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Posts Tagged ‘merit good’

A budget education

The Labour government’s investment in education has been widely publicised since its rise to power in 1997 and there has been a significant increase in funding to match its ‘50% participation in higher education’ target. However, at the university level, this looks set to change. More than 100 universities face a drop in their government grants as a consequence of £450 million worth of cuts. 69 universities face cuts in cash terms and another 37 have rises below 2 per cent. Furthermore, increased funding is now going to those departments where research is of the highest quality, which means that whilst some universities will not see a cut in funding, they will see a reallocation of their funds.

Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of Hefce, said: “These are very modest reductions. I think it is quite likely that universities will be able to cope with these without in any way undermining the student experience.” Despite this reassurance, there are concerns that, with these spending cuts and growing student numbers, class sizes will have to increase, the quality of the education may fall and ultimately, it may mean a reduction in the number of places offered. The Conservatives have estimated that 275,000 students will miss out on a place. UCAS applications have grown by 23% – or 106,389 – so far this year, but the number of places has been reduced by 6000. This policy of cutting places is clearly contrary to the government’s target of 50% participation.

With the average degree costing students over £9000, it is hardly surprising that students are unhappy with these spending cuts and the fact that it could lead to a lower quality education. With the possibility of rising fees (in particular, as advocated by Lord Patten, who has called for the abolition of a “preposterous” £3,200 cap on student tuition fees) and a lower quality degree, this means that students could end up paying a very high price for a university education.

Articles
Universities fear research funding cuts Financial Times (18/3/10)
More students but who will pay? BBC News, Sean Coughlan (18/3/10)
University cuts announced as recession bites Reuters (18/3/10)
How about $200,000 dollars for a degree? BBC News, Sean Coughlan (18/3/10)
Liberate our universities Telegraph (17/3/10)
Universities should set own fees, say Oxford Chancellor Patten Independent, Richard Garner (17/3/10)
University budgets to be slashed by up to 14% Guardian, Jessica Shepherd (18/3/10)
Universities face cuts as Hefce deals with first funding drop in years RSC, Chemistry World (17/3/10)
University cuts spell campus turmoil BBC News, Hannah Richardson (18/3/10)
Universities told of funding cuts Press Association (18/3/10)
100 universities suffer as government announces £450 million of cuts Times Online, Greg Hurst (18/3/10)

Data
HEFCE announces funding of £7.3 billion for universities and colleges in England HEFCE News (18/3/10)

Questions

  1. Why is there justification for government intervention in higher education? Think about the issues of efficiency and equity and why the market for education fails.
  2. What are the arguments (a) for and (b) against allowing universities to set their own tuition fees?
  3. Why is the government planning these substantial cuts to university funding, when it is still trying to increase the number of students getting places at university?
  4. Is the ‘50% participation in higher education’ a good policy?
  5. What are the benefits of education? Think about those accruing to the individual and those gained by society. Can you use this to explain why the government has role in intervening in the market for higher education?
  6. Is it right that more spending should go to those departments with higher quality research? What are the arguments for and against this policy?
  7. What are the costs to a student of a university education and how will they change with funding cuts and possibly higher tuition fees?
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Loan delays for students

Most students have a student loan: you need it to live; to buy text books; to survive. So, what do you do if your student loan hasn’t appeared in your bank account? This is a problem that many students have been facing. The Student Loans Company said that even after most courses had started, 175,358 students had still not had their loan application processed. This represented 16% of applications. There are various reasons given for this delay, but one that appears more often is the current economic downturn. This has been a crucial factor in so many students being without the necessary finance to begin university. Another reason is that many documents have been misplaced. On the other hand, a spokesman for the Student Loans Company (SLC) said that actually delays this year were no worse than in previous years, even though this is the first year when students applied directly to the SLC. Does this suggest that actually the whole system of student loans is still inefficient and needs to be overhauled again? Is there a better method?

In order to help students, many universities have made emergency payments to those without their loans. What’s the opportunity cost of this money? Surely it could be used for other purposes. Universities have seen their highest ever number of applications, although there has been a drop in Scottish student numbers and there are suggestions that tuition fees will increase again. What are the implications of the problems with student loans and the massive increase in university applications?

Minister ‘sorry’ for student loan delays ePolitiX (15/10/09)
140,000 miss university places The Press Association (17/10/09)
Student loan firm explains delays BBC News (12/10/09)
Student loan delay hits 175,000 students Telegraph, Graeme Paton (9/10/09)
Enquiry to be held over late payments of student loans Guardian, Jessica Shepherd (13/10/09)
Watchdog fears over poor students BBC News (29/9/09)
Student tuition fees could increase Telegraph, Graeme Patton (14/10/09)
Student debt to soar Daily Express, Alison Little (14/10/09)

Questions

  1. Why has the recession had an impact on university applications?
  2. Should universities be able to set their own fees? What are the advantages and disadvantages of such a system? How could fees be determined?
  3. Primary and Secondary education is a merit good and free in the UK. What do we mean by a merit good and how can we illustrate the positive externalities associated with education? Why is higher education not free to the student? Aren’t there positive externalities associated with it?
  4. If tuition fees increase, student debt levels after graduation will be higher. What is the likely impact of this on the students themselves and on the economy?
  5. What the likely consequences for (a) students (b) universities of the delays in student loans?
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