Sunday, 5 June 2011

Cake or Death: Or why the LSE doesn't understand economics!

I sometimes do understand why those outside academia seem to think we make bizzare decisions. After some recent pints with a colleague I was reminder of the very funny 'cake or death' sequence by Eddie Izzard - shown below.

As it says, the right choice between cake or death should be obvious. So who would choose death? It would appear that academia can sometimes choose death on principle.

Over that last few months universities have been announcing their fees under the new regime in 2012. The Daily Mash (warning: is a bit sweary) appears have some rather biting insights. It's actually not as a simple as that: high fees are a marker of quality, and finance is to maintain high levels of quality research-led teaching. To do the best for their students, it's a commonly held view that universities wish to do both.

The recent announcement of the London School of Economics's council and academic board to charge less than 9K is rather bizarre. They claim it is to send "a clear message that LSE welcomes students from all backgrounds". But I find it hard to see how it's in the interests of students to do this for the following reasons.
  1. They could use the maximum fee give bigger bursaries to the poor students, so they can focus on their studies without worrying about paying their bills.
  2. ...or god forbid, spend the money on better facilities, more quality contact time for students.
  3. It's a slap to the face for the international students (LSE is heavily internationalised) who already pay an awful lot  - this decision can't but remove the last lingering doubts many of them have that they may be there as cash cows.
  4. A high price point usually is a signal of quality. I hope for the LSE's sake that its reputation is able to stand a price point lower than the vast majority of the Russell and 1994 group.
It is therefore rather depressing that given the number of economists in the LSE, they still wanted to make what is in my opinion nothing more than a party political point at the expense of their students (now that the baby boomers are too old to occupy and set up a red base in the bursar's office, futile gestures are all that's left I suppose....:-). I assume it takes a certain level of rarefied intellect to not to make the obviously correct decision.

Anyway, I can't see how the LSE can from this decision get to the highest standards of academic excellence, unless they wish to not support poor students as best they can, strip-mine their international students (not sustainable, or even ethical IMHO) or seek donations of dubious providence (that will diminish further their reputation).

Cake or death anyone? Mine's a Death by Chocolate...:-)

1 comment:

angela dove said...

I'm for cake every time! But to extend your wonderful and apt metaphor...NOT a several year old, heavily iced fruit cake that has been left in a tin in the basement to "mature".
Crackingly good blog, and I'm adding it to my blog roll of honour.