Why we should allow second-rate universities to go bankrupt

Graduation

The political spotlight remains focused on Brexit, but an important dogfight is developing in the area of higher education. The specific issue is whether universities in the UK should be allowed to go bankrupt. It is not merely a theoretical question. In the past year, a number of universities have announced deficits running well into […]

The misguided sugar tax is an ineffectual way to price the externalities of obesity

Sodas

One of George Osborne’s last acts as chancellor in 2016 was to announce the so-called sugar tax. This came into force last week, in line with the original timetable. Drinks manufacturers are taxed according to the volume of sugar-sweetened beverages they produce or import. The tax increases with the sugar content. The aim is to […]

The university pensions strike is a selfish bid to hold future generations to ransom

The Graduates

University lecturers began a strike over their pensions last week. The dispute may even run on and jeopardise the summer exams. The main issue is that the universities’ pension scheme seems to be in substantial deficit. To solve the problem, a move from defined benefits to defined contributions is proposed. With the former, the pension […]

Anti-capitalists in UK universities need a refresher course in the perils of socialism

Berlin Wall

The great Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter, writing in the 1940s, predicted the eventual demise of capitalism. He did not want this to happen. But he envisaged that the “intellectual class” would eventually develop values which were hostile to free markets and private property. Schumpeter’s definition of “intellectuals” was very wide. He meant people in a […]

Incentivise predatory universities with a proportional grade-linked fee structure

Exam Tables

The A-level results have come and gone yet again. Underneath all the hype and excitement, we can see the reliable old friend of economists at work. Namely, the impact of incentives. Michael Gove, in his previous Cabinet incarnation as education secretary, decided to restore the meaning of grades in A-level and GCSE exams. Until the […]

Embarrassing academic reversals show expert opinions are often built on sand

Sand Castle

Last week we saw yet another major reversal of opinion by experts. For years we have all been lectured severely on the need to finish every single course of prescription drugs. But the latest wisdom is that this is not necessary. The announcement that petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2040 only serves […]

Believe it or not, Britain is getting happier

Happiness

The dominant economic narrative in the UK is a pretty gloomy one just now. True, employment is at a record high. But, counter the whingers and whiners, zero hours contracts and low pay proliferate. The political discourse is full of the struggles of the JAMs – the Just About Managing The public sector moans about […]

Diane Abbott is rubbish at maths – but not compared to the rest of the country

Diane Abbott, 2016 Labour Party Conference

Diane Abbott’s car crash of an interview on LBC radio last week hit the headlines. Asked politely but firmly for the numbers and costings of Labour’s plans on the police, her answers varied wildly from sentence to sentence. Of course, being charitable, it was always open to Labour’s shadow home secretary to spend a few […]

Too many young people are wasting their time by doing worthless degrees

It’s an exciting time of the year for many young people, with some setting off to university for the first time and others starting to polish their applications for next year. Good news if you have been accepted to read economics at Cambridge, say, or business studies at Oxford. A survey by the Sunday Times […]

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