The story from Nov 2003-Feb 2007
and then in 2010
NOV 30th 2003
The suggested means of raising extra money for the funding  of university education by interest-free loans from the government, to be repaid only if and when a graduate is earning £18,000 pa, will benefit poorest families the most and all families to a significiant extent. There is no other way that has been suggested so far to raise the extra funding now seen as vital.

Those who are deterred from trying for the university of their choice on the grounds that the poorest will be the most disadvantaged under the proposed scheme are definitely not good university material, so no loss there to them or the nation.

Raising the extra funds by general taxation would be a very bad idea. This increased tax would be paid for by all those who do not go to university and avoided by all those who over the coming decades work outside the UK where, in the globalised economy with English as a major international language, a majority of new jobs will appear.

The UK economy has been saved from recession for the last few years by the availability of credit by banks pushing competitive credit cards - competing by allowing individuals to borrow beyond their capability to repay. The rising house market has supported the false sense of security. Now that interest rates are low due to global forces, other factors will come into play to force people to stop borrowing. Rates will rise a bit, but there will be other deterrents to borrowing. There will be many bankruptcies.
[Note added Aug 6th 2004 - News just released is that bankruptcies have risen 30% compared to same period a year ago]
[Note added May 7th 2006: Personal bankruptcies in England an Wales for the first quarter is the highest since the 1960s. The number of companies going bankrupt is the highest for 3 years]

On the other hand the current offer of a university education on the terms suggested by the government (with a few tweaks if some viable suggestions come up in the process of enacting the bill) is the best deal individuals and the nation is ever likely to get, and those who argue against are either fools or fundamentally dishonest.

As for the argument that all universities must run at the same level of costs and opportunities, this could only be advocated by people with little experience or knowledge of the world and definitely a poor education, wherever it was received. It is not desirable, even if it were theoretically possible, which it is not.

PS: Just seen this: not a bad commentary -

JAN 8th 2004
It looks as if the government might lose the vote on this issue. The Tory opposition is as usual completely unprincipled. The labour rebels believe they are representing their constituents. They would represent them better of they studied the problem and voted according to good sense on their constituents' behalf, which is what they are elected to do.  The concessions made already have made the scheme less beneficial for all. Only a reasonably realistic 'roll-over' method of financing can do the job, and the health of the system as a whole is what will benefit every citizen, whether they go to university or not. But this sort of comprehension only seems to take hold in the minds of those who are really faced with the reality of government.  I assume that the PM will stand by the scheme and go down with the ship if necessary.  It will be the country's loss, not his, if we cobble together a worse, useless alternative. The claim that it would lead to a two-tier education system is of course nonsense. It is already multi-tiered and so it should be, for the good of all.

JULY  16th 2004
I was reminded yesterday, in the context of Unversities, of that famous speeech by Neil Kinnock on he subject in which he said (or rather shouted):

 "Why should I be the first Kinnock, in a thousand generations, to go to university? Is it because we were all thick?"

Let us try to answer that question. If we count a generation (to be as kind as possible), as only 25 years, then he is talking about the last 25,000 years. Let us put Universities in that context:

Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 08:10 GMT 09:10 UK
'Earliest writing' found
Pakistan pottery
The fragments of pottery are about 5,500 years old
Exclusive by BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse

Hmm.... let us put Wales into that context (I am indebted to the writers of these extracts which you can find on the Web by searching):

Geoffrey of Monmouth: King Arthur's Biographer

Some 850 years ago, Geoffrey of Monmouth distinguished himself for all time by writing the "History of the Kings of Britain," (an early MS is pictured at right) the first continuous, written account of the deeds of the British people. The "History" purported to tell their story from the beginning, sometime around 1100 BC, to the final triumph of the Saxons, which we are told came with the demise of Cadwallader in 689 AD.

