The Tories declared war on 'rip-off-degrees - but don't know what they are

The Tories declared war on ‘rip-off-degrees – but don’t know what they are

Wasn’t it great that the Tories declared war on ‘rip-off’ degrees – but don’t know what they are!

It should tell you everything you need to know about whether to vote for these clowns.

According to the BBC, they’ll scrap the “worst-performing” degree courses – those with high drop-out rates or that provide “poor” job prospects – in order to fund 100,000 apprenticeships.

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But how does one define “poor” job prospects? Birmingham City University (BCU) vice-chancellor, Professor David Mba, said this was not as easy to judge as the Tories seem to think:

He said the idea that a degree was a rip-off if it did not reach a minimum earning threshold was “bonkers”, particularly for creative subjects.

“Let’s look at my Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. We train musicians, pianists, over three years; they end up with a degree and it will take them probably a while, as a creative out freelancing, to build up a career and to reach certain earning levels that might be commensurate with what the government think it should be,” he told BBC News.

And the Liberal Democrats have suggested that the Conservatives have treated apprentices like second-class workers. This seems to be borne out by high drop-out rates from apprenticeships. The Tories have brushed this off by saying people dropping out have picked up skills and experience, and have been working.

But isn’t that true of people quitting university courses? Many take jobs in order to make ends meet, remember (I did).

Tory leader Rishi Sunak said it would not be “right or fair” to say which courses were “rip-off” degrees – and asserted that the quality of individual courses would be the issue, not the subject itself.

But doesn’t that mean he simply doesn’t know how his policy is going to work?

He reckons the government would save £910 million by 2030 if it scraps courses that teach 13 per cent of students.

According to the BBC,

This was because the taxpayer “offsets” student loans when graduates do not earn enough money to pay them back. The logic here is that removing courses that lead to lower earnings would result in less unpaid debt.

Except it won’t.

The Conservatives’ calculations are based on the assumption that 75 per cent of the students who would have enrolled on those courses would go into employment or apprenticeships instead.

However, there is no limit on the overall number of students that universities in England can admit – so universities could recruit students to other degree courses if some were closed.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said this meant it was “unclear” whether savings from scrapping “low-value” courses would be large enough to fund the Tories’ expansion plan.

So the evidence suggests that the Tories expect to use money that won’t be available to fund apprenticeships that people won’t want, by scrapping perfectly decent university courses from which students will merely migrate to courses that are still open.

If that’s their best thinking, it’s the Tories who need to go back to school – and not to government.

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