Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Higher (E)d(U)cation and student numbers - what an utter cock up. PART 1

UPDATE: After very good and thought provoking responses from readers I have decided to label this as part 1 of I do not know how many. Clearly it is an issue that needs debating which is why I will answer and considers points raised in the comments. Thank you for reading 13th Spitfire. Though let this be said, there seems to be a prevailing orthodoxy in Britain that e.g. Muslims may only criticise Muslims otherwise it is racism where the same analogy can be applied to students where the resulting feeling would instead be ignorance. I invite you all, young and old, students and non-students to have a crack at education policy because it is so fundamentally misguided anyone, with any remark, can make a positive contribution.

Have you ever stopped to wonder how many students there actually are in British universities? Perhaps it is not relevant for you who already have an education or simply cannot be bothered for others reasons (perhaps you have an education from the old days when it actually meant something unlike now when AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA is still only above average). I on the other hand find the subject truly fascinating mostly because I am a self styled intellectual who thinks very highly of himself with a massive stick up his arse (ohh the sarcasm...). Peter Mandelson recently decided to cut the Higher Education budget, this is good because then the make-believe university degrees that are not even worth the paper they are written on will slowly but surely die out. The abolition of the 11+, changing from O-Levels to GCSE's, labelling Polytechnics as Universities, reduction of standards in A-levels, and now the joke degree courses. "Everyone must win and all shall have prizes." In our Alice in Wonderland world everyone is equal and all shall have degrees.

Why? It goes well in hand with the trend that can be seen not only in the UK but in the rest of the world the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st were the "Inclusive" centuries were meritocracy became mediocracy and talent became tool. These days, certain campuses seem to get people off the streets to fill up their quotas on questionable courses. There are only a few British academic institutions today which have not become the laughing stock of the world, notably the Russell group. The lefties tend to call them "elitist" often because they were not clever enough to gain admission, most likely why they saw fit to dumb down the entire education sector including the national curriculum (in all fairness a lot of the dumbing down were done under the Major years but he sold us down the drain with the Maastricht treaty as well so you cannot expect hat anything as sublime as education to be defended by him). However there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel, notably the recent Mandelson ejaculations (though he also figured engineering degrees should be done in two years... They currently take 4 years to complete) and the fact (it is a fact in my book but I cannot back it up with any credible link I am sorry to say, so for now it will be anecdotal evidence of my hypothesis) people now realise what a load of garbage the last 20 years have been in terms of education - call it a generation lost if you will.

This is the domestic side of the issue there is however a foreign footnote as well. As university funding has been allocated on some very dodgy basis lately (this was changed from the previous system) the universities now set their own quotas for foreign students who pay astronomical sums to come to the UK and study. Naturally they universities want them more than home students because they pay more. Simple, quid pro quo. However they set their own quotas which means that the creme de la creme of the British student body will often not get a place at their chosen institution because of financial favouritism exercised by the body in question. Alas this is where numbers enter the equation. But even before we address those numbers lets look at the immigration issue related to higher education. Since the phasing out of embarkation controls in 1994 no Government has ever been able to produce an accurate figure for the number of people who have overstayed their visas, including those who entered on a student visa. Philip Woolas goes on to say that as part of the Government's 10-point plan for delivery, by 2010 over 95 per cent. of non-EEA foreign nationals will be counted in and out of the country, rising to 100 per cent. by 2014. This is part of a sweeping programme of border protection which also includes the global roll-out of fingerprint visas, watch-list checks for all travellers before they arrive or depart from the UK and ID cards for foreign nationals.

Which means -not- in newspeak; they do not have a bloody clue who is here and why.

Regular readers will know that I do not much care for the EU so I will start with those numbers - all data was sourced from UKCISA (it being a government department I would adjust those figured upward by at least a couple of percent due certain pesky Labour civil servants massaging the numbers, as they regularly do to withhold the truth).

Firstly there the number of UK students at UK universities fell from 1.97 million in 2007 to 1.96 million in 2008. That is a decrease of 1%, the first decrease since records began. However the number of overseas students increased by 5%. This broke down to a 6% rise in students from other European Union countries (total of 112,150 in 2008) and a 4% rise in those from non EU countries (total 229,640).

In total there are 341,795 non-UK students at British universities.

