Times Higher Education,
Clearing the way to higher dropout rates? Lessons from uncapped Australia | Times Higher Education


“Data released recently by Australia’s Department of Education and Training show that the annual nationwide dropout rate rose in 2013 to 14.8 per cent, the highest level since 2005. Graduate employment prospects have also declined.”

The results will not surprise first year tutors and senior tutors.

First year tutors need to be made aware of changes in the profile and the likely impact on their students’ ability to cope with the material as previously taught. First year modules might need to change significantly to reflect changes in the cohorts’ skills and experience. While the first should be a matter of course, the month between confirming places and the beginning of teaching makes the latter a significant challenge. Universities would be better with larger financial reserves and a greater willingness to deal with year-to-year variations in student numbers.

Students should think carefully before accepting places in programmes that typically accept differently qualified students— the ideal formal study material and support resources are less likely to be available, with consequences for academic performance, retention and employability.  

Read the full article on Times Higher Education website.

The Guardian,
Growing student debt is entrenching unfairness for a whole generation

Will Hutton develops the link between financial capital endowments and university access.

Students from poorer families are much less likely to go to elite institutions, will then earn less and pay more in loan repayments. Given the source of much middle class wealth (unearned profits from residential house price inflation), the inequity is even more distressing: 

“Britain is in the process of creating the most stratified, least socially mobile, cruelly unfair society in its treatment of the young in the advanced world. The over-50s, rejoicing in the untaxed capital gains they enjoy from buying property a generation ago, will help their own kids, but are not asked to help anyone else’s. As in the US, family formation, the birthrate, home ownership and small business startups are all beginning to be affected and parents will work far into old age to try to help their children. All this to ensure that the allegedly malevolent state is shrunk.” 

Read the full article on The Guardian website.

The Guardian,
Tuition fees are a consumerist fallacy. Our students deserve better.

Stefan Collini on student fees:

“The fundamental conceptual mistake of this system is to treat education as a ‘product’ that an individual ‘consumer’ purchases from an individual ‘provider’. It is not hard to see how these assumptions can lead to lines of students standing at the tills arguing for their consumer rights to a higher grade of degree (‘I’ve paid good money, I’m entitled to a good degree’). And it is not hard to see how universities are thereby encouraged to market themselves and to prioritise getting good scores for student ‘satisfaction’ rather than providing a rigorous but exacting education.

“It does not have to be like this. Ours is an enormously wealthy country that can easily afford to support a high-quality system of public higher education – even if it is felt that there is not sufficient political will to return to a proper system of public funding.”

Professor Collini is right that the consumer product market approach to higher education is ill-conceived. It defines parameters for engagement between students and institutions that are unhelpful for intellectual development.

Things are, however, worse than he represents because there has been little movement in streamlining the information required for students and institutions to make good decisions. Ensuring that students had their grades, last year’s NSS results and updated KIS data before finalising their choices would be a start.

Read the full article on The Guardian website.

See also:Andrew McGettigan (on retrospective repayment changes)
Critical Education,
Government confirms preference for retrospective price hike on undergraduate study

Andrew McGettigan is the foremost expert writing publicly on the UK student fees regime.

The combination of changes to student loan agreements in 2012 and the recent launch of a public consultation suggest that repayment terms may be changed. The changes will hit graduates earning between £21000 and £30000 the hardest.

Dr McGettigan very reasonably concludes that,

“It’s fundamentally unfair to impose such changes after individuals have signed up for loans. The silence of the universities on this matter is worse than their craven behaviour in 2010. They don’t have any excuse now that the government’s own figures show the likely impact of what is proposed.”

Current students and recent graduates, and their parents would be well advised to read Dr McGettigan’s post and respond to the government’s consultation (link below).

UK university students, graduates, parents, faculty and staff have until 14 October to respond to the government’s consultation on increasing loan repayments.

Read the full article on Critical Education website.

See also:Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (consultation document)
The Guardian,
Theresa May’s hard line on international students will rob us of income and talent

Vincenzo Raimo writing in The Guardian:

“If we’re not careful, the UK, its universities and the economy will miss out on the financial benefits international students bring and, just as important, the benefits of having the best students in the world study in Britain. But we also risk losing the longer-term benefits gained through the relationships established by international students with their UK counterparts, their lecturers and British society more widely.”

However examined, the Home Secretary’s policies and the knock-on reputational affects on student visas look unnecessarily damaging to UK higher education. 

Read the full article on The Guardian website.