It is with some trepidation that I tip-toe on to the dangerous and emotive territory of university tuition fees.
A week or so ago, I was at a reception attended by Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills (it was the innovation bit that I was interested in). With an election looming, it was perhaps inevitable that someone asked a question regarding the introduction of tuition fees and the prospect of a whole generation of students leaving university with large(r) loans to repay.
Cable was pretty blunt, “we used to have a system where tuition was free, but less than 10% of the population could go to university. We now have a system where nearly 50% of the population can go to university, but they have to pay fees. Which system do you want?”.
Ouch. I immediately looked around the room for a response. There was pretty broad demographic, so I was expecting at least a few fiery responses. What I heard was – nothing. Now I’m not sure if that was because it was so unusual for a politician (disclaimer: I am a fan of Mr Cable’s no-nonsense approach) to give a brutally direct answer to a direct question or if Mr Cable had actually given people food for thought. Who knows – it seems to me that we are so used to evasive answers from politicians that we’re perhaps taken aback when you actually get an answer. But one thing’s for sure – it was the topic of most of the conversations for the rest of the evening.
Here’s one for all you historians out there. I always found it slightly problematic trying to cram in all the dates and facts and characters needed for my history exams – which is probably why I ended up studying engineering. Our Tutorhub Q&A question of the week tackles the tricky question of revising for History exams. Given a fire hose of information, how do you prepare for a test or an exam? You’ll find a few gems in here:
Larry Elliott wrote a piece in the Guardian/Observer yesterday that questioned how one of Henry VIII’s Minister’s, Thomas Cromwell, might tackle two issues facing his modern day counterparts: government deficits and bad behaviour at banks.
The article is interesting in itself, but what captured my imagination was the more profound idea of looking at problems from the point of view of a major historical figure. How would Martin Luther King approach civil rights in modern China? How would Margaret Thatcher have tackled the crisis in Bosnia that triggered the First World War? How would Steve Jobs tackle global warming? You’re forced to combine research into the problem itself with research into the characteristics of the individual and to think about the ways that your attitude can affect how you approach a problem as much as the facts. Interesting, huh?
Now where’s that like-button on newspaper articles?
This may seem a little strange, but I love maths. I’m not alone in loving maths, but we maths-lovers have to admit that we’re in the minority. So I can’t help but promote this Q&A Hub questions as my questions of the week:
Who are the 30 greatest mathematicians?
My vote? Fermat.