You might wonder what they study? Well, the full list is here but there are 8,935 non-UK students studying medicine and dentistry. Now you might not know this but the pressure to study medicine in this country is a best fierce at worst it is a blitzkrieg with the unlucky ones and crappy ones, going into something biological because they were not bright enough to go into medicine. However, the statistic does not brake down how many of those 8,935 are EU students - this is important because they pay the same fees as we do roughly £3,225 a year. Whereas a truly international students pays somewhere around £20,000 for en engineering degree and about £30,000 for a medical degree. But there is a very odd discrepancy here. The cost of medical degree...
Mr. Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the cost of training a (a) doctor, (b) nurse, (c) occupational therapist, (d) physiotherapist and (e) speech and language therapist; and if he will make a statement. [138404]

17 Nov 2000 : Column: 826W

Mr. Denham: In the period between entry to medical school and full registration, it is estimated that training a doctor costs between £200,000 and £250,000. Doctors generally continue training after full registration. As the duration and nature of post-registration training varies greatly and as service and training costs are closely related it is not possible to provide a meaningful estimate of the total cost of training.

The latest year for which figures are available show that in 1999-2000 the national average estimated cost of training a nurse was £11,000 per annum; an occupational therapist £7,000 per annum; a physiotherapist £7,200 per annum and a speech and language therapist £7,000 per annum. These costs are inclusive of tuition, bursary and salary support costs. Most courses are of three years duration.
Which means that there is a lot of money missing for the EU students and International students, studying medicine. Lets make some assumptions to ease the mathematical calculations required to determine how much money is being lost to this set up. Lets assume first that the cost of training a dentist and doctor is the same, in reality the cost of training a doctor is most likely higher but these are, like government figures, to be taken with a pinch of salt.

First lets make an underestimate, lets assume that all the 8,935 students are EU students and are alas on the same tuition fee as the rest of us lucky bunch.

A medical degree is 6 years long and the annual tuition fee is £3,225.

Maths: £3,225 x 6 x 8,935 = £172, 892,250 or roughly 172 million pounds is contributed by the EU students towards the funding of their degree.

The actual cost of training 8,935 doctors is (disregarding inflation and market imperfections)


-Overestimate £250,000 x 8,935 = £223,375,000,0 or roughly 2,23 billion pounds.

-Average £225,000 x 8,935 = £201,037,5000,0 or roughly 2 billion pounds.

-Underestimate £200,000 x 8,935 = 178,700,000,0 or roughly 1,78 billion pounds.

Which means that there is a deficit of about 2 billion in the higher education budget because we are training foreign medical personnel who will go back to their own country. This is only for medicine of course, there are 45,515 international students studying engineering which also is a very cost heavy degree. Same story there, this is not an investment the UK is doing by funding their degrees for them because most of them will go home to their own countries anyway, most likely laughing at the supreme stupidity of the British government for being so bloody spineless. Hence, in reality billions upon billions are paid by the British government (and by extension the British taxpayer) for the upkeep of thousands upon thousands of international students who have no plans whatsoever to commit to this country. Even if they did commit to this country there would simply not be enough space or jobs for them to do so.

Now if we on the other hand assume that the 8,935 are all international students and are paying about £30,000 annually for their degree, then the picture is a bit rosier.

Maths: £30,000 x 6 x 8,935 = £160,830,000,0 or roughly 1,6 billion pounds is contributed by International students towards the funding of their degree. Though most are not international most are EU...

Now you like me probably know that this is political no-go waters and this will not be addressed under the Cameron government because it involves taking on the EU, something which he will not do. Simply because he likes it and on the strength of that (or at least the posters with HIM on them) so does the party.


measured said...

I was speaking to a registrar last weekend. His college automatically makes an attractive offer to all non-EU students who apply, regardless of their qualifications, as the income from them is so valuable. I would argue this isn't fair on those in this country but in the current climate, it is hard to find a solution unless lecturers work harder and research budgets are cut. Universities wouldn't reduce student contact hours further, can they?

This registrar also said that, by way of example, 18% will get you a pass in a Maths GCSE and above 40% will gain an A grade so all those with marks between 100% - 40% achieve A grades and there is no means of distinguishing between them when making offers.

13th Spitfire said...

Unless they overhaul the entry requirements for internationals and EU then there is not hope in hell for meritocracy and fairness. I do not trust the tories on this either so I reckon we will have to wait a while before things start to change.

Anonymous said...

Your post is full of errors. I am an international (American) medical student in a London uni so listen up.

