Thursday, April 07, 2011

Marketing degrees

It appears that the government is floundering as its policy of allowing flexible university fees up to £9,000 is not leading to a competitive market, but to a cartel. Most are going for the maximum amount and threatening to bust the budget for the payment of up-front fees.

With an inelastic demand currently exceeding supply, this would be likely. But there is more to it than that. A university education is being marketed as an economic asset and price is not just a measure of demand, but one of quality and status. A lower fee is a symbol of low status. If you are going to dress to impress would you wear Armani or Asda?

Once again we see the contradictions inherent in seeing universities as diploma factories for the purpose of individual gain for a minority of young people. And the big losers are things like adult education, incapable of sustaining higher fees, and those who want a more open, egalitarian university system, addressing a whole range of new markets rooted in access and social equity. This unseemly scramble for maximum income is at the expense of diversity and imagination. Sadly, the dreamers have been defeated - for now.

4 comments:

Roger said...

But is this not all due to our belief that somehow we could reshape important elements of the superstructure (above all health and education) while leaving the capitalist system fundamentally unreformed?

We - or rather my grandparents and parents generations - did achieve some great things, but is it not possible that they were only allowed to do so because the global threat of Soviet totalitarianism forced the bourgeoisie to allow real reforms to maintain popular support?

And with the collapse of the Soviet Empire suddenly the vengeful capitalist genie could release itself from the fragile social-democratic bottle it had taken refuge in and exultantly start laying waste to our lives and dreams once more.

But while Marxism may give us the intellectual tools to understand the catastrophe that is engulfing us it doesn't make it any easier to bear...

Ann O'Dyne said...

" A lower fee is a symbol of low status. If you are going to dress to impress would you wear Armani or Asda?" ... one's Armanis will only impress those who recognise Armani ... which brings me to Marketing, and Business Degree courses with 'Marketin' as a Unit:
I am a survivor. A Marketing Lecturer orating re 'branding' was revealed as not having heard of 1. Calvin Klein, 2. Tiffany stores, and 3. Time magazine's TV show of the century - The Simpsons.
There are serious reasons why anyone taking money for marketing knowledge should know all about those 3. I quit the course in the 2nd semester, in disgust.

George S said...

It is the concept of what is considered 'a chance in life' that has changed. In a society where everything has to be measurable in cash terms, it is hard to tell people that university education in, say, humanities or the arts, might not guarantee you a better income, but that there are other values at stake, such as what your life, and the life of the world in general, consists of beside the cash and consumables. This is part of the managerial accountability culture.

There is a small proviso on the side. Since the professionalisation of everything, the necessity of obtaining the right diploma at the right time, it has become very hard to consider 'a chance in life' in terms other than restricted qualifications that bring you renumeration. I know someone who never finished her degree because she got married and had children. She became a marvellous teacher in the independent sector which was the only route open to her, and could never work in the state sector because her experience counted for nothing. The laughable 'preparation I had for the job after graduating prepared me for nothing at all.

A qualification in shelf-stacking does not yet exist as far as I know, but if it were required, then courses would have to be invented. So there you are: the accumulation of the wisdom of the ages and the latest theory on any subject of your choice. Or rather on any required 'subject'.

This is not an argument for some ideal situation in which people live on air. People need cash. It is an observation that various factors have come together for various reasons to produce the current culture of 'show us the figures' and the idea that in every field we must be ahead of 'our competitors' as shown by said figures.

The results of every university charging £9,000 will of course be interesting for the reasons Peter gives.

The Plump said...

This morning I was sitting on my patio deep in David Grossman's wonderful novel, To the End of the Land. A neighbour was passing and in typical fashion barged in, pointed to the book and asked, "what is all the blah blah inside it? History? Or is it φαντασία (fiction)?

I dashed inside, got my dictionary, pointed to the word and replied haltingly, "ενα μυθιστορήμα" (a novel).

He laughed and said, "then there is nothing inside", clapped me on the shoulder and wandered off.

My rudimentary Greek is not good enough, but I wanted to say, "no, the whole world is in there, it is a meditation on being human".

A far nicer encounter, but "the managerial culture" in a nutshell.