The news from todays Telegraph (half of which is hidden behind the pay wall) that the Conservatives are planning to introduce two new schemes to improve their credibility with students seems to be a bit of a mixed bag. No one apart from whichever organisation actually benefits from the interest, will disagree with reducing the interest rate on student loans. The current 6.1% rate is an obscenity bearing in mind that the average rate of a long term loan is a good deal lower than this figure. The big question on the loan side of things has to be why has it taken this long for the Government to respond to the criticism over this issue.
However the second idea is the suggestion that lists of Universities whose graduates do not achieve high levels of income will be published seems to a very stupid idea, even if the intention is to put pressure on such Universities to reduce their fees. Just as the collection and publication of School results has had a major knock on effect on the students of such schools and their families, so too this sort of data will act as an attack on the graduates from the universities concerned. The collection of this data, if it is to be accurate also demands a great deal of personal surveillance that will not go down well with anyone. The timing with which such analysis is carried out will mean that the causes if there are any, of such problems may well have changed. The teaching or administrative staff may have moved on and the new brooms brought in fresh ideas which means that the students who turn down a University due to the low ‘study to income ratio’ will actually risk losing out on the new regime with its fresh ideas and improved performance. It will surely take up to 5 or more years for students to settle into a role that would enable a meaningful measure to take place so any data will be very hard to interpret. Also the results may well be published in time for the next set of graduates to discover that their Alma Mater is likely to lead them to a poor financial future, making them even less inspired to pay off their loans. Add to this the complexity of some departments instilling greater inspiration and skill sets than others within one institution, means that if the focus is on a University as a whole, the end result will be entirely meaningless, and if it is carried out on a department by department basis the end result will be extremely complicated. Finally what about the students who spend 3-5 years exploring ideas that take them to a life changing decision which means they are no longer focused on how much the earn. This sort of analysis will prevent Universities from doing any more than shelling out compliant graduates.
Imagine if we could finally bring to an end the old boys clubs that guarantee jobs for graduates from certain well known Universities. The impact on the Universities in question would be devastating! By the same token the sense of entitlement that such places offer means that they will be able to ramp up their fees even more!