Not wanting to troll but I'd be interested in you opinions. There is a debate raging in the UK over the cost of higher education, and where cuts can be made. Our newly-congealed government seems to be keen to have (or pretend to have) a public debate before wielding the axe. As far as I can tell from the media the options under discussion seem to be:
- - Raise tuition fees so that students must pay more in return for their degree
- Reduce the number of students
- Cut back on post-grad research (at least, that not directly sponsored by industry)
- A mix of the above
Of course, there is also the argument that higher education benefits the whole of society and that the public should stop whining and stump up. It raises a few questions on which I'd be interested to hear forummites opinions, given that demographic that seems to exist here:
- - The last government claimed that it wanted 50% of UK society to have a degree. Can you have too many graduates? At what point does the percentage of the pubic with a degree devalue the degree, if at all?
- What is a university degree for? Is it a route into a job, a route to advancing the industrial and economic strength of a country or the basis for advancing human society through pure research? Can one course satisfy all of these?
- Is there room for vocational qualifications these days? The UK used to have a system where those looking for a route to a job would get a vocational qualification from a Polytechnic, whereas those looking to go into research would go for a university degree. Or, at least, that was the idea. I gather that what happened was that the Poly's were seen as second-class to the uni's and everyone wanted a degree. The system was falling apart before I jumped into the higher-education ocean. Is this inevitable?
- I'm an astrophysicist, a cosmologist. It has no direct benefit to society that I can see - you can't make anything with it, sell it or kill anyone with it. I know there are spin-offs but the direct work is purely for academic interest, so I've never figured out how to earn a living in this and have to hold down a day job. Is this inevitable? How many non-productive, purely academic researchers can society afford, and how many should we pay for to ensure the health of basic human knowledge?
- How relevant are these questions around the rest of the world?