So, if we take it that in Geoffrey of Monmouth's day, he considered that the history of the Welsh went back 2,000 year maximum, it is unlikely there were going to be universities until quite recently

It is not until the end of Henry II's reign, that is about 1180, that we know, chiefly on the authority of Giraldus Cambrensis, that a large body of scholars was in residence at Oxford, though not probably yet living under any organized constitution. [Ref]

So if we assume there were Kinnocks then, they would need to have been very lucky and very ascendant to be in a university, not 25,000 years but only 1,000 years ago!!!

So taking all in all, if Kinnock is an example of the inherited imaginative intelligence in the Kinnock family, that is to say he is representative, the answer to his question was be supplied the moment he posed it, by himself. It is YES, with the qualifier relatively.

I did not enjoy writing that because I have always admired Kinnock, I would have voted for him; and I think he has done good work in Europe. But the answer is still YES.

David Cameron, contender for the Tory Leadership, has today admitted that his party's pledge to scrap the tuition fees now in place would make no sense and leave the universities in a 'black hole'.  Yes, that was the point of the tuition fees, to make a move towards avoiding that.

Now on OCTOBER 25th 2005 we are given the official statistics: ONE GRADUATE IN 6 CHOOSES TO WORK ABROAD. This proves the point which I made in NOVEMBER 2003 and which I have now emphasised above. Could it be that at last we have a potential Tory leader who can walk, chew gum and count on his fingers?

In a TV Debate on Nov 4th David Davis, having blamed the EU for all our ills and vowing to get out of everything except the common market, then praised Ireland as the model of how to run an economy. DOH!

Fees move vindicated, says Blair
New figures showing a rise in university applications "completely vindicated" the move to charge top-up fees, Tony Blair has said.

Critics of the policy to allow universities to charge variable fees of up to £3,000 a year from September were proven wrong, the prime minister added.

Figures from admissions service Ucas revealed a 6.4% rise in applications for the academic year 2007-8.

It follows a drop for 2006-7 when the new fees system was introduced.

None of the fears of critics have come to pass
Tony Blair

Speaking at Brunel University in Uxbridge, Middlesex, Mr Blair said: "More than one vice-chancellor has told me that tuition fees have been the saviour of their university.

"Yesterday's university admission numbers, which show a big increase on last year and a rise even of the bumper intake of 2005, are a complete vindication of that policy."

Mr Blair said that although the policy was "clearly right", it had been "very difficult politically" at the time.

The government bill scraped through Parliament in early 2004 with a majority of five, after both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats opposed it.

Many MPs and student activists predicted undergraduate numbers would collapse as potential students were scared off by the huge debts they were likely to build up.

'More information'

But Mr Blair said: "None of the fears of critics have come to pass.

"Applications have not fallen - they have risen. Critics said that fees would deter the poorest students. They haven't.

"As fees rise, the new system offers more grants to the poorest and graduates start repayments only when they are earning enough to do so.

"Critics said that the income from fees would, in any case, be insufficient. In fact, we have halted the decline in funding per student."

But the National Union of Students said further information was still needed to establish how students from "under-represented and debt-averse backgrounds" were responding to the new fees regime.

JULY 14th 2010
Much has happened in the intervening years since my last entry. We have a greatly increased number of people going to university and graduating, though what this has actually achieved for them or the nation is unclear. As for the cost, the argument continues now within the Tory-Liberal coalition (an oxymoron). Vince Cable (for the Liberals) has decided that he could accept graduates paying through a higher income-tax rate when they are employed later in their career. How this differs from the concept of them repaying interest-free loans when they earn enough to afford it is unclear to me, other than if they go abroad to earn a high salary after their tax-payer funded higher education, the higher income tax will presumably not apply to them or come back to the UK Treasury. I am unimpressed. Cable's cop-out fails to do the job in spite of the fact that it reverses his previous stand.

JULY 15th 2010
HA HA HA!!! The Students union has come out in favour of Cable's wheeze! Of course they have. What a great way to subsidise the national brain-drain, already likely to become a flood if this government does not invest in a future of employment in this country worthy of it's educated citizens. So, get a freee education and take it abroad to where the tax regime and the climate suits and the laws encourage all sorts of clever moneymaking wheezes and the country probably outsources its defence. Or try the US, they understand English there even if they don't speak it so much these days.

