10 May 2011

Does globalisation stink?

The older you get the more easy it is to predict the future that you will not see. When you are young it seems that things have always been as you find them. After you have lived over, say, half a century you witness very great changes. There is nothing very new about the pace of change though the management consultants might tell you otherwise. Dr Grumble's grandmother lived to the age of 96. As a young women she used to go about in a pony and trap. Decades before she died men landed on the moon.

One of the things that Grumble predicted though he failed to mention on the blog is that the wealthy would soon be able to buy places at university. There were a number of things that suggested that this would happen. Universities are now run like private companies. They are contract research organisations rather than academic institutions. The teaching they do has gone the same way. The student will pay and somehow recover the cost of the fees later. The management consultants say that this will improve teaching because the students will demand it. They might be right as students are, in some ways, already more demanding than they once were. We shall see.

Of course all this talk of students demanding higher standards which will benefit them and get them better teaching is really an attempt to justify the global university market. Chinese students will want to come to Britain for their education and we must prevent them going to other English-speaking nations. That's today's management mantra. You can see where they are coming from. Only last week Dr Grumble's Oxbridge college wrote to him to explain that they are running out of money as government funding has been cut back. They want Grumble to help out. Their position is unsustainable.

They didn't say so in the letter but there is an obvious light on the horizon. What Chinese youngster would not like to spend a few years in Oxford or Cambridge? Many could now easily pay for the privilege. They could just sell places to the highest bidder and their problems would be over.

This is one of the things that Grumble has been predicting. It really is inevitable. There is one more inevitable thing that Grumble has been predicting which follows from this. If wealthy foreigners can buy themselves a place at Oxbridge, why shouldn't wealthy Britons? Which is why Grumble is not at all surprised by today's news.

Many years ago Grumble got caught in a traffic jam with one of his scientific colleagues who was then, perhaps, in his 50s. He looked out of the window at the cars and said, "Thank goodness I will be dead soon." Dr Grumble though it was a joke and laughed heartily. Now he is not so sure.


Single Female Doc said...

Plus ca change? It seems like there was a golden era which only lasted a couple of decades when there was genuine social mobility. I was lucky to catch the end of it in the 80s haveing had an assisted place to an independent school then get a full grant to study medicine (just catching the start of student loans for maintenance in 1991-93).
Seems to me we are going back full circle to the days when only the rich and privileged could afford education to the professions.

Rebs said...

We have been discussing this on our Facebook Group - Save Graduate Entry Medicine earlier today and we have decided that the current student fees/funding debacle would make an excellent panto storyline.

David Cameron can be the baddy (Booooo!), we just need to find someone to be the good fairy and save the day! Any suggestions? Dr Grumble, are you interested? ;o)


Dr Grumble said...

Actually I really do think this is a story of good and evil. We have allowed ourselves to be ruled by a selfish greed for money. There are lots of people out there telling us that because of globalisation we have no option but to compete with the rest of the world's economies on things like tax rates so that we can attract in even more outsiders to produce yet more consumer items that we don't really need. Added to that they want us to fly in wealthy students from China to suck money into our universities. And let's not forget the health tourists to prop up our hospitals. Is this really sensible?

We need that golden era back and we could have it back if we were minded to. Instead we are hell-bent on growing our economy and burning up the limited amounts of oil left as if there is no tomorrow for our children or our children's children. There will be no tomorrow if we carry on like this.

I don't expect anybody, except perhaps George Monbiot, to take this rant seriously but I do really think there are some genuine issues here.

Cockroach Catcher said...

The sad thing is that places like Harvard will give a good scholarship for the talented, upwards of US$80,000.


Fuddled Medic said...

Students are already more demanding then what they were, indeed I am. If teaching gets cancelled medical students will pester and pester untill it is rearranged. We question the faculty constantly, how come one hospital is able to use the SIFT money to provide lectures, tutorials etc on a topic such as ECGs but another provides nothing.

And although I don not subscribe to this view I understanf where one consultant who worked in the States come from when he pointed out that we Brits dont work nearly as hard as American Students as they pay all of the costs of the degree

Old Codger said...

I don't think it is a question of "would soon be able to buy places at university". It may be that they will be cheaper but I dare say that if one endowed a college at any time in the past one would have been able to call in a few favours. Am I just an old cynic?

Dr Grumble said...

Have you forgotten this Old Codger?

Demetrius said...

Once upon a time there were people who were "Founder's Kin", in a way buying places is rather like a return to the past. More worrying is that Universities research is now mostly "contracted". This can mean devising products and techniques that carry a much bigger "whack" for marketing purposes such as the application of fine particles to consumer products. In the meantime I understand, IPF is killing large numbers and nobody, at least in the UK, knows why. And Porton Down is in charge of the HPA, more or less. I once fielded in the slips with a senior army medic during the 1950's who told me that Porton Down was a lunatic asylum for mad scientists.

richard.blogger said...

If you are wealthy, you are likely to have a holiday home abroad. So why not get your less-than-bright kid post their university application form from the holiday home and buy a place as a foreigner?

Anyway, I am sure Brits have been buying places for years. I applied to Worcester College, Oxford 30 years ago and failed to be offered a place. When I was staying there for the interview I asked why one accommodation block was named after Sainsburys. I was told "he had to build that so that his son would get a place".

Rebs said...

Well we, (British graduates who may be not be able to study medicine in this country due to fee rises, lack of confirmed access to student loans and potential removal of the GEM NHS bursary) think that rich students being able to 'buy' places at top universities is very jolly. How nice for them, that they will be extended this opportunity.

We have just had news in the last few minutes, that David Willetts has confirmed that graduates will not be able to access a student loan to cover their year 1, £9000 fees on the four-year, GEM course. If the government want to bring in more rich pupils from here and abroad and exclude perfectly good, but not so wealthy British students with their policies, then I think that is shameful.

We really hope that David Willetts doesn't announce that our government will be scrapping the NHS bursary from 2012 onwards, meaning we will need to find £36,000 without a student loan and we have started an e-petition to say so. I urge you to sign it.


Old Codger said...

OK, not at any time in the past but at least for much of past times. :-)

Lou said...

agreed, not many people with any influence will take this seriously at all but I agree these are serious issues. Unless things change I do feel sorry for the generations to come unless of course they are from very wealthy families.

Social mobility is now a joke.

"Bearing this in mind I find it absolutely ridiculous that the current government felt that it was wise to bring the higher tax rate threshold down to £35,000. Seriously people who are earning let’s say £40,000 cannot even purchase a decent property in much of the UK and yet are expected to pay 40% tax on earnings over £35,000. Is this really a morally sound policy? Under the current structure social mobility may be almost impossible for the next generation, when you add to all of this the fact that they will also be paying off their tuition fees for most of their working life there may well be very little disposable income left for anything else".

It really does look like universities will soon be full of the very rich

Rebs said...

I will be speaking at tomorrow's Keep the NHS Public march in London, to raise awareness of the issues graduates are now facing.

There are a number of us and we will be holding Large 'Graduate No Entry Unless You're Rich' Banners!

Hopefully see some Dr Grumble Blog followers there! Rebecca