Tag Archives: labour markets

Undergraduate to Under-Paid: Assumptions Behind the Marketisation of University Fees

By Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

As universities across the country prepare for the latest influx of new students this month, an article by Sarah Hall (2015) in the most recent issue of Area reveals the truth about the saga surrounding university tuition fees.

The New Labour Government first introduced undergraduate student fees in 1998. Originally capped at £1,000 per annum, fees facing English students have now risen to a maximum of £9,000 per annum, completely changing the nature of higher education. What is more, an article in The Independent (2015) this summer has predicted a further increase, with fees expected to reach £10,000 per annum by the end of the decade. University degrees have been transformed from a public to a private good, a commodity that reframes students as consumers. Fees, however, vary within the newly-devolved United Kingdom. Welsh students currently pay a maximum of £3810 per annum, Northern Irish students £3805 per annum, and Scottish students have paid nothing since devolution in 2000.

The justification of English university fees relies on a number of assumptions about graduate salary premiums and domestic labour markets which, Hall (2015) argues, ignore the simultaneously relational and territorial nature of labour markets. The process whereby undergraduate fees were normalised in this country was based on the argument that existing funding was not financially sustainable. Asserting the value of obtaining a degree in terms of enhanced job prospects and greater salaries, it was decided that the individuals who benefit most from universities should contribute more. However, the nature of these benefits is highly variable, with employment rate and salary premium differing greatly between degree subjects, universities, genders, and geographical locations. It cannot, therefore, be assumed that every university student graduates with the same opportunities.

The marketisation of university fees in England depends on students being prepared to take out a student loan, but also on their earnings reaching the threshold level of £21,000 so that the loan starts to be repaid. However, these assumptions have now been challenged, as it is estimated that fewer graduates will be able to pay back their loan. A report in The Independent (2015) predicts that as many as 75% will not pay back their loan before it is written off, 30 years after their graduation.

Hall (2015) identifies the multiple global factors changing the nature English graduate labour markets, and contributing to the increased number of graduates not earning the threshold level. A major factor is the significant increase in the number of international students graduating from English universities and competing with English students for graduate jobs. Furthermore, the nature of work is changing; employers are increasingly looking for higher skilled workers at lower costs, and information technology is being used as a managerial tool to further reduce labour costs. Finally, an increasing number of graduates are working in non-graduate level jobs or overseas and, therefore, not benefiting from salary premiums.

It appears that holding a degree from an English university no longer puts graduates at an advantage. It is, however, not all doom and gloom. An article by BBC News (2015) last month shows that at least graduate unemployment is on the decrease. Only 2.6% of students graduating in 2011 are now unemployed, the lowest rate since 2008. Furthermore, the number of students at university from disadvantaged backgrounds has not decreased, as was expected following the rise in tuition fees.

The Times Higher Education (2015) last month stated that students’ spirits are not being dampened by their precarious financial positions. In its first year since the rise in fees, the National Student Survey has reported an unchanged level of student satisfaction. 86% of current students are satisfied with their university experience, but how many will be as satisfied once they have left the deceptive university bubble and enter the real world?


books_iconHall, S. (2015). “Geographies of marketisation in English higher education: territorial and relational markets and the case of undergraduate student fees”, Area, doi: 10.1111/area.12216.

60-world2BBC News. (2015). “More graduates in work, survey suggests”. August, 27th 2015. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-34053555.

60-world2The Independent. (2015). “Tuition fees: UK universities set to charge £10,000 by end of decade, says major report”. July 30th 2015. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/higher/tuition-fees-uk-universities-set-to-charge-10000-by-end-of-the-decade-says-major-report-10424931.html.

60-world2The Times Higher Education. (2015). “National Student Survey 2015: £9k fails to dent satisfaction”. August 12th 2015. Available at: www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/national-student-survey-2015-9k-fees-fail-dent-satisfaction.

Labour Geography: Labour Markets at Different Scales

By Fiona Ferbrache

Recently, the airline manufacturer Airbus has been catching my eye via online and printed advertisements, and also through the news.  The world’s largest passenger airliner, the A380, was on display at the Farnborough Airshow last week, and yesterday my neighbour was even wearing an Airbus cap purchased after a tour around the assembly plant in Toulouse.

