Thursday, 3 September 2015

Fun with student numbers

From the BBC:

More than a million young people will be enrolling in universities in England and Germany this autumn. But in financial terms their experience couldn't be more different.

In Germany tuition fees have been abolished, while England has the most expensive fees in Europe, with every indication that they are likely to be allowed to nudge even higher...

In Germany, about 27% of young people gain higher education qualifications. In the UK, the comparable figure is 48%. The expansion in university entry in the UK has been one of those changes that has been so big that no one really notices.[wot?]

A report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development last month claimed that more than half of graduates were overqualified for their jobs. In contrast, the institute said that only 10% of German graduates were in non-graduate jobs.

Same old, same old.

In either country, about one-quarter of jobs are "graduate jobs". So nearly all of the one-quarter of Germans who go to uni get graduate jobs; and about half of the one-half of Brits who go to uni get graduate jobs.
If you ask me, the German system makes more sense. The cost to the taxpayer ends up much the same whether you send one-quarter to uni for "free" or whether you send one-half to uni and impose a graduate tax aka tuition fees, and this was YPP policy anyway (there is nothing new under the sun).

The article does make the point that has been made here before (probably by The Stigler) that it might still be worthwhile going to uni, because it gives you the edge when applying for a non-graduate job, but this just pushes the problem onto somebody else (the non-graduates looking for non-graduate jobs).

I suppose the Germans can get away with it because their secondary education system is much more egalitarian, so everybody has a fairly equal chance of ending up at uni. If the UK did it, there would be squealing that the reduction in the number of student places disproportionately hits people from state schools.

The counter-argument to that is: so what? Some people get twelve years "free" state primary and secondary education; other people pay for those twelve years out of their own pockets and then get three years' "free" higher education. The former group probably still gets better value for money.

And also because German unemployment is lower, so there is less pressure to mask unemployment figure by getting a million or two young people off the books for three years.


View from the Solent said...

Plus Germany has an excellent system of technical/vocational education & training. Perhaps we should try in in UK and call the establishments something like,um,polytechnic colleges.

A K Haart said...

Maybe Germany ends up with better graduates and better non-graduates. Even by the eighties we were seeing graduate scientists who didn't even understand the basics.

Ben Jamin' said...

As an alternative, pensionable retirement age depends on when you leave full time education.

Leave school at 16, retirement age=65

Leave uni at 22, retirement age-72

Difference in cost about £42K in today's prices, about the cost of student fees?

Mark Wadsworth said...

VFTS, that is also true. We can learn a lot from them. And they could lean a lot from us, like not taking themselves so bloody seriously.

AKH, that is very worrying. And from personal experience, yes they do.

BJ, which is what I suggested years ago and was much derided for at the time. Strangely enough, Jeremy Corbyn suggested it again today. It seems fair enough to me - choose between three years taxpayer funded uni education when you are young or three years' extra taxpayer funded pension when you are old.

The Stigler said...

Yeah, it was me. It's an edge having some degrees, but only a small one (unless in a specific subject). It might mean you'll get a job over someone with A levels, but if you don't turn up, the A level person will get the job. Few employers care for degrees in photography, psychology or women's studies.

Ben Jamin' said...


Great minds and all that.

Why was it derided? Seems a pretty simple, efficient and foolproof solution to me.

If you think about it, those leaving at 16 are more likely to a) do knackering jobs b) die earlier.

So, why shouldn't they draw their pension sooner?

Mark Wadsworth said...

TS, thanks for confirmation.

BJ, I suppose that was behind the idea of making people have X years NI contributions before they could draw a pension, but as the number was relatively low, even somebody who went to uni could achieve it before he reached normal retirement age.

It's not fool proof because THIS government would have change it for today's RETIREES while promising that a FUTURE government in forty years' time would still apply it to today's STUDENTS.

Bayard said...

"It's not fool proof because THIS government would have change it for today's RETIREES while promising that a FUTURE government in forty years' time would still apply it to today's STUDENTS."

I can't see why it can't be applied to today's students for when they become pensioners in forty years time, with everyone older than them carrying on with the present system, whatever that is. Anyway it's not going to happen. The last thing the government wants is an incentive not to do A levels/attend university.

mombers said...

"Some people get twelve years "free" state primary and secondary education; other people pay for those twelve years out of their own pockets"
MW, I disagree here. I went to private school but I didn't pay for it out of my own pocket, my parents did. There's no guarantee that my not having used state education will make the rest of my life less of a burden on public services - in fact my three children are going to get a superb state funded education and my medical needs are well above average cost I'm pretty sure. I also get the fruits of 'free' state education despite not getting any myself - education is a public good. No successful country doesn't have a large, free provision of primary and secondary education

PS Ignore the fact that I went to school and grew up in South Africa of course :-)

mombers said...

MW, the idea of needing x number of years NI contributions for a state pension is made completely moot by pension tax credit - you're entitled to a minimum income of more than the state pension regardless of your contributions. Any private income between the state pension and tax credit minimum is means tested at 100%, making it a particularly bad deal for those on low incomes to save anything for their retirement. That's being sorted by the flat rate pension though, albeit with a number of cock ups.

I like the idea of a deferred pension in exchange for uni - much better. If you go to uni but stuff up your working life, you can only dump yourself on the taxpayer 4 years after your peer who did the same without going to uni :-)

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, maybe.

M, OK your parents paid, same difference.

Agreed re pensions credit, the whole "qualifying NI years" thing was always smoke and mirrors. Citizen's pension is far better.