Just in case you’re a) a student and b) a Times subscriber, David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, is currently taking questions on our School Gate blog. Perhaps, y’ know, you have a question or two about £9,000-a-year tuition fees…

Imagine that you make turbines for jet engines. Imagine that you have a 2 per cent failure rate for your finished product. Suppose that each of your products costs £3,000 and takes 600 hours to produce. Imagine that you produce one million a year. Your 2 per cent failure rate costs you £60 million a year and 12 million hours of people’s time. Then imagine that your below-standard turbines are actually fitted to jet engines that go into service. Extraordinarily, this is equivalent to the waste produced by our A level system every year. A million qualifications taken, about £3,000 spent on each one over two years and 2 per cent failed. Yet every year the call is not for lower wastage and less failure but for more.

As A level results roll in today (and we hope you got what you wanted!), Jon Coles, former Director General for Education Standards at the Department for Education, mourns the wastage in the system

Allowing universities to charge students £9,000 a year for tuition, with only 10 per cent of university teaching budgets funded by the State, makes Britain a complete outlier by international standards. And fees are not means-tested. We treat children as if they are financially independent at 18, which is plainly ridiculous. Why should a boarding-school student pay the same as a kid from a council estate?

Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, which promotes social mobility in education, thunders today about the new university tuition fees

Apparently, in the US, the average amount borrowed to pay for one year of college tuition has risen from $5,075 (£3,255) in 2007-08 to $7,874 (£5,050) in 2011-12. The rise is forcing more and more students to forgo expensive schools and to live at home.

Meanwhile, in Britain, university applications fell by 9 per cent, or 50,000 places, as top-rate £9,000-a-year tuition fees came in to play last year - and some universities are already reporting falls in applications for undergraduate degrees starting in the autumn.

(Chart from thedailyfeed)

(via thedailyfeed)

This year is the first that the university tuition fee cap was almost tripled to £9,000 and official statistics have shown that 50,000 fewer students applied to study in British universities.

How does this compare with the US?

This graph, from the FT Alphaville Tumblr, suggests that as the cost of living in the States doubled between 1984 and 2011, US college tuition fees increased sevenfold.

Education for the elite?

"Forget costly UK universities. Go to America" - read more on thetimes.co.uk

Archive | GCSE exams introduced ‘to give children a better deal’

GCSEs replaced CSE and O level exams in 1988. The latter two, according to a Times article of April 25, 1986:

…help to decide whether [children] become one of a small number set on a glittering path to university or end up with very little to show for their pains. The new GCSE…aims to change this. Although it will not enable more young people to go to university, it should give them more to show for their efforts.

Today, more than a quarter more pupils are achieving grades A to C at GCSE than in 1988.

A recent YouGov poll found that 50 per cent of people supported Education Secretary Michael Gove’s plans to revive O levels, with 32 per cent opposed. The Liberal Democrats have, however, reacted to the proposals with fury.

(Chronicler: Alexander Godfrey)

Search The Times’s archive.

Times Opinion today | welfare, Roy Hodgson, defence cuts & punishing bankers


“The Tories keep saying “work must pay” and it’s a ruse. It’s not the differential that bothers them entirely. It’s the concept. The Left will never understand how much this concept appals the Right, and the Right will often not let on, because it doesn’t want to sound like somebody with a talk show on Fox News.” Hugo Rifkind writes about welfare…

…as does The Times in a leading article examining what the limits on welfare should be


In praise of Roy Hodgson: the football wasn’t uplifting but he guided the team with great professionalism, The Times says

Liverpool College moves from the private to the public sector today. We need more of this, says Andrew Adonis, Tony Blair’s former education adviser

What is customer service? New recruits don’t have a clue, says the chairman of Poundland

Entire regiments and battalions are to be axed as part of defence reforms. David Cameron, fresh from alienating the bishops over gay marriage, now risks antagonising the generals, says Rachel Sylvester

Use the fear of jail sentences to stop banks behaving badly, says historian Niall Ferguson

The election of a president from the Muslim Brotherhood puts Egypt on the road to democracy, The Times says

(Times Opinion, Tuesday June 26, 2012)

Magazine Rack | making sex toys, Chinese property, hungry children & care homes

Amelia Getleman on the rising number of hungry children in Britain’s classrooms in The Guardian

Dave Gardetta visits the sex toys manufacturing giant Doc Johnson in Los Angeles Magazine

Rosemary Righter on the Chinese property bubble in the Times Literary Supplement

Jeneen Interlandi struggles to find the right care for his bipolar father in The New York Times Magazine

Compiled by @TomasRuta

Elitism is a side issue in Gove’s O-level exam plan | Hugo Rifkind

In a leader today, we give cautious welcome to Michael Gove’s planned reintroduction of O-levels.

The Education Secretary makes a decent case that exams which were thought elitist when 20 per cent of pupils sat them simply can’t be when 80 per cent do. All the same, as I mused on Twitter, I’m rather of the view that if new O-levels are distinct from old O-levels, then it’s probably a mistake to call them “O-levels”.

Still, elitism is a side issue. The crux of these plans is a move from competing exam boards to a single one, with the former – so the argument goes – having driven standards down.

Does this symbolise a move away from the traditional Tory contention that competition is always good? I suppose that would make quite a good GCSE economics question. Or rather, an O-level one.

Twitter: @hugorifkind

“Who will be the first Cabinet minister to proudly explain why his own children are not O-level material?” Read more

Times Opinion today | too much money, too little tax, German humour & Bletchley Park

Money money money

Is £40,000 a year enough to live the good life? Not for many of us, Philip Collins finds – even though Keynes thought we’d be earning this and working 25-hour weeks by now

Forty grand certainly isn’t enough for Jimmy Carr. But now he’s been outed and has apologised, other tax avoiders should come clean, The Times says

Could Google or Tesco fix our obsolete tax system? William Rees-Mogg says “yes”


Ahead of tonight’s Germany v Greece Euro 2012 clash, German journalist Clemens Wergin advises Greeks to be more like their football team: German-flavoured

Code breaker

Ben Macintyre on the genius of one of Bletchley Park’s finest, Alan Turing: “He cycled around in a gas mask, possibly on account of hay fever, and chained his mug to a radiator to prevent anyone else using it


Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyer, Jared Genser, on freedom fighting for the prisoners of conscience

The return of O-levels: the Education Secretary’s big exams plan could score him an A…but there’s potential for an F, The Times says

Can you spell “diaphragm”? If not – CUL8R

(Times Opinion, Friday June 22, 2012)

Columns - Tuesday June 19, 2012

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