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January 19, 2004
Educationally Europe must be doing something right

Further to the Europe/America University thing, see below, there has been another highly pertinent and Brian's Education Blog Relevant comment at Samizdata from "Scott" (who just might, judging by the email he used, be this guy. Anyway, F. Scott Kieff or not F Scott not Kieff, Scott has this to say:

What's too bad, for Europe at least, is that it actually does a good job in the initial training of scientists and engineers. I have a friend whose engineer father (himself a Belgium emigré) who'll only hire Europeans because he finds them more diligent and better trained. I've also been told that less Americans go for the PhD, rather, they get the BS (bachelor of science degree) and then go for paying jobs right away. So, European students take up the slack.

When another friend of mine was earning his mech e phd at a Berkely, there were several Euro students, especially German. I got an earful from them about the problems they faced in Germany. They were proudly patriotic (for Germany), but readily admitted that their future was here. Before the same friend gained tenure, there was concern about giving an American tenure instead of trying to lure in another Euro scientists. So, there is high demand.

I say the more the merrier, and merry they do seem to be working here.

Scott's comment was only a comment and evidently typed in hastily, so I've cleaned up some of the spelling and grammar, which I trust he doesn't mind. Not sure about "Berkely".

Otherwise, good point, n'est-ce pas? Or should that be: nicht wahr? (Sp? UPDATE thankyou Tim H) Europe must be doing something right, educationally speaking.

Although, maybe what they are doing right, educationally speaking, is not having such a vibrant economy, tempting those being educated out into it to earn immediate money, instead of pressing on with education. After all, Eastern Europe has long been crammed with highly intelligent, super-educated people. And they got so highly educated precisely because unless they did this, they'd not be able to earn any decent money at all. In America, anyone half decently educated is quids in – dollars in, I should say – by comparison.

Still, the point stands. If Europe wasn't cranking out any educated brains, there couldn't be any brain drain to America in the first place, could there?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:15 PM
Category: Higher education

This begs the question of who decides what is "doing something right" and what exactly is that. Is it possible to have too much education? If so, when is it a good idea to stop?

For the US, importing educated, ambitious, innovative people is all gain, no pain. They move to the US (often permanently) and don't cost the taxpayer a penny. They just start producing. On the other side of the ledger you have an EU country who has dumped tens of thousands of dollars into educating somebody and they up and leave without giving anything back except tourist dollars when they come to visit every couple of years.

If the EU nations were to provide equivalent opportunities for making money, they would keep their brains home and increase their economies. But they would also tend to get fewer PhDs as the temptations of going into private industry would increase and the lower taxation necessary for creating those domestic private sector opportunities would also tend to dry up education funding. In other words, you would end up looking a lot like the US.

In the heydey of modifying cars, there were occasionally fools who would put insanely powerful engines and transmissions into little economy car frames. Every once in awhile somebody would overdo it and create a monstrosity that, if you were to floor the accelerator, the forces applied to the frame would warp the frame, quickly destroying the vehicle after relatively few runs.

The EU's powerful educational system is the powerful motor. But it's housed in such a weak frame that its attractive features are pretty much pointless.

Comment by: TM Lutas on January 19, 2004 07:44 PM

Testing the Turing anti-spam system.

Comment by: the dissident frogman on January 20, 2004 11:57 AM

One of the most blatantly obvious problems of the German economy and society is students sitting around in universities until their late 20s, wasting their most energetic and motivated years when they should be out learning real things and working. And not because they're all doing PhDs either - a lot just sit around dragging their normal degree courses out for years. One of the (many) controversial bits of Schröder's pathetically half-hearted reform proposals is to introduce fees after Year Four - which *really* has the students' knickers in a twist. It strikes me as one of Schröder's few decent ideas.

Comment by: Alan Little on January 20, 2004 02:52 PM

I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere, but once we have top-up fees paid as additional income tax by graduates when their income reaches some figure or other, won't it make the old brain-drain even more serious?

Or will the EU find some way to pursue immigrants to the US and grab money off them? Or will the UK just demand the whole sum before we let them leave the country? (That will be easy once ID cards and Schengen 2 is all in place).

Does anyone know what the state's devious plans are in this area?

Comment by: Andrew Duffin on January 20, 2004 03:58 PM

Further thought on the Germans-lounging-around-in-universities thing: one could of course regard this as a perfectly rational response on the part of the German students to a lack of job opportunities for them to pursue, itself caused by the prevailing EU tax-and-regulate-business-to-death regime.

Comment by: Alan Little on January 20, 2004 04:06 PM

...we have top-up fees paid as additional income tax...

I thought the fees wouldn't be paid as an additional income tax. Once you've paid off the debt, that would be it, no more to pay, regardless of your income.

As for defaulting by leaving the country, how do private banks deal with similar defaults on unsecured loans? Presumably the universities would have a similar arrangement. (Aren't the debts going to be to the universities, rather than the government?)

Comment by: Andy Wood on January 20, 2004 04:15 PM

Andy, the debt is technically to the University but everything I've read states that it is going to be collected through the tax system. The State will pay the Uni up front and recover the money from the graduate when - and not before - their income reaches a certain level. A level which, for some inscrutable reason, is higher for "poor" students than for "rich" ones. But that's another discussion. I still think there will be an incentive to "skip off" this debt. If you're not paying UK tax, you're not repaying your loan. And if you're resident in the US, then you are not paying UK tax. afaik.

Comment by: Andrew Duffin on January 21, 2004 03:57 PM
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