Saturday, 11 December 2010

Student protests and education funding

Yes, its shocking that the bastards bastards Police were so brutal, none of the protesting students could have expected the police to be so frightful.

Yes, its shocking that such a large and overwhelmingly peaceful protest could be overshadowed by the vandalism of a tiny minority.

Yes, its shocking that a university education that was free or cheap to previous generations will now have to paid for by the graduates once they start earning over £21,000.

Yes, Charlie 'Son of multi-millionaire David' Gilmour is an asshole for swinging on the cenotaph.

But why?

Well, its what the police have always done.

It would be nice if the protests could be carried out without any police violence. It would also be nice if protests could be carried out without any vandalism, smashing of private property and graffitiing of public property. It does happen occasionally. Nice ideal protests, like those anti-war marches, they failed in achieving their stated aims, but the protests were less violent than these graduate tax protests.

And there's something dodgy about anarchists demanding more state funding.

The number of students in the UK has pretty much doubled since I was at university a decade ago. In the sixties, 5% of the young went to university, now its 45%. Whatever was spent by the government on universities fifty years ago, to maintain the same cost per student would cost nine times as much.

As an aside, I wonder how much university education costs, not how much people have to pay, but how much it costs, before any excessive profits. Does it really cost prestigeous universities like Oxford, Cambridge and Hull so much more than the local polytechnic to educate? Or do they charge an excess amount cos they can, for the prestige. In the same way that houses in London cost so much more than in Motherwell, despite using the same number of bricks and the same labour to build.

I've been meaning to write this blogpost for weeks, I've been doing research.

Here, how much of GDP should the government spend on education?

Rightly or wrongly I take GDP as a proxy for my income. If the government spends 5% of GDP on defence, thats the same as them taxing me 5% and spending it on defence, the same as taxing everyone likewise. If the government raises corporation tax and lowers income tax, I reckon the corporations will pass on the cost to the consumer and that 5% will still come out of my pocket. They can tax 'the rich' more, but that money will still come out of my pocket.

Anyhoo, here's a graph showing defence spending in the UK over the past few hundred years is a constant around 4% of GDP, apart from when there's a war.

Out of all the money anyone in the UK has earned, about 4% has gone on tanks and planes or muskets and horses, depending on the technological era. We can suppose that that's about how much defence costs to maintain the UK and stop other countries from trying it on.

Now government funded education, that's more of a new thing and hasn't been a constant. As a percentage of GDP it has been increasing.

See how in the 19th century, it was a small fraction of a percentage, and now its about 4.5%. Down from a peak of 6.5% in 1980.

In 1980, there were around 800,000 students in the UK, today there are around 2,500,000 students, about three times as many. If spending per student was to stay the same as it did in the good old days of student grants and 'free' education, then the UK would be paying around 20% of GDP on education.

Sure, I'm playing fast and loose with the facts here, that graph is for all education spending, not just university education. And also, its just government spending, here look:-

In 1850, government spending was only 10% of GDP, the other 90%, other people spent on things of their own choosing, or stuck in banks where it was invested in things. People paid for their own education, or their kids or charitable scholarships or their own choosing. But in the last hundred years, the state as taken more of our money, around 40% and spent it however the prevailing government has decided. Individually we can't be trusted to spend that additional 30% on what we want, government knows better.

That's the welfare state. That's what it costs.

The welfare state is a great thing. Its better that there is a welfare state than if there wasn't one, I think we can all agree on that. However, some people think the welfare state is too big, too costly, to all encompassing, some people think it should be bigger and encompass more.

Personally as a small state libertarian, I'd prefer a smaller welfare state, and more freedom for individuals to keep hold of their own money and spend it how they see fit, like the legendary policy from The West Wing, making college fees tax-deductable.

Elsewhere on the internet, wiser men than I have highlighted the fact that education isn't free, and demanding free education.
What is the point of amassing public money to subsidise the madness of young people who (a) think that complex services even in theory can be 'free', and (b) then proceed to 'demand' them.
My own theory is that there are far too many students to be paid for from the public purse. There should be some degree of rationing, how about letting the best achieving 10% of students from any school have their university fees paid for by the government, regardless of institution and course, non-transferable so the rich kid can't palm off their good fortune on a poor kid. And the next best achieving 10% get a lowest subsidy.

And say the best achieving student doesn't want to go to university, or for some reason gets knocked back from all his choices of uni, then well, hard cheese.

1 comment:

  1. I don't get what the students want: