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Posts Tagged: Money

Paying My Way

Tuesday 12th October 2010

So, Lord Browne’s report on Higher Education funding was released today. One of his recommendations is for the upper limit on fees to be raised. The government seem to agree this is potentially the best solution, and this seems to have upset people.

As far as I’m aware, there are two sides to the issue of university funding. The first is that universities are saying that they need more money, and the second is that no-one seems to want to pay. Both are understandable. That universities need more money seems to be largely accepted, so all of the discussion seems to focus around who pays for them.

Some say that education should be free, so tuition fees should be scrapped and universities funded out of taxation. I can understand the reasoning, but to my mind it’s pretty unrealistic and even marginally unfair. By getting a decent degree an individual draws certain benefits, be that in higher pay, or in getting a job which they find more enjoyable, or whatever. It therefore seems fair to me that an individual who wants a degree, pays at least something towards the cost of getting that degree. That said, I’d also agree that society as a whole benefits from having graduates – it’s good that we have engineers, doctors, scientists etc around (arts graduates probably less so ;) –  so I also don’t think it’s unreasonable that the state partly subsidises the cost of degrees. Indeed, it’s an investment which almost certainly pays itself back, with interest.

I anticipate that someone might try to throw a curveball by saying that by this logic, I should say that even basic education (and by that I mean up to degree level) shouldn’t be paid for by the state. Exactly the same logic applies though; it’s a massive benefit to us all to have a population with a relatively good education (because it means the workforce is more capable). Additionally, everyone makes use of basic education services, not everyone goes to university. The two things are very different, so it’s easier to justify state financing of “basic” education (although perhaps less easy to justify state provision of that education).

Essentially, I don’t have a problem with fees. But at the same time, I think it’s crucial that the fees charged don’t make it impossible for some people to go to university. It would be tragic if people who would do well at university were stopped because they couldn’t afford it. In that sense, I think that the current loan system is pretty good. You don’t have to pay anything up-front, you only start paying the loan back when you earn over a certain threshold, it tracks inflation so is essentially free, and if you don’t pay it off after a certain period then it gets written off; I wish I could get such generous terms for my postgraduate loan! As far as I can see, the fee and loan system (coupled with the means-tested grants that are available) means that there is no practical financial reason stopping  the vast majority of capable students who want to study a degree, irrespective of their financial background.

To my mind this is fair, even with the possibility of increased fees (in fact increasing the fees makes much sense to me). Especially when compared with the idea of “free” degrees. Because paying out of taxation doesn’t make them free, it just distributes the cost around everyone, and I don’t see why other people should be made to pay (completely) for something which will benefit me.

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For what it’s worth, there are a lot of additional reasons I can think of for not ignoring the recommendations from the report; the argument presented here merely addresses the principle of tuition fees

Posted In: Politics Tagged: | 4 Comments

Devil’s Advocate

Wednesday 20th January 2010

So it was announced today (well yesterday, but I’ve not slept yet so it’s still in my “today”, if that makes sense) that Cadbury’s are being bought by Kraft (who already own Milka, Toblerone and Terry’s). As far as I can tell, there’s been lots of negative reaction to this, but why? A business is (potentially!) being sold to another business, because it’ll make the shareholders money. The people who run the business have a responsibility to the shareholders to run the business to do make them money, so how can they be accused of “selling out”? A business exists to make money, and Cadbury’s is no different. Kraft say they want to invest in the site at Bournville (I suggest building a pub :-p) and maintain production elsewhere, and they also say that they want to bring more jobs to Britain, which can only be a good thing.

I might be missing something . I’ve been busy with revision and the like so I’ve not read the news too much, so if I am missing something, what is it?

Posted In: Random Tagged: | 6 Comments

Remake/Remodel

Thursday 27th November 2008

First things first, I decided to have a fiddle around with the way this thing works, hence the new look. The old design I was using was a bit of a mess behind the scenes, so this version should hopefully help me use WordPress a bit better… I wanted to work out how to use CSS properly as well. Turns out it’s remarkably easy and very powerful, which is handy. Also, I just felt like a change….

Anyway, other things. I’ve mentioned before that I’m on a year out this year, so I could go do a placement in an engineering company. Which is pretty cool. I much prefer the working lifestyle to the student one, for some reason. I like knowing that work stops at a certain time, and that after that my time is my own. And the student lifestyle makes it very, very easy to be lazy (my bad habit is to turn nocturnal, especially in the winter…). Also, I’m not sure what it is, but I tend to find the whole student bubble thing pretty tedious; it’s nice to be able to get out into the real world for a bit. I’m fairly dreading having to go back to Uni next year, I honestly don’t know how I’ll cope.

I’ve been in a civil engineering office, doing… well, lots of stuff. It’s quite an eye-opener how little civil engineering my degree in, uhm, civil engineering, has contained thus far. Mostly we’ve covered a lot of structural stuff, rather than civils. Which I guess makes sense, because the structural stuff probably lends itself more to being taught at uni. I think I’ve probably learned as much – if not more – from my placement than from my degree…

However. You will probably have noticed all the talk recently about recession. Well, turns out that has a pretty large effect on the construction industry; people can’t build stuff when they haven’t got any money. So I was made redundant last week. To be honest, when I decided to get a year’s experience of the industry, that wasn’t the experience I had in mind. So, the bad news is that I’m out of a job after Christmas; the good news is that I’ve only had about 3 weeks off in total since July (because I worked for the Bank over summer), and now I’m gonna get longer off…

I think I should possibly be more stressed about the whole thing. I’m not sure if I’ll get another job in engineering for the rest of the year (although the odds are better than I thought they’d be), and I’m not sure what the hell I’d do if I didn’t get one. In a lot of ways, though, it’s a good opportunity for me. I’ve had 3 months doing one type of thing in the engineering industry, now I wanna go do something different; I’d really like to go and work on-site, see what that’s like. If I went down that road long-term there’s some pretty good opportunities for travelling, which I think is not to be ignored.

Hmm, anyway. This is a crap post. There’s a bunch of other stuff I wanna write about, but I’ll leave that for another time.

Posted In: EngineeringSiteSleepStuff Tagged: | 7 Comments

Another Hustle Just To Make It Big

Thursday 24th July 2008

Tunnel of Love by Dire Straits is the best song ever. Fact.

I’ve been through a slight non-blogging phase lately. A few reasons for that. I’ve either wanted to write about something, but not wanted my writings on that something to be available freely on the Internet; or I’ve not had anything to write about; or I’ve wanted to write about things on which I’m more than happy for my writings to be freely available, but I’ve not been able to articulate what I’ve wanted to a sufficiently high standard that I could get my point across well.

In summary: Moping, Unimagination and Laziness.

Another reason is that I’ve been working for the last week, which is really rather tiring. I’m sure theres something wrong with the fact that I seem to work harder over my summer vacations than I do over the rest of the year, but there you go. I realised the other day that I’ve not had a completely free summer since about 2002. Weird.

Working’s been pretty good to me though, to be honest. For those who don’t know, I work in a bank as a cashier. I first did it when I was 16, and looking back now at how I was then and now it’s probably one of the best things I’ve done, for a bunch of reasons. Mostly because the job I do is essentially a proper job that proper people do, rather than a “student” job (and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way towards other stuff btw). I’ve worked with all sorts of people from my age upto 60-odd - and obviously dealt with a nice array of customers – and I think it’s whats largely responsible for turning the shy, nervy 16 year-old I was into the slightly less shy, chilled-out 20 year-old I am now.

Theres a few of the customers in the branch I’m in at the moment who can’t work out how to use the front door. This isnt important, but I just felt you ought to know.

This is probably the last year I’ll be working in the bank. Next year I’ll be doing proper work, and who knows what I’ll be doing the year after. I’m considering doing an MSc after I graduate, and I was thinking about what sort of course I want to do. Research or taught? What area? Do I wanna do it somewhere other than Cardiff? Lots of choices.

I was also thinking about my car the other day. I’ve just got mine back on the road (first time I can drive regularly for a couple of years), and I was thinking of getting a different car in a few months. And then I looked at insurance. It’s frustrating, because I can afford some pretty decent cars, but the insurance is… Well I probably could afford it, but I’m not paying £2500-£5000 for it (admittedly the larger quote was for a Fiat Coupe. With the 20v turbo engine…). Ho hum. Might just keep what I’ve got.

I’ve also been thinking about racing a lot lately. Actually, since the British Grand Prix a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about Lewis Hamilton an awful lot. I’m probably gonna write another entry about that though, so I wont say much for now, other than: wow.

Tempted to pay to do a race weekend of some sort in the next year. I was thinking either karting, or possibly car racing in something like a Caterham. I’m almost definitely going to race when I’m in full-time work, because it’s something I love. Then, I’ll probably go karting to start with (cheaper…), but for a one-off I’m tempted to jump in the deep end. We’ll see.

Bleh, I’m tired. Should probably sleep. This has been a really awful entry, but as I’ve typed it (and think I should publish something), it’s going up. Sorry.

P.S. Theres also a few sites I keep meaning to add to the Blogroll. I’ll get round to it at some point, probably.

Posted In: CarsGeekMotorsportMusicRandomSleepStuff Tagged: | 1 Comment

Money Matters

Monday 11th February 2008

Since buying my Eee last week, Ive been thinking back to other gadgety goodness I’ve indulged in over the years. And it got me thinking about money, and how my attitudes towards it have changed.

