The value of charging university students for their education

There’re a number of justifications behind charging university students for their education. One being that such a qualification is likely to lead to a higher lifetime income. Therefore why shouldn’t those who gain the privilege pay for doing so, rather than our taxing the lower incomes of the general public to finance it? We can also consider the choice of courses. An economic decision made where there’s real money at stake should lead to better decision making. We can hope therefore that fees will lead to more engineers and less grievance studies.

One more - fees make the universities accountable to the students:

A university has apologised to students after a review found teaching on a health and safety course fell "short of the standards" expected.

The errors were serious:

An investigation found a lecturer got "very basic scientific information" wrong - for example he claimed that bleach was an acid when it's an alkaline, says the Times.

He also said that "voltage" was named after Voltaire, the French philosopher - when it's in fact named after the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta.

Perhaps not such very great terrors.

The inquiry found the lecturer, who was teaching safety and business risk modules, suggested that oil could be heated to 360C - when it can actually catch fire at 250C.

Ah, no, that is serious.

At which point we could say that this should never have happened and that this shows that we’ve done something wrong to the universities. Which is to be in error for mistakes - and incompetence - are always going to happen. What matters is the response to such, the incentives in place to at least try to avoid:

The students affected were studying for a masters degree in safety, health and environmental management.

The university said it offered students the chance to repeat or substitute the affected modules at no cost - so their qualification wasn't affected.

It also offered compensation - thought to be around £2,000 - to students because of the inconvenience.

By paying the students have become customers. By being a producer taking consumer money the university is at the very least bound by normal contract law concerning the quality of the goods provided.

That is, both sides now have real money at stake. We can expect the decisions on both sides to be rather better. At least, the incentives are there and they’ll no doubt work through the system in time.