10 April 2014

Roaming charges banned, Students pay loans into 50s, York Uni blunder

Students to pay back loans into their 50s

Loans 50sThe BBC and The Guardian have this week reported on a study that shows students (under the new £9k fees system) will be paying back their debt well into their 40s and 50s. Although someone should tell the BBC et al. that they are about 3 years late reporting this… Although repayments under the new system are lower than the previous one (more info here) they will most likely be paid back for longer.

Our take: The major problem we have with this ‘news’ story is really that we’ve been saying this for years (literally since 2011). Why has it taken up until now for the BBC to run it as a story? On the other hand, it does raise public awareness of the growing student debt burden…

British unis generate £73bn for economy in a year

Brit unis 73bnNew figures have revealed that higher education institutions have generated £73bn for the UK economy in just 12 months. The report also reveals that universities employed 378,250 people in 2011-12, approximately 2.7% of total employment in the UK.

Our take: It’s good to know, that despite the collective efforts to destroy UK higher education, that it is still going strong and creating jobs, even as we hurdle towards the loan repayment black hole. There’s a small glimmer of hope somewhere, that universities might just be okay…

New unis to be built in coastal and country ‘cold spots’

New unisThe government has signalled plans to make the biggest expansion of UK higher education in 20 years.  The Coalition intends to build several new universities in coastal and countries towns, that are currently ‘cold spots’ for higher education. Shrewsbury, Yeovil and East Anglia have all been named as potential areas for development.

Our take: With these proposals, it seems the likelihood is that these ‘new’ institutions will be satellite campuses to larger, pre-established universities. Which does raise the question, what is the point? If there’s a universities only a few miles further a field, surely there isn’t a ‘cold spot’ in the area to begin with?

Record pay for University Vice-Chancellors

Rich VCsUniversity Vice Chancellors in the UK were handed pay package increases on top of their already substantial earnings in the same year that tuition fees were raised. Five of the highest paid VCs earned £400,000 in 2012/13, with Professor Craig Calhoun earning £466,000 in his first year in charge at the London School of Economics.

Our take: It’s not even surprising any more that executives are still making massive amounts of money, while entire course are being squeezed, entire budgets cut and front line staff being underpaid. Of course, the worse part of all of this is that it’s our increased tuition fees that are, shakily, propping the system.

EU ban on mobile roaming charges

EU Romaing chargiesThe European parliament have voted in favour of a ban on mobile roaming charges while travelling in an EU country. The new legislation looks set to slash extortionate data phone bills for travellers by the end of 2015.

Our take: Data roaming is one of those ‘mystery’ options that appears on the settings menu of our phones, but we’re not entirely sure what it means. Luckily, now, thanks to the EU we don’t have to understand what it means, or even pay that much attention to our data usage while abroad.

Uni of York embarrassed over use of the wrong Roman Emperor

York uni mess upConstantine College at the University of York released a new logo this week, but were later embarrassed to discover the design incorporated the head of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, and not its namesake Constantine, as intended. The inaccuracy was pointed out by the History of Art department at the university, who claimed they were not consulted on the matter.

Our take: Who doesn’t love a PR blunder? Especially when it’s a blunder caused by an amateur meaningless re-branding exercise. It’s a public embarrassment for the institution, that probably unfairly represents its student body, but it is quite funny.

State of the Machin: On Windows XP

Winds XPThis week Microsoft closed down their support for the thirteen year old operating system Windows XP. Which makes me feel somewhat old, because I remember when Windows XP was released. It’s a curious case with an operating system, if you were weird and started asking people in the street what their favourite one was, you’d probably get more than a few funny looks. But if you asked people if they know what Windows XP is, you’d probably get a resounding yes. XP seemed to dominate the landscape in the same way as Internet Explorer in the days where most regular people we’re starting to get personal computers. As such, it became the default for what people assume an OS should be, for better or for worse. For example, the idea of having a personal account on your computer is ground breaking, it’s just a shame that this in turn lead to annoying features like having to have a Microsoft account before you can even attempt to use Windows 8. So 13 years after releasing the OS that defines most people’s idea of an OS, Microsoft finally pulls the plug on supporting it. Apart from those hefty government contracts, who despite being very well forewarned about this, still didn’t upgrade in time. The UK government for example, is paying Microsoft £5.5 million to continue supporting XP for another year, for the 40,000 (forty thousand!) government machines still running it.

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