Wednesday, April 29, 2015

tempted by a cut to 6k tuition fees?

I have as many ill-informed opinions as the next voter, but luckily the only ones I consider writing up here are the ones directly relevant to academia.

A well-publicised Labour manifesto policy is to cut tuition fees from 9k/year to 6k/year, and this is meant to be a positive selling-point of their package.  Much as I disliked the change to the current regime, I can’t get excited about this proposal. Thinking about why not:
  • A reduction of 3k is not a very big discount on 9k plus living expenses.
  • The 6k proposal lacks detail about the repayment terms and interest rates (I did read the relevant part of the manifesto). Thus, we’re being offered a pig in a poke.
  • There is no proposal to refund the students who have been required to take on 9k of debt per year. This shows a regrettable tolerance of unfairness to people who have ended up in greater debt due to sheer bad luck. The 6k tuition fee proposal is not so much about righting a wrong, as about a headline-grabbing policy proposal.
  • This article seems to be showing that the current fees have at least brought in more money to UK universities, which is being spent on students. This takes place at a time of considerable international competition between universities, and we cannot afford not to spend more money on facilities at universities.
  • While the current fees regime in unsustainable, we should welcome a transient period of stability (“meta-stability” for readers who know about Markov chain mixing…); I think we’re suffering from change-fatigue.
None of the above is supposed to be taken as supportive of the current 9k fees. I could actually feel supportive of this proposed cut to 6k, if it was presented as a step in the right direction; some kind of down-payment on the way to the abolition of fees. But that’s not how it’s being presented.

Added 16.10.15: THES article: Student voters had ‘less impact than expected’ on general election; sub-headline: Lack of enthusiasm for Labour £6K fees policy could have been factor, says Hepi report

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Rating my co-authors

I feel like I’m something of a late-comer to the Rate My Co-author community (I include a link below, for completeness) and now feel like I should have joined earlier. It looks like one of these things whose user base reaches a critical mass, and then everyone has to join in. To be honest, I’m rather annoyed at how many of my co-authors seem to have claimed more than their fair share of the credit for various papers I worked with them on; now it seems I have to choose between making a counter-claim (and rely on Procaccia and Goldman’s fair division algorithms to moderate), or else enter into a costly dispute that may leave me worse off than if I just cave in and accept the lower share of credit. Their plan to integrate with Google scholar to produce the “world’s most accurate measure of an individual’s research contribution” is worrying. On the other hand, the fun aspect is seeing quite how many well-known papers seem to have dragged their authors into protracted disputes, to the extent that the authors end up with fewer “good co-author” points, than if only they had originally accepted a smaller share of the credit!

Anyway, the thing I like is the way you get to rate co-authors on about a dozen useful, but distinct skills. For example: Finding a fruitful line of research, Problem-solving, Being an optimist, Choosing a good venue, etc. There is clearly a big win to be had when it comes to team-building: we can now look up the skills of a potential research team, and check we’ve got everything covered. Previously I thought that Linkedin endorsements were the only available resource for this, but I admit to having been reluctant to endorsing my colleagues for (say) Latex skills, in case they take it the wrong way and demand endorsements for Algorithms, or Game theory.