.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Friday, January 11, 2008

Funding gap

This morning's Western Mail reports that the number of students gaining postgraduate qualifications leapt by 13% last year – the highest rise in the UK. But the Wales lags behind the rest of the UK for the number of first and upper second class degrees awarded:

Last summer 11% of students obtained first class honours for their first degree at Welsh universities compared to 16% in Scotland, 13% in Northern Ireland and 12% in England.

A total of 45% in Wales received upper second honours compared to 52% in both Scotland and Northern Ireland and 47% in England.

A leading academic is blaming a lack of funding for the discrepancy. Professor Martin A Kayman, head of the school of English, communications and philosophy at Cardiff University, told the paper that external marking means that degree standards should be the same across the UK:

“Higher education in Wales is under-funded compared to elsewhere in the UK. Staff and students are of excellent quality.

“The only variable I can see, given the external examining system, is that we are relatively under-resourced,” he said.

Professor Kayman said this funding gap meant richer universities elsewhere in the UK might have lower student-staff ratios, better equipment, books, laboratories and learning environments.

The latest estimate I have seen is that there is a £41m funding gap in higher education between Wales and England, whilst we are lagging behind Scotland to the tune of £93m a year. The Labour-Plaid Cymru Government refuse to acknowledge this in the One Wales document nor do they propose to do anything about it in their budget. Are we now starting to reap the consequences of this short-sightedness?

It is also worth noting that while Wales and Scotland reported a rise in first-year enrolments at universities, numbers fell in England and Northern Ireland where tuition fees of up to £3,000 are paid:

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said, “It is hardly surprising that the number of enrolments at universities where top-up fees are being charged has fallen, or that enrolments have increased at institutions in countries not charging them.

“Anyone who really believes that charging more for degrees is the way to encourage students to apply to university is living in a dream world."


Two things:
An academic would call for more funding wouldn't they? Its in their interest...

Who says it is best to have more university students? Especially if this costs the tax payer more. Are the benefits worth it? Why is more students seen as an end in itself?

That said, the funding gap is worrying, although you don't give any context (Is there a discrepancy between the top Universities and the glorified Polytechnics, is this per student funding or per staff or what?)
The funding gap is a calculation made by HEFCW based on a like for like comparison exercise. It is the amount of additional money HEIs would receive if they were based in England or Scotland.

I did not argue for more university students (though the government is), I suggested that there is evidence that tuition fees are putting people off applying to University and that the quality of education in Wales is being affected by a poorer funding regime.

Graduates are important of course as by-and-large they are the businessmen and industrialists of the future. An investment in education is an investment in our future and the more people educated to the highest level that we have then the better our economy and culture will do.
Some of us remember the good old days when university departments prided themselves on the fact that they had not awarded a first for years. Today's academics should listen to the complaints from industry regarding the lack of basic skills of many of those who now receive so called good degrees.
Actually, the alleged correlation between “the more people educated to the highest level” and “the better our economy and culture will do” is only relevant if the intellectual property arising from having “more people educated to the highest level” is actually protected in some way or it’s not intellectual property, meaning in the absence of intellectual property protection anyone in the world can copy, make, distribute/sell Welsh intellectual ‘property’ – property is only property if common sense steps are taken to protect it.

As a general rule, would a company looking to its bottom line invest in a fantastic Welsh invention if the inventor(s) failed to obtain patent rights to exclude others from making, using or selling the fantastic Welsh invention? What’s the point in investing in commercializing a fantastic piece of Welsh intellectual property if it is not in fact ‘property’? Would anyone on here buy a house that did not come with property Title Deeds? Would anyone invest their savings in a company that gave away its intellectual property? It is not surprising that Wales has such comparative low GVA stats.

There is a university that is only a fraction of the size of all the universities in Wales combined, yet it is building a fantastic wealth of intellectual property, not because it has more graduates (this university has less students, fewer post-grads), yet has more intellectual property to its name than all of the universities in Wales combined.

It expressly does not follow that a Wales with lots of highly skilled graduates will keep those graduates in the private sector given that the public sector in Wales is so dominate and the private sector so weak. Wales bleeds its best talent – and WAG has had 8 years to fix this and yet Wales’s economy is going BACKWARDS. There is a gross lack of getting priorities right to fix the Welsh economy. Private sector R&D spend in Wales is PATHETIC. Hundreds of millions has been spent on research in Welsh universities but the level of patent output remains PATHETIC. Only the former Welsh Medical School sat high on the IP front.

Admission: I am a lawyer, specialist in intellectual property matters/protection, but not in Wales – I have personally drafted and filed over 200 patent applications from clients based all over the world, including former Eastern European countries and clients as far away as Australia. But not one from Wales. Unless WAG gets to grip on this totally abject failure in protecting Welsh intellectual property there is no hope or future for a prosperous independent Wales – solve this problem – and Wales can LEAD THE WORLD, Wales has the talent, the brain power and the means to fix this issue, but sadly it is dragged down by an un-listening WAG.

I can see that in another 8 years Wales will still be at the bottom of the economic-prosperity league tables – c/o WAG.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?