rubbish university think twice, perhaps that will help to reduce the burden on the taxpayer...

  • Comment number 90.

    A university degree once meant something but is now often no better than a Technical College certificate of old. We are producing too many so called 'graduates' who in reality have little to offer potential employers. Some are semi-literate and their numeracy skills appalling. Hence one reason for the very high graduate unemployment figures. The qualifications for university entry should be raised and this in itself will lower the admission rate and costs. For the record I went to university in 1965 and worked every vacation to help pay my way. My parents were unable to fund my education completely so I had to fill the gap. It didn't do any harm and prepared me for a working life!

  • Comment number 91.

    Don't hit Universities...I'll lose my job :(

  • Comment number 92.

    From TrueBlueTory:

    The system is need of drastic radical change. If you can't afford to educate your children then tough basically, that's the way things are.

    They need to abolish the £15000 limit on paying back loans, re-payment should start as soon as the graduate has completed his course, even if they are on benefits. That should weed out the useless courses like media management, environmental studies etc.

    There's too much riff raff at college in any case, it's just an excuse for not getting a proper job and most of them just skive off to the pub in any case.

    Children who come from better off families tend to be more intelligent, this has been proved to be genetic, so excluding the poor is actually doing everybody a favour as they are essentially wasting their time and money doing useless worthless degrees.

    The occasional exception will always rise to the top anyway, let the riff raff do what they are suited to, menial manual jobs. I'm sure many would get qualifications from McDonalds which are more suited to their intelligence level.

    I cannot believe that someone would actually feel justified in posting this comment.

    At the time of applying for university 10 years ago my parents had a low joint income both working full time (my mother working three jobs). If there had not have been support from the Government then I would have missed the opportunity to go to university despite working hard to achieve high grades throughout school.

    University is not an excuse for not getting a proper job. For all employment within the sector which I wished to work you need a degree as a basic entry requirement. This is the case for a lot of employment sectors today.

    I find the suggestion that children from better off families tend to be more intelligent very offensive. Am I just the exception then? My degree has enabled me to gain employment within my chosen sector and work my way up to a senior management position within the seven years since leaving university. If we went with TrueBlueTory's view then educating me would have been a waste of time and money although I've been paying back into the system for a number of years including paying back my student loan starting one year after graduation when the Student Loans Company started repayments - back in 2003 the threshold for repayment was lower than £15k per year.

    I don't expect something for nothing hence why I've worked so hard since leaving university and put back into the system as it was the system that enabled me to have this opportunity which I made the most of. There are a lot of other people in my position who would make the most of the opportunity as I did and it would be a shame for them to miss out on better employment opportunities due to coming from a working-class low income background.

  • Comment number 93.

    "Children who come from better off families tend to be more intelligent, this has been proved to be genetic, so excluding the poor is actually doing everybody a favour as they are essentially wasting their time and money doing useless worthless degrees." -TrueblueTory

    This is entirely false. Intelligence has moderate-strong genetic component depending on the study undertaken. However this has nothing to do with wealth. The better performance of students from wealthier families has more to do with the other kind of "inheritance" and the additional resources and opportunities this makes available.

    Truebluetory please don't throw scientific arguments about when you clearly do not know what you are talking about.

    Post-graduate (Genetics)

  • Comment number 94.

    OMG. The usual elitist nutters declaring that university education costs are caused by allowing idiots from poor backgrounds studying pointless degrees?

    Actually, if you are poor, intelligent, hard-working and bright - and enter university education - you pay - believe me.

  • Comment number 95.

    As many people have stated, part of the problem is that too many are going to University in the first place where a college diploma or an on the job apprenticeship would be better all round. However, since many of the technical colleges were turned into universitys and business can't be bothered training apprentices there is little option for school leavers other than to attend University. What I would say is that too many Professors at University do not work hard enough and many courses have little teaching time expecting the student to do all the research. Professors are notoriously overpaid so sack the lot of them and replace with lower qualified but better teaching staff. Having just finished an engineering degree I know that most senior staff are preoccupied with there own endeavours rather than what they are actually overpaid to do.

  • Comment number 96.

    The Non- courses need to be axed for example much of the Arts.
    The money would be better off in the sciences and technical fields.
    The UK is one of the worlds best innovators - we should fund these people for a better world

    AND invest in these ideas rather than letting the far east profit

  • Comment number 97.

    To all those commenting about academic salaries: Like any other structure there are those who work more than others and do a good job. As for me - I drive a 10 year old Micra, work every night until 8 oclock and then put in Saturday and Sunday as well. If you want to step and do this fine - now come up with new ideas for research directions based on a broad knowledge of the field, carry out the experiments, teach undergraduates, write grants (knowing 90% percent of them will end up in landfill), teach postgraduates, write papers, carry out admin... all for the princely sum of £40k a year. Meanwile I have administrators whose job seems to be send me daily emails about sexual reassignment awareness and a host of other key topics - and these guys are on the same salary. Like other industries we have the same complex mixture of dedication and dead wood. Meanwhile some us are getting whipped to make more money while others are paid big salaries to do the whipping. Lots of management and NO inspirational leadership.

  • Comment number 98.

    As usual from the tories only wealthy people are going to be able to afford to go to university continuing the social divide. There may be this idea of universities teaching long distance via FE colleges but I don't care what anyone says certain people will see these as second class degrees. Employers always ask where you took your degree and some of them definately favour the more elite establishments. My friend did an open university degree. To me she is as highly educated as someone who took it at a university and equally intelligent but certain employers and indeed university educated people have made her feel that hers is " not a proper degree ". so when all these students ( who will be mostly from the less well off) take these degrees at FE's they better be prepared for this attitude and if only so many jobs are available you can bet your life they will go to ones who have been to university.

  • Comment number 99.

    I took my A-levels last year and achieved a very respectful AAA, I have applied to study medicine for the past two years and have had no success, being forced to waste a year and to no avail. Due to this I have attempted to place my blame; is it me? well due to my academic record and volunteering perhaps not; after much thinking I came to the conclusion that the past governments attempt to get 50% of students to university is neither realistic or practical for the tax payer, students or the jobs market. What is needed instead of raising tuition fees or cutting places are to cut courses; if you search on the UCAS website there are hundreds of courses including Golf management to yacht and powercraft design...
    The efficiency savings? Don't cut places to academic subjects like medicine and law leaving well qualified students twiddling their thumbs for a year; cut these useless and wasteful courses.

  • Comment number 100.

    The 1962 Education Act expanded the number of universities and created the grant system. The 1964 Labour government created the Open University ,and also created the Polytechnics. All this waas done to expand the number of graduates. Technical education disparagingly called 'vocational' courses have suffered. Most of out European competitors produce a stream of highly skilled electricians, plumbers, mechanics and fitters from their technical schools to the benefit of their economies.
    Our education system was designed to strip out all but the best and send them to university of which until 1962 there were only 5 in the whole of the UK.
    Willets proposal suggests he intends to return to essentially the situation that existed before 1962.


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