Tuesday, August 10, 2010

education stirred up

One hope I had of this new coalition government we now have in this country is that the continuous flow of policy changes in education would slow down a bit. Under New Labour we had a major restructuring of schools and/or universities (and also in the health system) announced every week, to an extent that it was impossible (at least for anybody who also has other things to do) to actually follow the news or to keep track of which of the policies they were really putting into practice (for instance, the health checkups for over 40s, my GP tells me, although announced two years ago, never arrived at the practice level).

So, well, as readers in the UK will know, the hope was disappointed, and the rate at which major policy changes are announced has even increased. One observer blamed it on the fact that Cameron is actually able to delegate decisions, leaving ministers free to announce their ideas without having to double check with him each time.

In higher education, the BIS (business, innovation and skills) secretary Vince Cable brought up the idea of graduate tax a few weeks ago, which seemed to be sinking soon after, but has popped up again this week. Lucky for me, because I wrote a piece about this, which is out today, and in the worst case it could have been all ancient history by now, but in fact it happens to be the policy du jour.

I've also had a look at Germany, where things are less hectic, but suffering from the cacophony of policies made independently by 16 Länder governments.

Anyhow, my piece is here, read it and weep:

Cuts spark university rethink
Current Biology, Volume 20, Issue 15, R616-R617, 10 August 2010
summary and restricted access to pdf file

In fact, some technical difficulties aside, I think the graduate tax isn't such a bad idea. From there it is only one step for the government to realise that graduates pay a lot more tax already (as they earn more, on average), so they are actually paying back the cost of their education already. Or, as a former president of Harvard University famously put it: "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."

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