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Showing posts with label tuition fees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tuition fees. Show all posts

Friday, 10 April 2015

Tuition fees – extract from 2010 blog

This 2010 extract is still mainly relevant, I feel, and it may help some YES campaigners with the ‘fairness’ questions sometimes thrown at them.

1. It is Scotland’s responsibility to offer free education to Scottish students and students permanently living in Scotland.

2. It is not in Scotland’s economic interest to offer free education to students from Europe or the rest of the UK, however, present EU legislation compels us to offer free higher education to EU students – the Umbria/Cumbria rule. It does not, however compel us to offer free education to students from the rest of the UK, since the UK is regarded as the state by the EU.

3. It is in Scotland’s interest to attract paying students from the rest of the world, and ideally we would also like EU students to pay.

4. The demands from the UK that Scotland should offer free education to Students from England in the interests of ‘fairness’ is nonsense – it would negate the whole purpose of devolved government’s freedom to decide how its money should be spent in areas of expenditure over which it has discretion. If English students didn’t pay, some other area of Scotland’s expenditure would suffer, and in the light of the draconian fees (up to £9000 per annum) that the ConLib UK government is imposing, there would be a flood of English students to Scottish universities at the expenses of places for Scottish students.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Lies, damned lies and stats - UCAS and student fees - and post hoc ergo propter hoc

There are still a few innocent souls out there who believe that such a thing as an objective media report exists, free from all that nasty politics thing. Aye, weel …

The ancient logical fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc -that because one thing follows another, it was therefore caused by it - has been much in evidence, partly out of the mouths – and the pens – of those stupid enough to believe in it, but mainly from political parties and their media mouthpieces, who find it convenient to adopt the fallacy even when they know it is nonsense.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc abounds in religious thinking, e.g. everybody else’s house fell down in the gales, mine didn’t, therefore God loves me, or alternatively, natural disasters are God’s way of punishing  mankind for homosexuality, etc.

It is also highly evident in much right-wing thought: right-wing American republican presidential candidates seem addicted to it, as they do to fundamentalist religious doctrines. Post hoc ergo propter hoc is in fact primitive thinking that preceded logic and the scientific method – a desperate attempt to explain apparently arbitrary events and avoid their negative consequences, by both propitiating supernatural powers deemed to have caused them and finding some scapegoat believed to have provoked the supernatural power, i.e. a god or gods.

TUITION FEES

Tuition fees have become a highly political issue since the LibDems abandoned their principles, the Tories underlined the absence of principles in their pernicious creed, and the Labour Party continued their search for their principles, which went missing somewhere in the last generation or so. The SNP, who actually have principles and are prepared to put them into action politically (e.g. Megrahi Release, minimum pricing for alcohol, access to education by ability to learn, not ability to pay, etc.) very definitely regard tuition fees as a political issue, and indeed a defining issue for Scotland.

Politicians of all political hues have been waiting either eagerly or apprehensively for the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UK) interim figures on application for university places, post hoc ergo propter hoc arguments ready to hand, together with a large statistics hammer to render the truth malleable and shape it to their ends.

The Coalition is desperate to justify their decision to increase tuition fees. UK Labour, devoid of any clarity in policy terms, simply wants to attack the Coalition. The scurrying rump of the Coalition parties in Scotland have a dual interest – to support their UK bosses and to attack the SNP. The Scottish Labour Party, perhaps the most confused of all - in their values, their policies and their split allegiance to Westminster and Scotland - will do anything to serve their only real allegiance, which is to their careers and the Westminster gravy train.

And so to the reports today -

The UCAS report costs money to access, so I have no access to the original figures – the interim report. (If anyone can point me to a free version of it, I will be obliged.)

My first intimation was the following paragraph from Reform Scotland -

Studying at Scottish universities: Figures released by UCAS show overall applications to Scottish universities rose by 0.8 per cent in December compared with the same time last year.  The rise includes a 0.1 per cent increase from Scottish students, a 7.6 per cent increase in applications from the EU, though applications from the rest of the UK fell.

Reform Scotland went on to refer to press reports, but whether their figures were drawn from the press, or from the original report is unclear. They draw no conclusion from the figures, at least in this summary.

The Courier -Dundee and Tayside - mysteriously reads the UCAS report to mean that the December figures are ‘down only 0.8%’ but comments that it was the best performance in the UK, which it notes was down by 8.3%.

The Telegraph claims the UK figures are ‘down by almost 8%’  and notes that there has been ‘a sharp drop in demand from candidates from mainland Europe who pay the same fees as their British counterparts.’