The reason I got from gadgets to money is that you generally need the latter to acquire the former (unless you steal them, i guess). I was thinking back to about 5 years ago, when I really wanted a PDA* (for pretty much no practical reason, I may add). These things can cost anywhere from £75 to £300, depending on how much you’ve got to throw away. And at the time the one I wanted was about £90 (it was a Handspring Visor, by the way, and as an aside How did Palm and Handspring throw away the PDA market? At the time their products were demonstrably better than any Windows-based effort, but now Handspring doesn’t exist and Palm is just making a complete hash of things. I digress…). I remember that, at the time, £90 seemed like a huge amount of money to throw away on a gadget, mainly because I didn’t have it. I did get some money together eventually, and got the PDA (which I played with for a few months before burying it at the bottom of a drawer…), but it still felt like a huge amount of money.

Somewhere along the way, my idea of “a vast amount of money” has changed somewhat. Obviously, I have access to more money now thanks to things like loans and overdrafts and a job, but even so, when I bought the Eee last week I spent over £200 almost on a whim, because the display model was ever so shiny…

I really notice the whole perception-change thing at work. I work in a bank, and the way you look at money there is somewhat skewed. When someone wants to withdraw, say, £100, I think “pah, only a hundred? Take out a thousand, you wimp”. Never mind that its just over twice what I earn in a day… You can sit with £1500 sat in your till and think to yourself “good, thats not much, I’m fine”. At the end of the day there can be tens of thousands of pounds on the floor waiting to be counted, and you don’t really think of it as “a lot of money”. Actually I kind of disconnect completely with the concept of money when I’m at work; I don’t think “that’s £5,000 there it can buy me a nice car and insurance and a year’s running costs”, I just think of it as, well, just a number, really. It’s slightly odd, now I come to think of it, although probably good to stop temptation…

Once again I’m not sure where I’m going with this, so I’ll leave it here. After people saying the last entry was “damn good” and “interesting and worthwhile”, it feels as if theres some sort of pressure to keep writing to a high standard… I don’t generally think what I write is that good; I write loads of things only to get halfway through and think “what the hell are you on about? This is crap”. I must’ve written the last entry at least a couple of times in the past and never posted it… Ho hum.

* If it wasnt clear before, that really marks me out as a geek…

Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged: | 4 Comments

Madness

Thursday 31st January 2008

Sometime last year, Microsoft bought 1.6% of Facebook. They paid $240 million, which puts the value of Facebook at about $15 billion.

$15 billion. For a website.

So, any guesses what Ford, a massive international company with lots of physical assets and a large base of loyal customers, is worth (according to Wall Street)?

Less than $15 billion.

OK, Ford is in dire straits at the moment (name an American car company that isn’t) but even so, thats complete madness.

Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged: | 4 Comments

Bloody Typical

Monday 10th September 2007

I’ve just come across a Facebook group called “Campaign Against 4.8% Student Loan Interest“.

Ok, so the interest rate on student loans is set to track the retail price index (RPI) at the end of the previous tax year. In March 2006, the RPI was 2.4%, so the interest rate on student loans was set at 2.4% from September 2006. The RPI in March 2007 was 4.8%, so thats what the new interest rate for student loans is from September 2007.

Basically, the RPI is an average measure of changes in the prices of goods, and is basically a measure of inflation. Think of it in terms of ice creams; a few years ago, a Flake 99 cost about 99p in most places. Now, it costs about £1.40. Thats because the price of goods has risen, so £1 buys less now than it did a few years ago. So really the interest rate of student loans is set so that you pay back the “real world” cost of your initial debt – i.e. if you borrowed 99p a few years ago for your ice cream, what you’d pay back now is ~£1.40. So the lender hasn’t actually made any money off you.

As an indicator, a typical rate of interest on a credit card is about 14% APR, about 7% APR for loans, about 8% for mortgages and about 18% AER for overdrafts. Student loans are effectively free debt. So we have absolutely no right to moan.

Bloody hell, students annoy me sometimes…

(N.b. I’m no economist, so most of this post could well be complete bollocks. Sorry if it is).

Posted In: Rant Tagged: | 7 Comments

Ever feel as if you’re being chased?

Tuesday 17th July 2007

So you spend your days working for a certain well-known high-street bank, doing what is really a pretty shitty job (I’m not listing my gripes now, that’s for another day). You look forward to leaving, to getting home, to escaping.

You turn your P.C. on to slob out in front of the best the net has to offer, only to see… That certain well-known high-street bank’s advertising coming at you from the bottom of the MSN window.

AAAARRRGGHH!

Posted In: RandomRant Tagged: | 1 Comment