Monday, May 09, 2005


Thousands of students hoping to embark on part-time study for degrees next year will find their ambitions blocked as universities fear that they will no longer be able to afford the cost of running the courses. Vice-chancellors believe that part-time degrees could gradually disappear as more universities turn to full-time education to maximise funding. With more than 812,000 students, the part-time sector involves 42 per cent of higher education students and is the biggest growth area for universities. However, from 2006, part-time students, unlike their full-time counterparts, will not be eligible for maintenance grants or bursaries and will have to pay increased tuition fees.

Ivor Crewe, president of Universities UK, said: “There is a real danger that universities will see full-time education as financially more advantageous than part-time education. Universities will feel they can’t charge higher fees to part-time students and, given that higher education is a loss-making enterprise, universities will be tempted to move full-time.” Last week the Higher Education Statistics Agency disclosed a 4.2 per cent rise in the number of part-time first-year students to 406,550 in 2003-04. In ten years the number of part-timers has risen by 92 per cent, against 10 per cent for full-timers. In spite of this growth, the needs of part-time students, many of whom are single parents and mature students, were ignored in the Higher Education act 2004. As a result, universities face putting up tuition fees to the proportionate level of full-time degrees or finding money from elsewhere to pay for them.

Les Ebdon, Vice-Chancellor of Luton University, which has 4,504 part-time students, says: “The question is, if we charge £1,500 upfront, will they be able to pay or will we just kill the market off? There is a very powerful disincentive now to recruit part-timers and a real danger that part-time degrees could wither on the vine”.

From next year, full-time undergraduates will have to repay tuition fees only when their income exceeds £15,000 a year, and the real rate of interest will be set at zero. As a result, universities feel able to charge full-time undergraduates higher fees of up to £3,000 — a rise of 30 per cent per student over the combined tuition fee plus government grant that universities receive now. Vice-chancellors say that although part-time students must pay fees upfront without access to the same generous loans, many will feel unable to raise the money, even though the cost of provision is the same, and will instead cut courses.

Carl, a single father of twins who is self-employed, graduated in law from Luton in 2003. Having paid £90 a week in childminding charges, he said that higher tuition fees would certainly put him off doing a degree now. “It’s not worthwhile, if you balance what you lose from working with what you gain from a degree. A degree already costs £4,000 over four years, so if they’re now saying they’ll charge £3,000 upfront and no bursaries, it’s a double whammy.”

David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck College in London, which with the Open University is the only institution in Britain dedicated to part-time degrees. Professor Latchman fears he will have to put up fees, but he is concerned that any increase without a rise on the cap on fee waivers will hit the very people Birkbeck should help. “Everything is calculated to put off precisely the ones you want to attract — we’re not going to put off the City banker, but the single mum who wants to climb another rung on the career ladder with a degree,” he said.

A survey of students at Birkbeck suggested that more than 40 per cent would be forced to give up their courses if fees were increased. That figure rose to 90 per cent at the Open University. David Vincent, Vice-Chancellor of the Open University, says that higher fees would be unsustainable and has offered instead to lay on courses in subjects that other universities have dropped. “We can support subjects which individual universities can no longer afford to teach, but I don’t think an increase in business that way is an adequate alternative.”

The Times


Which is very short-term thinking (HECS are fees paid by Australian students for their tuition )

Australia's universities have become so financially dependent on foreign students that their viability as learning and research institutions hinges entirely on that market. But the pressure of maintaining the 220,000 international students needed each year to keep the campuses afloat has led to a drop in academic standards, a Herald investigation has found. Severe funding cuts to universities began when the Howard Government was first elected in 1996, and the institutions have sought to make up the shortfall by aggressively recruiting foreign students, who pay at least the full cost of their course. These students now make up one in five enrolments in Australian universities. But growth in numbers of foreign fee-payers who rescued universities from collapse has now slowed, leaving the institutions vulnerable.

One university, the University of Central Queensland, gets almost 40 per cent of its revenue from international students. Four others, Curtin University in Western Australia, Macquarie University, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Wollongong University, receive more than 20 per cent of their revenue in the same way, according to Education Department figures.......

The Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson, agreed universities were exposed to "the vagaries of the international marketplace". He said that like "our wheat producers, our coal exporters", the commodities and services industries, "if you rely significantly on international markets and exports for your wellbeing and financial security, in a sense you are exposed".

The higher education market is at the mercy of the dollar, changes in student visa regulations or political instability in students' home countries. Universities also face competition from the US, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia. China, the biggest source of foreign students for Australia, is priming its universities to keep more at home. In 12 months to February China provided about 30,000 of Australia's almost 130,000 foreign higher education students.

Academics say that in some courses entry requirements have been lowered, courses have been made easier and marking has been softened to help overseas students cope with their English language problems. In a survey of 21 economic department heads, Professor Peter Abelson, of Macquarie University, found most believed standards in undergraduate economics courses had fallen over the past decade when foreign student numbers exploded in commercial subjects.

Foreign funding is also skewing the university curriculum towards money-making subjects. Faculties that attract fee-payers had become booming "sausage machines", said the NSW secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union, Stuart Rosewarne, while less lucrative subjects, such as languages, struggled for survival or died......

Many Australian undergraduates, whose HECS fees rise regularly, are complaining of overcrowding in lectures and tutorials. Staff-student ratios have soared. In 1993 there were just 14 students for every teacher. Now it is 21.

Government funding has been restored this year to a similar level as a decade ago but is not indexed. Professor Sutton said this meant income would fall behind university running costs over the next three years. He predicted that universities would hit a financial crisis in 2008 unless the Government budges. However, he defended university standards, saying the quality of students Australia produced was "very high indeed for a mass system, which we are now".

Dr Nelson said that subjects such as the pure sciences and humanities were "bleeding" but blamed universities for offering populist subjects such as aromatherapy and golf club management instead of focusing on "core" subjects.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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