Advice designed to allay fears about graduate debt may actually deter many students from applying, an expert on university access has claimed.
Speaking at a conference on education and social mobility, Richard Harvey, director of admissions and outreach at the University of East Anglia, said statements from the Independent Taskforce on Student Finance Information were likely to put off many prospective students from low-income backgrounds.
The task force was launched in June to "tackle myths and misunderstandings" about the costs of university when tuition fees rise to up to £9,000 a year next autumn.
It is headed by the personal finance guru Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, and includes representatives from the National Union of Students and Universities UK.
But Dr Harvey told the conference in London last week that the task force's guidance on debt repayment would actually exacerbate the fears of many.
His criticisms centred on Mr Lewis' advice that some graduates will be better off under the new system, as they will face lower repayments during their working life before the remainder of the debt is eventually written off after 30 years.
"We are employing Martin Lewis to say [to students], 'Do not worry because the loan is so big you will not ever pay it off'. The idea that they will never pay off a loan is bad news for them. They want to pay it off," he said.
"If you start with the fees message, it is overwhelmingly negative. You need to say, 'Do what you want, so you can be all you can be'."
tagq2 wrote: »
I certainly see your argument, but what counts as "useful"?
My academic qualifications are primarily in mathematics. They lean toward the pure side and include a dose of history/philosophy of mathematics. If we go to the Greek argument, philosophy and mathematics are essential for everyone who wants to achieve a higher understanding of the world - so they're an essential foundation for any intellectual pursuit right up to leadership of a nation.
But if we look at the modern approach of increased specialisation, it might be argued that I was wasting society's money as what I studied was far too vague to have direct applicability. Hardy famously celebrated inapplicability - what would today's beancounter say about this? Should the more recently discovered relevance of number theory to cryptography (whence national security and war) change our attitude toward his work?
And perhaps I could have exploited my numeracy to go into casino banking - not sure how much of society I'd have helped then .
I don't have a proper answer but I think the solution lies somewhere in making sure that university courses, however they specialise, are thoroughly challenging to the mind. But that goal is damn hard to measure and standards agencies tend to waste educators' time with lowest common denominator rules which ultimately reduce standards. It gets even worse when universities are measured by their ability to reach the goals their administrators have set and are funded per bum remaining on seat: could there be a better incentive to set your standards as low as possible? Let's give control back to academics who have a track record of excellence in their field.
Yeah, I know we've been going the other way since the '80s and I'm just rambling.
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