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Higher Ed: Editorial

We at Hackwriters send our heartfelt condolences to the Spanish People and all those who have lost friends and family in the 3/11 Madrid Massacre.

March Editorial- Higher Education - What Price is right?

It's an interesting issue this month. Everyone is feeling serious. Must be something in the air. In America it seems the ONLY topic is gay marriages, but hey you guys there is an election up ahead and it would nice to discuss how Democrats or Republicans are going to get the US out of Iraq and not leave behind a new Taliban in charge. I guess no one wants to think about that right?

Right here in Portsmouth where Hackwriters currently resides we are pondering the fact that in two years time students will have to pay three thousand pounds a year for the degree courses they currently pay one thousand one hundred pounds for. If this were a washing machine you were buying you'd be wondering why it had gone up in price by two hundred percent, wouldn't you? You'd be asking- well the classrooms and facilities and teaching has to go up two hundred percent too, right? Of course education can't be compared to a washing machine, even though there are similarities. Whatever goes in seems to come out stained purple with one sock missing, but I digress.

© Sowa 1993
The Easter Bunny is Coming!

Cynics might think that as you raise prices teaching quality and facilities won't get better, but I happen to know that there is a new government department working on this conundrum. Two years from now, every class I teach will be 200% better than this year. There will be a mathematical formula to prove it. I am sure about this. I am pretty sure the paperwork will go up 200% as well.

Now you might be reading this in the States and saying $5600 a year for a three year degree. That's nothing. I'm going to the UK. In fact, American colleges and Universities have been steadily raising their fees by around 5% a year for the last few years, despite near zero inflation.
My brief unscientific research into fees shows however that the average Californian college fee is $5,500 a year before living costs, each unit costed depending on facilities and numbers. Certainly, unless staff have tenure, salary costs don't seem to be a factor - one of our contributors to the magazine living in LA has to teach at several colleges just to get a living. (Although I do know one teacher who is getting $76,000 per annum teaching Latin near Boston at a private school.)

In Canada fees are lower, but there is keen competition for places and places such as UBC or SFU are apparently are more likely to take a full fee paying international student than a local.

The same thing is happening in the UK. In order to survive, more and more international students are arriving and this keeps the accountants happy. The students however tend to look quite miserable wandering around grim UK towns in the cold rain however.
Few locals speak Chinese or Korean and they must feel quite isolated.

The fact is that education is going to be more expensive, wherever you go. It has been underfunded for years. Cambridge and Oxford are thinking of charging home students nearly eleven thousand pounds per annum (Around $20,000 US) Elsewhere, staff morale is low, the salaries are pretty sad and the newspapers are full of stories about people with PhD's swapping campus life to become plumbers and gas fitters to get a better wage. Speaking as one of those academics - I'd rather teach that do anyone's plumbing. You should see what happens when I put up a shelf!

Nevertheless, in the UK from 2009 onwards, the average student will emerge with something like 18,000 pound debt at the end of a degree ($32,000 US) and unlike American or Canadian Colleges, there are precious few jobs around for students to do to help pay that down whilst studying. This is the nub of the issue of making students pay in the UK. The Colleges and Universities (in the main) provide no campus jobs. In an ideal world you'd want the student studying, but faced with these kind of debts it might have many unforeseen circumstances. If you can't earn anything in your University town, the debts will mount quickly. It is therefore more likely that students will choose a course that has more certainty of employment at the other end. It's not a rule of course (after all I didn't), but my best guess is that those choosing Creative Arts, Drama, Scriptwriting, Creative Writing, Poetry and Media studies will see the writing on the wall (so to speak) and opt for a more conservative educational route. And then in 2007 there will be mass redundancies of University lecturers - such as myself. I kind of hope I am wrong about this. My colleagues think I am unduly pessimistic. After all the students still turned up when fees were first introduced and in fact, there are more students in the system since fees were introduced than before, so why would raising the cost deter them, especially as it is a deferred fee? Well we shall see.

In this months magazine: James Skinner ponders the future of Oil, James Campion ponders the real story of Christ now that Mel Gibson has gottten hold of the 'truth'? He also tackles Bigotry and Gay Marriages. M.C. Wood delves into American film censorship, Dean Ruetzler continues his portraits of contemporary Japan. You will also gather there is a competition to write a travel story and win Colin Todhunter's book. Enter and win. Three people have won so far. We have impressions about India from Sukrit Sabhlok in Australia and Anne Young in Mumbai and for those thinking of taking a Gap Year before Uni, read Pete Bennett's article first. There is also new fiction from Richard Meyer, Authur Blake,Roger Duncan,Punkerslut and Doug Kimball. Phil Mershon treats us to his high school reunion trip across the USA in First Chapters. Casey Howell shares his early memoirs with us too and they are funny. Anwar Ali is rowing across Lake Tikicaca and Dermot Sullivan begins a year long diary of living in Santiago, Dan Schneider is looking to start a new world order of capitalism and Rev Antonio Hernandez also tackles Mel Gibson's version
PS: If you are in Portsmouth UK come to the Cafe Parisienne (1, Lord Montgomery Way) during March and see an exhibition of Sam North's photographs of France and Italy. It's the same show that was at The Ironworks in Vancouver last year. Only this time with the best latte's and pastries in town.
See the images here
Sam North Editor

Missed January edition - it's here

Missed February edtion -it's here

The Editorial Archives are here

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