Globalisation is a word we hear a lot of. The world economy is constantly changing and the financial crisis, from which the world is still recovering, is a prime example of just how interdependent nations are. Tony Blair has extended this idea of interdependence in the context of universities and the so-called knowledge economy. As technology advances and economies become more interdependent, international competitiveness is becoming increasingly important and this is one area where universities are vital.
“If you look at the world’s current and emerging superpowers, nearly all have either well-established or are currently establishing university systems that will help them compete in the global economy.”
Just how important is a country’s higher education system and what has been the impact of globalisation on them?
Tony Blair’s global ‘battle of ideas’ BBC News, Sean Coughlan (7/3/11)
Top schools face globalisation challenge Financial Times, Jonathan Doh and Guy Pfefferman (6/3/11)
- What do we mean by a ‘knowledge economy?
- What is globalisation and how is the interdependence of nations relevant to this concept?
- Tony Blair says that the world’s superpowers all have well-established or are currently establishing university systems. Why is it this helps them to compete globally?
- What are the benefits of higher education? Do they accrue mainly to the individual receiving the education or to society? On which factors does your answer depend?
- What role does information play in making the global education environment more competitive?
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.
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)
HEFCE announces funding of £7.3 billion for universities and colleges in England HEFCE News (18/3/10)
- 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.
- What are the arguments (a) for and (b) against allowing universities to set their own tuition fees?
- 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?
- Is the ‘50% participation in higher education’ a good policy?
- 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?
- Is it right that more spending should go to those departments with higher quality research? What are the arguments for and against this policy?
- What are the costs to a student of a university education and how will they change with funding cuts and possibly higher tuition fees?
In 2010/11, government funding for UK universities will be 7 per cent less (£518m) than in 2009/10. This has led to calls for substantial increases in student fees in order to stave off a serious funding crisis for many universities. One such call has come from David Blanchflower. As the first article below states:
“A leading economist has called for students from well-off families to be charged the ‘market rate’ of up to £30,000 a year to go to university. David ‘Danny’ Blanchflower, a former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, said the “poor have been subsidising the rich” for too many years.”
But just what are the arguments for and against a substantial rise in fees and who should pay any rise in fees? Should it be only students of very well-off parents or should it include middle-income parents too? Or if student loans are available to cover higher fees, why should not the same fees apply to all students? Then there is the question of who benefits from a university education? How much should external benefits be taken into account?
Call for universities to charge well-off students £30,000 a year Observer, Anushka Asthana and Ian Tucker (27/12/09)
A rise in fees would make university education fairer Observer (27/12/09)
Who wants a two-year degree? Independent on Sunday, Richard Garner (27/12/09)
Briefing: University funding Sunday Times, Georgia Warren (27/12/09)
Universities face £500m cut in funding Financial Times, Nicholas Timmins (22/12/09)
The nightmare before Christmas: grant letter announces £135m cut Times Higher Education, John Morgan (27/12/09)
Fast-track degrees proposed to cut higher education costs Guardian, Polly Curtis (22/12/09)
- Why is the government planning to make substantial cuts to university funding?
- What are the arguments for and against the university sector bearing a larger percentage cut than most other areas of government expenditure?
- Should any rise in fees be born by parents or by students from future income?
- Identify the external benefits from higher education? How does the existence of such externalities affect the arguments about the appropriate charges for higher education?
- What are the economic arguments for and against moving towards more two-year degrees.
- Discuss the case for and against increasing the participation rate in higher education to 50 per cent of young people.
- Is higher education a ‘merit good’ and, if so, what are the implications for charging for higher education?
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)
- Why has the recession had an impact on university applications?
- Should universities be able to set their own fees? What are the advantages and disadvantages of such a system? How could fees be determined?
- 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?
- 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?
- What the likely consequences for (a) students (b) universities of the delays in student loans?
For some time now, education has been a top priority for the government. They have been tackling standards in schools and have a target of a 50% participation rate in higher education. Most people agree that school education should be free, but opinion is divided when it comes to higher education. Is the return to the individual greater than that to society or vice versa? Is it the same for all degrees? This is one of the questions that affects funding. Should the individual pay? Or the government? Or should there be a mixture of funding?
The question of university education has become even more of an issue in the current recession, with many seeing a university education as a way of avoiding, what could be, inevitable unemployment. With this increase in demand, there is increasing pressure on the funding: it is simply not fiscally feasible to fund everyone’s university education. As such, business leaders have advised a rise in tuition fees. Students could be charged thousands more and made to face a higher interest rate on any loans. This highly contentious issue is considered in the articles below.
Charge students more, say bosses BBC News (21/9/09)
Middle class university students ‘should pay more’ Telegraph (21/9/09)
Elite universities plan to cut UK student numbers amid funding drop Telegraph (20/9/09)
Fee rise must aid poor students BBC News (27/7/09)
Loans delay for 150,000 students continues Daily Mail (19/9/09)
‘No fee degrees’ university plan BBC News (8/7/09)
‘New market’ in education (podcast) BBC Today Programme (8/7/09)
Bring back tuition fees for middle class students Scotsman (11/9/09)
CBI advises raising university fees to £5,000 a year to tackle funding crisis Guardian (21/9/09)
University ‘way out of recession’ BBC News (8/9/09)
Schools secretary Ed Balls under fire over education cuts Mirror (21/9/09)
Students should pay more – CBI (video) BBC News (21/9/09)
- Why is education described as a merit good? Explain the characteristics and why it constitutes a market failure.
- Identify any externalities involved in higher education. Do they imply that the free market would led to a level of higher education that is above or below the social optimum?
- List the costs to society of a university education. (Think about opportunity cost).
- What are the arguments for (a) only the individual funding their university education (b) the government funding university education (c) a combination of both?
- Is it a reasonable policy to increase university fees? If so, should students receive loans to cover this increase? If not, what do you think is an alternative option to help this funding crisis?