Firstly "international" has no meaning. There are 3 statuses of student fees in the UK: home, EU and overseas. Home and overseas are unrelated to your country of citizenship. Broadly, you or your parents would have had to pay tax or own property in the UK for the past 3 years to qualify for home status, which means you don't have to be British. Even if you are British, if you haven't stayed here for the last 3 years, you will pay overseas fees.

A medical degree is usually FIVE years long. This of course supports your point, since even less will be collected in fees. Only Oxbridge, St Andrews, Imperial and UCL force you to study for 6 years, whereas students elsewhere can choose to study one extra year if they can afford to pay another £3225 (which goes up by 2.5% each year).

For medicine, the government sets a 7.5% limit on non-EEA students. I can't be bothered to look up the numbers but I guess there would be about 750 per year. In any case they generally pay less than 30K: usually between 10K and 20K for the first 2 years, then 20-30K for the last 3 years. The exception is Imperial where you can expect to pay 25K for the first 3 years and 40K for the last 3 years. This probably reflects the true cost of the education and may even subsidize the home and EU students!

Full registration as a doctor is one year after graduating. So the cost includes at least one year of salary, say 25K. Maybe that idiot means 2 years as you can't progress until you have completed 2 years of foundation training, so upwards of 50K. Anyway I find it hard to believe that universities would subsidize overseas students when there is so much demand that they can practically charge what they wish.

I can't speak for EU students, but non-EU students tend to stay in the UK after graduating. According to recent guidance by the home office, UK graduates from a 6 year degree will more or less automatically qualify for British citizenship as long as they stay for 5 more years (guaranteed). If your degree is shorter, then you will need to find yourself a job for the extra year. On the other hand, more and more British doctors are going to the US, Australia and NZ where the non-existent NHS doesn't stamp on their faces so much (yet - ref Obamacare).

Anonymous said...

You have neglected a major element in your analysis too. Recently there have been more and more graduate entry programmes for the people who you call "unlucky or crappy". Being on such a programme myself I can say that these students are far brighter than the 18 year old retards on the school-leaver course. One reason they are brighter is that they worked out it would be cheaper, because THEY DON'T PAY FEES except in the first year. SO they pay 3 grand for 3 years of biology, and 1 year of medicine. Then for the remaining 3 years, the NHS gives them a bursary in addition to paying the fees. WTF??? Of course us foreigners need to pay the full fare. About 15% of medical students are graduates on a fast-track and cheap course, and what's more, only 6 unis even accept overseas students for this type of course. Now tell me where the money is coming from.

The EU also contributes money (I heard it was 6K per student) to fund PhD students, at least. Not sure about undergraduate subjects. On the other hand, lots of British students go to European unis, even if only for one year as part of their British degree, and then they are treated the same as EU students. If more students learnt languages maybe they would consider top unis in France and Germany.

Anyway, I don't know if anyone can read this far but I do agree with the premise of this post. A British friend from LSE remarked that when they were registering on day 1, everyone wanted to see his British passport because they were all from somewhere else. Despite this, a British degree is still VERY well regarded overseas especially in former colonies (I'm thinking of Hong Kong and Singapore). Even a 2.2 will get you a top job (well not so much given the recession). Now if a great institution like LSE can stoop to scamming off rich and willing foreigners, what is it like in the ex-polys which are now unis??

13th Spitfire said...

Hi there, great response there! Thank you for taking the time to write it I will definitely write a response.

I too am a student, just so you know. But as I said good response I will reply soon.


(Ps. It would have been very strange if it were not riddled with errors but I hope the main punch is correct).

Watchman said...

Surely large numbers of foreign students is a good thing - more money for our Universities. Especially as the number of home students a University can recruit at undergraduate level is limited by the decree of HEFCE (yes, a government quango) rather than anything useful like market forces. Thus the only way Universities can develop in a non-government controlled way is to take foreign students.

And note also the joys of inculturation. Foreign students who come to British Universities generally acquire a positive image of Britain and act on this, spreading reasonably liberal and democratic views (of course, some learn to try and blow up planes, but this is a minority). I see no benefit in reducing numbers.

13th Spitfire said...

Ohh certainly not, why would we reduce the numbers? THat is not what I am arguing at all. I am arguing that British tax payer money should not be used to fund international students who have not paid tax here since it is a loss making enterprise.

Anonymous said...

Aside from the financial cost, having non-UK students educated in the UK potentially has significant soft benefits for the UK. Students return to their home countries to positions of influence, with hopefully a positive disposition towards the UK, facilitating exports of goods and services, culture and values. To some extent its good foreign policy