It is with a considerable degree of schadenfreude that the British Gazette views Nick Clegg and Saint Vincent the Cable of that Ilk eating their words so far as their acceptance of Lord Brown’s proposals to remove the limit on what British Universities can charge by way of fees and also other reforms to the system of student loans to make higher education more affordable to the public purse.
The British Gazette is not unsupportive of these two conversions on the road to Damascus (or should that be Whitehall?) as it is vital to develop our universities into world class centres of excellence for the benefit of educating our own young people and the education of foreign students – whose tuition turns a profit for U.K. PLC.
Let us face facts. This country cannot compete with low wage low skill developing economies. We have to find high skill high knowledge level employment for our young people. It is only through this knowledge based economy that the U.K. will be able to maintain its high standard of living.
This will mean universities putting up tuition fees considerably. The British Gazette however has a suggestion:
That the structure of publicly funded university degree courses should be restructured along the following lines:
At the end of year one, an exam or exams which if passed will be a Higher National Certificate.
At the end of year two, an exam or exams which if passed will be a Higher National Diploma.
At the end of year three, an exam or exams which if passed will be a Bachelor Degree (plus Honours).
At the end of year four, an exam or exams which if passed will be a Masters Degree.
In the opinion of the British Gazette, the first year – leading to the HNC – should be free of tuition fees for most students. Also grants and/or loans of subsidised terms to assist students exist in this first year should be available. This is because there will be a world of difference in the student at the start of year two as compared with them at the start of year one.
For many students, the first year at university will be the first time living away from home. In this year they will progress from being secondary school pupils living with Dad and Mum to self confident young people living and existing on their own.
If young people were able to complete the first year of a three or four year degree course with little or a low level of debt and to obtain a qualification at the end of it, they will feel far more confident in completing their degree and taking on an increased level of debt. For those who did not do very well or did not adapt well to the experience they can cut their losses at this point and still leave with something that they can present to an employer.