Note that British. Clearly, the Telegraph either no longer regards Scotland as British, or intends that phrase to mean that in Scotland, the EU candidates pay the same as Scottish students, i.e. nothing. But the Telegraph still reports UCAS insisting that ‘figures showed a late surge in applications as many students take more time over decisions’.

What UCAS actually said was that the mid-December figures did not reflect the likelihood of a late surge by the deadline for most course, January 15th, and that this late surge was already emerging.

The Financial Times is about as objective a print medium as one can find, since, as I observed in a recent blog, “money ain’t funny”., and their hard-eyed readers want the facts, man, not political spin and prejudice.

The FT reaches a conclusion from the figures – that school leavers have not been deterred from applying to university because of higher costs, but older students have. It also notes that the number of British 18-year olds applying for a university place in 2012 had fallen by 2.4%, but that this fall was in line with the demographic decline for people in that age bracket.

The FT also accurately reports the UCAS comment on the likely late surge as the January deadline approaches. It also concludes the previous increases in fees hadn’t affected applications.

THE SCOTTISH PRESS – Herald and Scotsman

Now we come to the gentlemen of the Scottish ‘quality’ press, Latin scholars to man, to whom the post hoc ergo propter hoc argument is often a matter of journalistic necessity when real life and real data tell a politically inconvenient story.

The Herald is in no doubt what the figures say and what the story should be. A large chunk of page 8, under the heading NEWS, a label that sometimes has to be approached with caution when reading the Herald or the Scotsman – a case of caveat emptor or maybe caveat lector. The headline is Fall in applications from rest of UK to Scots universities, with the sub-header Concern as tuition fees look to have had impact on potential students’.

The first two paragraphs give Andrew Denholm’s understanding of the UCAS figures -

“SCOTTISH universities have seen a decline in the number of applications from prospective students from other parts of the UK after moves to charge them higher fees.

“Official figures from Ucas, the universities admissions service, show applications from England, Wales and Northern Ireland have dropped by 5% over the past year from 24,979 to 23,689.”

Note the gentle lead in to post hoc ergo propter hoc – after moves to charge them higher fees.

The third paragraph rather hammers home the sub-agenda -

The decline follows the decision by the Scottish Government to allow universities north of the Border to introduce fees of up to £9000 for students from the rest of the UK (RUK).”

Aye, right, Andrew, we’ve got it, OK …

They quote Mary Senior, Scottish Official of the UCU lecturers’ union, who is worried by the drop, but has no doubts about the cause. (The UCU is not affiliated to the Labour Party. Mary Senior is a former Assistant General Secretary to the STUC.)

It is still concerning that the introduction of significant tuition fees is having an impact in this way,” says Mary confidently. (Watch out for that old post hoc, etc. Mary!)

Have a word with another Mary, Mary – Mary Curnock, UCAS Chief Executive, who says

"Evidence of a late surge as the 15 January deadline approaches is now emerging. Applicants are taking longer to research their choices but the applications flow has speeded up, as these statistics show."

Or Nicola Dandridge, CE of Universities UK, who speaks for vice chancellors and says -

As expected, December saw a significant increase in applications. This suggests that people have been thinking carefully about their choices and are waiting longer to make their decisions. It is very possible that the increase in applications will now continue right up until the 15 January 2012 deadline.”

Or look at the FT report, which noted that applications to Scottish institutions were only down 112, year-on-year, from 14,729 to 14,617.

Mary, however, has an ally in Robin Parker, President of the NUS Scotland, who also confidently claims the decline in English students on fees. No wishy-washy waiting around for January 15th deadlines for Robin – he just knows

But Robin does note that Scottish students heading for English universities “might be put of by the trebling of fees south of the border ..” Now there I think you might just have a point, Robin. I didn’t need a degree to reach that tentative speculation.

The Scotsman, in marked contrast, majors on the late surge - Eleventh-hour rush by Scots to study at ‘home’ universities – and provides a fairly comprehensive report that includes the Mary Curnock comment on the surge. It largely avoid post hoc propter hoc. Every ready with a quote, NUS Robin Parker pops up again, this time to congratulate the Scottish Government for”the right decision by the Scottish Parliament to keep education in Scotland free”, but repeats his Herald post hoc conclusion – “The same can’t be said for students from the rest of the UK, though, as we again see a decline in numbers, due to the imposition of fees and the reckless decision by some Scottish institutions to charge the highest amount in the UK.”

And what does the SNP have to say?

Commenting, SNP MSP and Member of the Education Committee, Marco Biagi MSP said:

“These figures, which now represent a very large proportion of applications – showing a rise in applications to Scottish universities by students from Scotland, in stark contrast to the position south of the Border – are a vindication of the Scottish Government’s policy of no tuition fees.

