Archive for April, 2011

How will the increase in undergraduate fees affect taught postgraduate fees?

April 28, 2011

Undergraduate tuition fees in England are set to rise in 2012 with most universities aiming to charge the maximum possible £9000.

This is a topic that many people are thinking about, particularly how it might affect the future of the higher education sector.

What I haven’t heard many people talk about, though, is how the fee rise might affect the fees for taught postgraduate courses, such as an MSc or MA. In my field, the fees seem to be around £4000-6000 for a 1-year, full-time postgraduate course. I don’t really know how these fees are calculated.

So, back to undergraduates.

In science and engineering, it has become very common to take a 4-year undergraduate degree, often called something like MSci, MPhys, MChem or MEng. After 2012, though, the fees for all years of courses like these will be over £6000, most likely £9000.

I’m guessing that more people will be happy with a 3-year BSc than pay another £9000 to get an MSci, MPhys, MChem, MEng etc instead of the BSc.

Alternatively, they might choose to graduate with a BSc and then enrol on an MSc course and (assuming MSc fees don’t increase substantially in the next few years) they could get two degrees (BSc and MSc) for less than the price of one (MSci).

Of course the assumption that MSc fees don’t increase substantially in the next few years was meant to be the focus of this post. So what might happen?

Will universities that run 4-year undergraduate courses increase their MSc fees to protect their undergraduate income?

Maybe some universities could use lower MSc fees to “poach” students from other universities or other courses within their university.

Or, perhaps most likely, taught postgraduate fees will increase to come in to line with undergraduate fees. I’d expect that this would decrease the number of students staying at university for a 4th year in any form, which might even affect the numbers that go on to PhD level and beyond.

I don’t really know. I’d like to hear what others think though.

(Update: I forgot to mention that MSc fees are paid upfront whereas as UG fees are paid via government loan. So the MSc route only applies if you have cash or a bank loan. H/T @WilliamCB and @fLiP_uk)

So, is the ozone hole fixed?

April 21, 2011

Bishop Hill reports that the ozone hole is back.

This seems to be the story. A guy with a blog read an abc news report from September 2001 (I’m not sure what year) and some people seem to be surprised that the ozone hole didn’t instantly fix itself with the introduction of the Montreal Protocol.

I can’t help thinking that this interpretation shows a worrying lack of understanding of a big atmospheric issue.

The hole only appears in the Southern Hemisphere spring when the sunlight returns and releases chlorine (sourced from CFCs) from polar stratospheric clouds, which store it over winter. The “hole” occurs because this sudden influx of chlorine decimates the ozone, which then recovers each year.

Minimum ozone levels in the "hole" region.

However, there’s also a more general decline in ozone globally. The big problem is that the chlorine atom isn’t removed in the reaction that removes the ozone so each one does a lot of damage.

There’s more background on wikipedia and some nice plots, including the one above, on the NASA website.

Oddly enough, Science very recently (April 8th) published a news story about a GRL paper (which is still in press) reporting the first signs of recovery of the ozone hole, which weren’t previously expected until the 2020s. So you’d expect this information to be know by people interested in climate science and legislation.