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Thursday, 26 August 2010

U [AND UR DOG] CAN HAZ DEGREE!

Remember my recent post on the findings of the Greek Higher Education Quality agency?

Back then I argued on the basis of academic research that degrees are a substitute for ability in the public sector, and the subsidised "demand" for degrees in whatever from would-be civil servants drives a good deal of our higher education system.

It's just occurred to me that there's a way to test this. Suppose the public sector could not hire more people, causing demand for degrees to collapse, but had to keep up supplying university places in order to disguise unemployment. This is our predicament now. If this were a market, you'd expect prices to collapse.

In the Stalinist sudoku puzzle that is Greek higher education admissions, students' formula-determined aggregate admission scores, (βάσεις) act like prices in the sense that students are admitted into the highest-ranked institution (based on the candidate's preferences) whose minimum requirements they meet.

Right on cue, the results of our first post-troika admissions process have been released and the minimum requirements for most institutions has plummeted, with 28 of the less popular departments admitting students with an average score of 1/20 or less. 1/20 being the score awarded to a student for signing their name on a blank sheet of paper.

Some of the worst culprits were:

Amazingly, some of these departments look fairly decent - I don't doubt that they employ some pretty committed academics.  But that's beside the point. Demand for their degrees is not driven by the huge interest in organic farming, or fisheries or auditing in Greece. It is a government-sponsored bubble that has finally popped.

Good riddance.

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