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The logic of university fees

The government’s plans to reform undergraduate fees assume that English universities will form themselves into a recognisable hierarchy. But this is a forlorn hope. The increasing number of league tables have added to, not diminished, the contestability of who ranks where by providing conflicting sources of apparently authoritative data. In more ways than one, English universities simply do not know their place. When it comes to setting fees, what is at stake is not just revenue but reputation: allowing these two to mix together, under conditions of uncertainty, creates an incentive for universities en masse to gravitate to the maximum fee.

Rising to the top

The question of whether the professions are becoming more, or less, socially mixed is much in the minds of commentators and politicians at the moment. In this short piece we look at the professionalising of the political selection process, in the light of last autumn's Labour leadership contest and the appointment of Ed Miliband's first shadow cabinet.

Back to the future

What kind of decision are we making in casting our vote for one political party over another? Are we thinking ahead and choosing the option that will best promote our future well-being? Or are we looking to the past and exacting retribution for political actions we have disliked? These questions underlie the current jostling for position between the main political parties in their attempts to focus the electorate’s mind on the versions of the past and the future most favourable to their party’s cause. As a political tactic, however, this manoeuvring comes up against deep tensions in the way we think about voting - tensions that all parties have in the past found it easier to paper over than to confront.