Extra university places for the rich

Another brilliant proposal from the Tories. Supposedly it will increase social mobility.

Under current government plans, annual student numbers are capped to keep costs down, with English universities allowed to charge UK students a maximum annual fee of £9,000 from 2012, which graduates do not have to start paying until they are earning £21,000 a year.

However, Willetts suggested universities could increase the numbers of British students by charging some the full annual fees of up to £28,000 a year for the most expensive courses, payable up front, who would not then require the support of the taxpayer.

The changes would give more students the chance to attend their first choice university, a suggestion that many see as enabling the children of the wealthiest parents to buy their way in. At present, the government sets a quota of undergraduate places that English universities are allowed to offer each year.

How will it increase social mobility?

David Willetts, the universities minister, has argued the extra places will boost social mobility by freeing up more publicly subsidised places for undergraduates from poorer homes….

Willetts told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “People are coming to us with innovative ideas about how you could liberalise the system so it was possible for extra people to get to university. These are people who we wish to go to university and who sadly are being turned away at the moment just because there aren’t enough places.

“We would need to have a set of criteria, if this went ahead, that absolutely passed muster as improving social mobility.

“I start from the view that, by and large, more people going to university is a good thing for social mobility. Anything that we did if this does go forward would have to pass the test of improving social mobility, not reversing it.”

As The Guardian notes: “The move is being considered at a time when the government is cutting 10,000 publicly funded university places”. So the proposal is to cut publicly funded places, but allow universities to create extra high-priced places for the wealthy. And if you’re a Tory, that looks like social mobility.

Thanks, L!

13 thoughts on “Extra university places for the rich

  1. I actually quite like it in principle. Really rich people are always [1] going to be able to “pay” for their children to get into top universities anyway, through expensive schooling, interview practice, extra-curricular activities that look good on a personal statement, and so on. Removing the public subsidy on them doing so is fine with me. (And, of course, they can already use that money to go to a university in any other country, too)

    Conversely it’s not an automatic place for the money either, since the university still has limits on how many students it wants to take, and so they’ll be in competition with all the international students (who will already be paying these fees) who already want places.

    The universities don’t have much incentive to reduce the number of public places they try for and make up the difference with private places – if they wanted to do that then they could already take more international students and fewer UK ones, so I doubt it will make any difference.

    [1] This need not be true, of course, but what I mean is you can’t fix it by tinkering with education funding policy.

  2. How will they decide who must pay the full 28k? That’s a prohibitive amount even for most fairly (emphasis on ‘fairly’) wealthy families–especially if they have more than one child hoping to attend university. I can’t imagine *anyone* thinking this is a particularly good idea–and to claim it will increase social mobility is, as you’ve pointed out, laughable.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing the sordid news. It’s quite unbelievable.

  3. I find it completely believable, sorry to say. A Tory’s a Tory the world over.

  4. Michel– I think the idea is that everyone would go into competition for the cheaper places. Then people who don’t get those would have the opportunity to buy one of the expensive ones (if they met the academic requirements).

  5. @Jender: 0_o

    I hope that appropriately conveys my bugged-out eyes. I don’t know how else to respond.

  6. You are so right, Hilde. I’m re-enacting my election night pantomime of all the ways I could kill myself. Gunshot… hanging…hari-kari…stepping in front of a speeding bus…

    I know it’s only a matter of time before our newly elected Fascists–I mean Tories start dismantling public education over here. Arr…gah…gah…grrr…whooosh… (that was drowning myself in the toilet)

  7. Michel, consider yourself lucky. You in La Belle Province are represented by the NDP. (Unless you don’t consider yourself lucky because you supported the Sovereignist Party. If that’s the case, I’ll offer my condolences and just keep my mouth shut about Canuck politics.)

    UK politics are making my eyes pop out too.

  8. It is interesting to conjecture whether some machiavellian (sp?) person is behind the scenes and giving advice. “Just a few more things like this and then we’ll have a real revolution and I can be *back* in power.”

    I do wonder where the full fees go. I mentioned some time ago that, as a two-salaried family, we had to pay our son’s full bill at an expensive private college. We discovered sometime later that, according to the college’s figures,only something like 60or 70% of his tuition went on him. The rest went on scholarships for other students. In today’s dollars that would mean we gave about $25,000 to their scholarship fund. I would have liked to know that’s what we were doing, though I approve of the idea of sharing out, I think. This practice may be gone now, but it was apparently fairly standard when he was in college.

  9. University employees don’t get special discounts on tuition for immediate family members where you are, JJ?

  10. JJ – I think under the current UK proposals, that has to happen.

    To break even when the government teaching budget disappears, universities need to charge £n per student. But the government has said that universities are only allowed to charge £n-1. To charge £n, universities must operate a widening access programme, which involves in part, funding poorer students. To pay for the widening access programme, universities need to charge £n+1 in fees. Thus anyone who is paying £n+1 will inevitably be contributing to a scholarship fund.

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