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Your views on university changes

Mike Baker discussed the higher education landscape, 10 years since Lord Dearing recommended tuition fees.

As usual we invited your comments. Here is a selection of some of the views received:

I've met electricians working on Wembley stadium who could earn 70,000 a year pro rata at 27, never having accumulated debts. Similarly with plumbers and builders. Many struggle to do that as a management consultant before the age of 30 and they'll now be saddled with debt. If you want kids and a house, how are you going to pay for it, if your parents aren't already rich, eh? It's time to stop complaining about Polish plumbers and train British ones......and that doesn't necessarily mean sitting in classrooms/lecture theatres, does it? To me, find out what you want to do with life, then decide if University contributes to that. Don't go due to pressure from parents, schools and politicians. It isn't worth it nowadays.
Rhys Jaggar, Leeds UK

My son has just finished his first year at University and it has cost us about 6500. My daughter is just about to go so my wife and I are battening down the hatches! Parents like us are the ones that are propping up and funding this system. Universities appear to spend a fortune on marketing but they seem to know nothing about customer relations. You may spend a fortune keeping your child at university, but if you want to complain about the dubious quality of the teaching (often by post-graduates and not full-time lectures), the enormous teaching groups, the waste of time (such as the 'reading weeks' when no lectures take place, or the 'marking' weeks or fortnights with no lectures while staff mark exams) then you can forget it - they just don't see you as a customer at all. They still treat you as though you should be grateful that your child is at the university in the first place.
Baz, Swansea, Wales

I was in the very first year of students paying fees in 1998 and had to pay the full rate. I asked then and I ask now - How much public money and fees from undergraduate research gets wasted on self-indulgent post-graduate courses that are of no value to the general public whatsoever? Students on post-graduate courses studying subjects like art, English and history should have to pay for the whole lot themselves rather than rely on the taxpayer and hard-up undergraduates to pay for what is essentially a hobby which is often coupled with a desire to avoid the real world of work.
Dara McGaughey, Belfast, Northern Ireland

I went to uni during 1999, one of the first years where charges were 1,000. Our uni chose to spend it's money on a shiny new facility that promptly closed down a year after I left in 2003, thus we never saw any improvement in our education. Our lecturers were always sick and the quality of the teaching was simply awful. Plenty of my friends agree that paying 1,000 resulted in no investment in them at their uni. Ultimately I left with over 15k of debt, and if I knew what I knew now, I would never have gone. Sure, the social side was fab, but at this rate I'll be at least 45 before I've cleared my debt as there are so many other priorities in my life (pension, house prices etc.).
Daniel Winter, Wigan

I come from a working class background and was the first person in my family to go onto higher education. I graduated in the 1980's with no debt and really doubt if I would have pursued a degree if the current system had been in place then. Graduates pay much more tax when they qualify than they would otherwise with no degree so are more than repaying back the university costs. This government is fixated with a 50% target going onto university - compared to 10% when I went - why? Surely quality of degree is more important than just having a degree. Bring back free higher education but restrict it to disciplines that this country needs to prosper- such as physics, maths and engineering.
Margaret Caulfield, Leicestershire

1) It is interesting to note that in the latter years of the 11+ a greater proportion of children from less advantaged backgrounds secured places at our better universities. Is it worthwhile assessing whether a return to the 11+ now might lead to a return to the same demography as 40 yrs ago? 2) The triple traps of increased housing prices, university fees and significantly increased needs for pensions savings disadvantage today's students considerably. We need to encourage the take up of university places through abolishing tuition fees, and through central government providing sufficient funds for universities to cover their teaching costs. This will inevitably lead to rises in taxation - but as the incomes of the top few % in society have more than doubled in the past 10 years there is surely room in the system to do this.
Dr Andy Tilbrook, Pulborough, West Sussex

The trend depicted by the article is worrying. It belies to me a devaluation of the importance of education. It might be a root cause of commercialisation of the market and education to be thought of as business. My foresight tells me that this will lead to the decline of education standards as also mentioned in the article and the situation must revert to that of pre-1997.
Maryam, Islamabad, Pakistan

To me, "Education, Education, Education" is one of the shallowest statements ever. I did Chemistry and Maths at King's London in the seventies. King's had a top-class chemistry department which is now closed. It's not the only one. Surprise surprise we can't get decent chemistry teachers in our local schools. Maths in schools has been significantly dumbed down. This is perforce spreading so some universities. We may have more "graduates", but what are their qualifications really worth?
Sasha (Charles Alexander) Clarkson, Tenby, Pembs

As someone hit by the first year of charges, it means I have a debt that - as I am in a skilled but not in a highly paid field - will remain with me for over a decade, at the present rate. Given a number of very talented people even in my year did not enter university because of the fees, I can quite imagine that a lot of people who should be going are now, while the "middle class" are expecting to and indeed are sending all their children. This system is obviously self-perpetuating, and very bad for the university system as a whole.
Andrew Crystall, Oxford, UK

Top-up fees have been a total failure and should be scrapped. As your article states they have failed to provide sufficient funding for universities. The 1.4 billion they raise is a relatively small sum. It is equivalent to every tax payer paying just 1 more a week on average. In order to try and justify heaping more debt on graduates earning as little as 15k Labour made a string of distorted claims: first that the alternative was a huge hike in tax (Bill Rammell claiming "3p or 4p on the standard rate of tax") and second claiming a lifetime premium of 400k for graduates (which Labour has since quietly revised downwards). The whole fiasco shows that the proper and fair financing of universities cannot be achieved by penalising fresh graduates.
Bernard North, London

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Updated: 14 Oct, 2014
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