Coronavirus – Day #153

Thanks to the magic of virtual conventions I will be doing my first programme items at a US convention in a very long time. I have a couple of (provisional) panels at this year’s NASFiC. I’ll give more details when the schedule is ready to go live.

Back in the UK, the government continues to dig itself itself deeper and deeper holes. A few days ago I reported the fiasco of large number of estimated exam grades being lowered thanks to a mysterious algorithm that appeared to favour young people who attended private schools, or lived in well-to-do neighbourhoods. Well, the outcry has been so intense that the government has had to back down and will be going back to using the estimated grades produced by the schools.

But that’s not the end of the saga. To start with universities will be in a difficult situation because many of them have already turned down applicants whose grades were lowered by the algorithm, and accepted those whose grades were raised. What do they do now?

One thing they could do is just take more students, but the government had introduced caps on the number of students each university could take, with fines if they went over the cap. And one of the effects of using the estimated grades will be that there are more qualified students.

It might seem that the obvious thing to so would be to remove the caps, except that they are there for a purpose. They were intended to prevent the universities with good reputations from inflating their student numbers at the expense of the less well-known establishments. Without the caps, higher education would be a bit like Mortal Engines with the big universities gobbling up the students from the smaller ones and leaving the latter to starve.

So the smart thing to do would not have been to remove the caps, but to just raise the levels pro rata across all universities, right? So what did the government do?

They scrapped the caps.

But never fear, dear reader. Our glorious leader, Brave Bozo, is ready and willing to take decisive action! He has… (drum roll)

Gone on holiday.

I mean, it is not as if the country needs governing, is it?