“We are fortunate that – thanks to the SNP Government – the betrayal of students by the Lib Dems in coalition with the Tories at Westminster does not apply to Scots students studying in Scotland.

“The SNP’s investment in our universities and maintenance of our policy on no tuition fees means that young Scots have free access to some of the best universities in the world – universities that draw applications from around the globe. The English higher education sector by contrast faces an uncertain future, and according to UCAS’s figures have seen a 7% drop in the total number of applications this year.

“Within England there has been a staggering drop of 8.3% of English students applying to study, while in here in Scotland there has in fact been an increase in Scots-domiciled students applying to Scottish universities, as well as an increase overall.

“Its abundantly clear that the Conservative/Lib Dem UK government’s tuition fees are damaging English universities and reducing opportunities for England’s young people.

“The message has clearly got across to Scotland’s young people that the ridiculous and damaging policies of the UK Government don’t apply here, and that they continue to have the opportunity for tuition free education in Scotland’s world class universities.”

 

Sunday, 6 March 2011

LibDems and Clegg in denial at Scottish Conference


After managing to avoid the demonstrators, Clegg manages to avoid the real issues, and gets a quaich for his pains. Party claims new members, but little evidence of them in the vacant seats in the hall.

If the Coalition survives, Clegg and his Westminster gang have four more years of ministerial salaries and cars. No such hope for Tavish's ragged band, facing meltdown on May 5th. Desperate to pretend that they are different from their benighted Westminster party bosses, they belatedly take the SNP position on tuition fees, promising to fund this by penalising Scotland's pensioners and the sick, by removing free bus travel and re-instituitng prescription charges.
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The Westminster party, faced with the nightmare of a general election if they withdraw from coalition, are unlikely to show any courage or spirit. Only the membership can force withdrawal from the doomed alliance.

LibDems - face the truth - bring this poisoned coalition down now, and recover your self-respect and some shreds of LibDem values and principles.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Kenny Gibson nails Unionists to the wall on The Daily Politics. We need more of this …

I miss The Daily Politics with Andrew Neil every Thursday because I am watching FMQs from Holyrood. But I missed a good one on Thursday, however, thanks to it being brought to my attention and the BBC iPlayer, I managed to see it, and it was a satisfying and rewarding experience.

Kenneth Gibson MSP gave a barnstorming performance, firing at will on the shaky positions of Andrew Neil and his two hapless guests. If ever the flaky arguments of the UK were exposed in all their sordid reality, this was it, and on the topic of the moment – the Scottish  position on tuition fees…

Andrew Neil had a Tory MP, Peter Bone, and Rachel Johnson, Editor of The Lady. Interesting choices …

Peter Bone, after unsuccessful attempts at a Welsh Parliamentary seat and the European Parliament, was chosen as the Tory candidate for Pudsey in 1997, after the retirement of its long-serving Tory MP. In spite of a national swing to Labour of only 10%, he managed to lose the seat to Labour on a swing of 13.2%.

In 2001, he fought the marginal Labour seat of Wellingborough (majority 187) during an election when there was a national swing to the Tories of 1.75%. But he failed to take the seat – in fact, there was a swing to Labour of 2.1%. But he managed to take it in 2005, with a swing of 2.9%at the peak of Tony Blair’s Iraq unpopularity with a national swing to the Tories of 3.1%.

Bone is a very active asker-of-questions in the House, but the They Work for You site referred to him as one of three new MPs who inflated their internet ratings by “saying very little, very often …” Other exciting comments from him include saying that the NHS would not have been out of place in Stalin’s Russia. He is a cricketer and is described as bowling left arm around the wicket with varying degrees of success, which perhaps explains his performance on the programme.

Rachel Johnson’s claim to fame - and presumably her place on a heavyweight political programme - is that she is Boris Johnson’s sister, and the new editor of The Lady magazine – judge it for yourselves. (For an idea of what she has been up to, read Zoe Williams – Guardian on her editorial style.)

And this odd duo of diehard unionists were invited to comment on the Scottish Government’s position on the topic that is rending the capital city of the Union apart with riots and attacks on the Heir to the Throne and the Duchess of Cornwall in their roller. The programme could have been a big yawn …

But Andrew Neil is a mischievous bugger, and a journalist first and foremost, and being a Thatcherite Tory and Unionist come second to this allegiance, to his credit. So he invited Kenneth Gibson, Scottish National Party MSP to enliven what  otherwise would have been a leaden mix, and oor Kenny did us proud …

I won’t spoil your fun by analysing what followed in this blog (maybe tomorrow) – suffice it to say that more evidence was provided of the widening fault lines in the Union and that the UK is on its last legs, even though, like all rotten structures concealed by a hefty coat of paint, it may stand for a long time yet.