Airbus is a consortium formed by national aerospace companies in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain.  With headquarters and assembly point in Toulouse, Airbus also has assembly lines in Hamburg, and Tianjin (China), and various subsidiary companies in the US, India and Japan.  Recently, Airbus made headlines with the announcement that it will establish an assembly line in Mobile, Alabama (the company’s first US-based production facility).  Airbus President and CEO confirmed this as a positive move that will create much needed jobs, and enhance Airbus’ global competitiveness.  An alternative view expressed by European labour force unions can be read in the Telegraph.

Jumping from global companies to small-scale rural economies in the developing world, Carswell (2012) presents research on local labour markets in rural India.  Carswell explores how labour markets are locally constituted and segmented by comparing the differences between two villages separated by only a few miles.  She examines the range of job opportunities available to people in the two villages, and how belonging to different social groups influences these opportunities.  The findings reveal the ways in which labour market segmentation is complex and beyond the assumption that it might be simply caste-based.  Carswell argues that “having an industry on your doorstep means very different things for different people” – a sentiment that is also borne out in reports on the Airbus expansion.

Grace Carswell, Dalits and local labour markets in rural India: experiences from the Tiruppur textile region in Tamil Nadu, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00530.x

Test pilots put the A380 through its paces at Farnborough Airshow, BBC News, 10 July 2012

Airbus to establish assembly line in United States, Airbus, 2 July 2012

Airbus’s US move highlights redefinition of globalisation, The Telegraph, 5 July 2012

RGS-IBG New Content Alert: Early View Articles (25th May 2012)

The following Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Soil hydrodynamics and controls in prairie potholes of central Canada
T S Gala, R J Trueman and S Carlyle
Article first published online: 23 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01103.x

Paying for interviews? Negotiating ethics, power and expectation
Daniel Hammett and Deborah Sporton
Article first published online: 23 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01102.x

Domestication and the dog: embodying home
Emma R Power
Article first published online: 23 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01098.x

Adapting water management to climate change: Putting our science into practice

Runoff attenuation features: a sustainable flood mitigation strategy in the Belford catchment, UK
A R Nicholson, M E Wilkinson, G M O’Donnell and P F Quinn
Article first published online: 22 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01099.x


Geography, libertarian paternalism and neuro-politics in the UK
Mark Whitehead, Rhys Jones, Jessica Pykett and Marcus Welsh
Article first published online: 21 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00469.x

Subaltern geopolitics: Libya in the mirror of Europe
James D Sidaway
Article first published online: 11 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00466.x

Original Articles

Faith and suburbia: secularisation, modernity and the changing geographies of religion in London’s suburbs
Claire Dwyer, David Gilbert and Bindi Shah
Article first published online: 22 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00521.x

Mobile nostalgias: connecting visions of the urban past, present and future amongst ex-residents
Alastair Bonnett and Catherine Alexander
Article first published online: 22 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00531.x

Dalits and local labour markets in rural India: experiences from the Tiruppur textile region in Tamil Nadu
Grace Carswell
Article first published online: 22 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00530.x

The Korean Thermidor: on political space and conservative reactions
Jamie Doucette
Article first published online: 18 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00528.x

‘Faith in the system?’ State-funded faith schools in England and the contested parameters of community cohesion
Claire Dwyer and Violetta Parutis
Article first published online: 18 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00518.x

The short-run impact of using lotteries for school admissions: early results from Brighton and Hove’s reforms
Rebecca Allen, Simon Burgess and Leigh McKenna
Article first published online: 16 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00511.x

Learning electoral geography? Party campaigning, constituency marginality and voting at the 2010 British general election
Ron Johnston and Charles Pattie
Article first published online: 16 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00527.x

Hidden histories made visible? Reflections on a geographical exhibition
Felix Driver
Article first published online: 16 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00529.x

‘Read ten thousand books, walk ten thousand miles’: geographical mobility and capital accumulation among Chinese scholars
Maggi W H Leung
Article first published online: 15 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00526.x