Friday, June 18, 2010

Evidence from Lancaster University shows that investment is vital for a successful higher education system

By Mary Robertson, SOAS

Lancaster University has soared up the Times Good University Guide league tables this year following a huge investment programme. Lancaster increased its ranking from 23rd last year to 10th this year, joining the likes of Oxford, Cambridge and University College London in the prestigious top ten.

The improvement follows a £300 million investment programme, which saw over £300 per student being spent on improving university facilities last year.

Lancaster University showed improvements in seven of the eight measures used in compiling the league tables. These include student satisfaction, research quality and degree results. Particularly notable is the increase in the proportion of graduates finding employment or starting on other courses. Lancaster’s rate increased from 64% last year to 78% this year – an improvement that is all the more remarkable for occurring in the midst of a recession when overall graduate unemployment is rising.

These figures provide clear evidence of the contribution that investment in education makes to students and the wider economy. Investment of £300 per student reduced the graduate unemployment rate for students at Lancaster University by 14%. Nationally, the government would recoup the cost of this investment in saved dole money alone, not to mention the increased tax take resulting from higher numbers in employment – which includes both students and those employed to carry out the investment.

The message is clear: investment in education pays, and yet this government’s first announcement on higher education is that it intends to cut 10,000 places. This is an economically illiterate policy that will harm students and the economy in the short and long run.

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