Watch and enjoy!


Nicola Sturgeon talks to Bernard Ponsonby

Bernard Ponsonby of STV’s Politics Now, is one of the very few political reporters with an effective style of interviewing - forceful, penetrating, but productive. Whereas the others fall back on the simplistic neo-Paxman style of repeated closed questions with a pre-determined agenda, Ponsonby actually gets issues debated, and elicits real and often revealing responses from politicians in a true dialogue that is marked contrast to the arid, stereotypical exchanges of many of the others.

He is on good form here with Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister of Scotland. She is more than a match for any interviewer, calm, unruffled by pressure, and capable of stonewalling with the best of them against aggressive, simplistic interrogators, but she responds to Ponsonby’s approach, and real clarity emerges.

Bernard Ponsonby opens by echoing recent attacks on the SNP administration’s well-deserved reputation for competence in government, based on a series of recent events and the resignation of Stewart Stevenson over the weather crisis.

Nicola Sturgeon refers to the quite exceptional severity of the weather, but acknowledges freely that there were aspect of the Government’s response that did not match up to their own standards. The lessons had already been learned, as demonstrated by Keith Brown’s response this week.

Were events dictating the Government, rather than the Government dictating events? Bernard Ponsonby’s question again related to recent events such as the Scottish variable tax rate issue.

Again, a free admission from the Deputy First Minister that nobody in Government - and nobody who has been in government - is immune from making mistakes. However, she makes the point that this SNP government “has made many fewer mistakes than our predecessors.

This contrasts sharply with the ‘never apologise, never explain’ responses that politicians are forced into by the simplistic, less effective approaches of other interviewers - cynical, stereotypical exchanges that reveal nothing. In fact, the now notorious Raymond Buchanan/Stewart Stevenson interview was a particularly egregious example of this, one that forced a good man into a resignation for the good of his party.

Bernard Ponsonby then came to the issue of the moment – the Green Paper on funding higher education in Scotland – and suggested that it might be an example of the Government avoiding tough choices by simply presenting options.

This rather ignored the obvious, that the purpose of Green Papers is to do just that – present options, not make proposals. They are consultative in their very nature.

Nicola Sturgeon said immediately that Mike Russell had made it quite clear that the Government would present clear cut proposals- would go into the election  next year “making it absolutely crystal clear what our preferred position actually is …”

The SNP Government believed that education should be based on the ability to learn, not on the ability to pay, and that was why upfront tuition fees were ruled out. A graduate contribution was one of the six options presented. It had been made clear by Mike Russell that the government would not necessarily implement all of these.

Bernard Ponsonby pressed the point – was the graduate tax being ruled in or out? The Deputy First Minister repeated that it was one of the options in the paper. She rejected decisively the suggestion that the Government was evading the option, and repeated that the SNP would state its position clearly before the election, in the campaign.






N.B. The above clip inadvertently chopped off the end of Alan Cochrane's remark - he said that the election was Labour's to lose ...

Monday, 13 December 2010

Liberal to Labour–an appeal to disaffected LibDems by Ed Miliband

Echoes of Pope Benedict inviting disaffected Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church. Why not go the whole hog, Ed Miliband?

My suggested script, David – no charge …

ED MILIBAND:  Democrats - forget the heady days of 1981 and the SDP! Abandon the Liberals to their fate and return to the one true faith! Try to ignore what we've been up to since you've been away - our mortal sins have been washed away by confessing to the Iraq crime (some of us, anyway) - you can easily be forgiven for tuition fees - a venial sin, except in the minds of the youth of Britain, and what do they know?

If you can’t come back right now, keep in touch with Labour doctrine until you’re ready.

PUZZLED LIBDEM:

Why have you not confessed to wrecking the British economy and dismantling civil rights?

What about WMDs?

What about the fallen angel  - Blair?

What about the Prince of Darkness, Mandelson?

He’s still around, isn’t he?

What about the man who wrecked the economy, Gordon Brown? Isn’t he skulking in the wings, waiting to make his second coming? Is Kirkcaldy the Labour Limbo?

ED MILIBAND: You are in error, comrade- this is an example of, at best, distorted perception, at worse, false memory syndrome. You’ve been reading old newspapers. Once you recover your faith and accept the infallible authority of the Party, these doubts, these scruples, this heresy will be swept away. Join us in our collective amnesia – 13 years is as nothing to an institution as ancient as the Labour Party.

By the way, is there something I should know about Gordon Brown’s intentions? Is John Rentoul of The Independent trying to rehabilitate him as well as Blair? (What is Limbo, by the way? Something to do with dancing under a bar?)