Debate Magazine

Fun with Student Numbers

Posted on the 03 September 2015 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

From the BBC:
More than a million young people will be enrolling in universities in England and Germany this autumn. But in financial terms their experience couldn't be more different.
In Germany tuition fees have been abolished, while England has the most expensive fees in Europe, with every indication that they are likely to be allowed to nudge even higher...
In Germany, about 27% of young people gain higher education qualifications. In the UK, the comparable figure is 48%. The expansion in university entry in the UK has been one of those changes that has been so big that no one really notices.[wot?]
A report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development last month claimed that more than half of graduates were overqualified for their jobs. In contrast, the institute said that only 10% of German graduates were in non-graduate jobs.

Same old, same old.
In either country, about one-quarter of jobs are "graduate jobs". So nearly all of the one-quarter of Germans who go to uni get graduate jobs; and about half of the one-half of Brits who go to uni get graduate jobs.
If you ask me, the German system makes more sense. The cost to the taxpayer ends up much the same whether you send one-quarter to uni for "free" or whether you send one-half to uni and impose a graduate tax aka tuition fees, and this was YPP policy anyway (there is nothing new under the sun).
The article does make the point that has been made here before (probably by The Stigler) that it might still be worthwhile going to uni, because it gives you the edge when applying for a non-graduate job, but this just pushes the problem onto somebody else (the non-graduates looking for non-graduate jobs).
I suppose the Germans can get away with it because their secondary education system is much more egalitarian, so everybody has a fairly equal chance of ending up at uni. If the UK did it, there would be squealing that the reduction in the number of student places disproportionately hits people from state schools.
The counter-argument to that is: so what? Some people get twelve years "free" state primary and secondary education; other people pay for those twelve years out of their own pockets and then get three years' "free" higher education. The former group probably still gets better value for money.
And also because German unemployment is lower, so there is less pressure to mask unemployment figure by getting a million or two young people off the books for three years.

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