OCTOBER 24th 2010
Tories and Liberals are in coalition. Nick Cleg is Deputy PM, Vince Cable and Clegg are implementing many things they promised to oppose. Even the Scots are beginning to realise a University Education has to be paid for at some time in a student's life. Meanwhile, universities are to be given the right to set their fees but not without limits.

Tuition fee increases will be capped, says Nick Clegg

Ministers appear to have ruled out allowing universities to set unlimited tuition fees in England.

NOVEMBER 3rd 2010

Universities in England will be able to charge tuition fees of up to £9,000 per year, as the government transfers much of the cost of courses from the state to students..

Liberal supporters in the student community are spitting tacks. The government plans special measures to support entrants whose means are insufficient to cover courses they are offered on merit.

NOVEMBER 6th 2010
I think it is time to close this file in the interests of the preservation of sanity. We have apparently intelligent people maintaining that university education should be free, as it is in (they tell us) most EU countries. Of course it is not. A university education costs whatever the total of the staff's salaries and the other costs of maintaining the buildings adds up to divided by the number of student graduates it turns out. The only argument is about who should pay for it and when. The current scheme devised by the government is that the state should pay at the time and collect the money off taxpayers as a whole (same as in any other country) but proportionately more from successful graduates who earn more than £21,000 per annum until the amount collected from each of these meets the agreed cost (at the time) of their particular case. This 'collection' is entirely conditional on their income at the time of collection. Most importantly, this collection from graduates does not start until those who enter university NOW under the new contract have reached the stage in their lives where repayment is applicable, if at all. The cost is still therefore borne to a great extent by general taxation at this time as indeed it should be, but there is a distinct advantage in the future which avoids a potential financial disaster, a disaster spotted I am glad to see by our civils servants who must have benefited from a good university education, which they must have succeeded in explaining to our politicians. This elephant trap is largely the consequence of globalisation as it affects every aspect of employment, travel, communications and trade etc.. In the future, the means to collect equitably and reliably by general taxation the sufficient funding of UK university education, and to allocate it equally equitably could well be almost impossible. Many countries could face the same problems but in the case of the UK we are a special case for many reasons involving history, language, financial and political models and a great deal else.

I therefore rest my case in saying the policy the government has settled on, although it can be tweaked, is basically the only sensible option that hs been proposed.

NOVEMBER 30th 2010
So the Welsh, who have refused all top-up fees so far will now opt out of the English plan in some way I have yet to understand. It seems that the increase (which English students will  not pay anyway unless they graduate and earn over £21,000 p.a. and then not all at once) will be paid by 'the Assembly'. Well bully for the Assembly! Are they going to pay all this as it is incurred, up front? Out of which budget - and where does it come from other than the Bank of England that pays the English students fees anyway. So all it means is Welsh students at some future date pay less and their less educated and less successful countrymen pay more.

Meanwhile in the UK students, with so little brains a university education is wasted on them, riot. Vince Cable should be there, in his feet at the riots and sit-ins, telling the students why they are wrong in theory, wrong in practice and should go home or back to work. Leadership is what is wanted, in a hard hat.

DECEMBER 10th 2010
Amongst the rioting thugs in London (supposedly students) there is one whose father is complaining that his son was damaged when he was hit on the head by a police truncheon. I thought that was the point of truncheons, there is a risk if you get involved in really dangerous, stupid rioting, of being seriously hurt by those trying to stop you. If not, how could anybody be deterred? Charles and Camilla's car (on the way to the Royal Variety Performance) had the window smashed.  Their armed guard played it cool - after all these thugs must be understood because, well, life is so unfair!! Isn't it? Up to £9.000 a year of high quality university education paid for up front by the treasury, which you only have to pay back if you earn (and keep earning) more than enough to afford it later in life - and even then on absurdly easy terms. And if you can afford a roof over your head or food during yor university days, that will be taken care of too. Time to riot now!

I was very glad to hear quite a few people speaking out to say proper basic schooling was more important that university education for most people.