Sunday, 20 February 2011

Pembroke Post-Mortem & Some Political Stuff

So after all the optimism for Pembroke Regatta, M2 went out to a pretty abysmal first-round loss. Losing our stroke to illness was something of an initial blow, and I just don't think we had nearly enough depth of experience through the boat to cope with it. Not being allowed to do a practice start on the row up, and having to marshall in the freezing rain for fucking ages didn't help, but at the end of the day they were the same for both crews.

We started off OK, and while Kings moved a canvas or so up during the first 100m, we held them there. We had very little shape, and it felt horrifically frantic, and so I called a second rhythm, and things improved a little there. We moved through, and held a pretty decent lead by the time we got to the railway bridge. Then I called for a big push, which in hindsight I probably shouldn't have done, and things just ended up really panicked and frantic again. The technique was rubbish, and there was no real control over the ratio, and when there was a clash of blades we got a boat-stopping crab, and Kings moved back through us to win. As Pedro said after the race, even if we'd won we'd have merely gotten away with a pretty poor performance. The loss was pretty deserved.

My main consolation is that we didn't have our proper crew, and while that's never going to be ideal, it's especially difficult when you lose the stroke and nobody else really has any experience stroking a boat. It's something that takes quite a few outings to properly get to grips with, not a single disrupted row up the river to the start. We lost because we were shit on the day, and not because we actually are shit, which is the main focus really. We lost, and we're pretty disappointed with that, but what really matters is bumps, and we know we can do better in nine days' time. We've learned the lesson that if you row like a bunch of dicks, you'll lose like a bunch of dicks, and we know not to do that again. The shoddy rowing was only made worse by the fact that Andy has gotten us to have some pretty good paddling technique in the outings this week, and all of that completely went out the window on race day.

Anyway, onto a few other things. The first being all the supposed "news" that Oxbridge and Imperial are probably going to charge full-whack for tuition under the new government regulations. Are people actually surprised at this? Did people actually expect anything different whatsoever?

Oxbridge places are well known for having three or four applicants per place. When you've got that much excess demand then it's pretty clear that you'll take any rise in price you're allowed. I'd have been shocked if Cambridge and Oxford charged anything less than as much as they possibly could. They know people are going to pay it. Sure, it means that poor kids won't be able to afford going, but ultimately that isn't their problem. They should do what they can to assist people financially, but really it's not their mantle to take up. They can't be expected to bear the entire financial burden of supporting kids who can't afford to go.

Except that seems to be what the government was expecting, and upon realising that it probably isn't going to happen, they've just gotten ridiculous. Nick Clegg attacked Oxbridge for planning to charge the full £9k a year, which is just daft. The best was his statement that it was "not up to them" and that they wouldn't be able to do it unless "they were given permission to do so", which is just a baffling statement to make given that the government have just given them permission to do so, and that it is entirely up to them if they want to charge £9,000 a year or not. You can't pass legislation that specifically allows people to do something, and then get all pissed off and bitchy when they actually do it. It makes no sense. If you don't want universities to charge £9,000 a year for tuition, then don't fucking pass legislation that lets them do it.

What the issue seems to be is a point I made back in October:

What's really fucking stupid is that in the short-term at least this isn't going to make a fucking difference whatsoever to the state of the government finances. This rise from £3k to £12k is just going to mean that students need to take out loans of the same price difference. Instead of that £9k coming from the government as a grant, it's going to come from the government as a loan, as the Student Loans Company is still a public body, so it's still ultimately money lent by the government. They're still going to be paying the exact same fucking amount for each student. Sure, now they money has to be paid back, but most students are leaving with loan debts of around £18,000 (including maintenance loans, but not interest), which means the government is only actually recouping money back once students are starting to pay off more than the £18,000 and eating into the rest of the ~£45,0000 or whatever it's going to be. Given that students will take three years in education before they're even earning money, it's going to be a good seven or eight years at least before the government starts seeing any sort of extra money from this system over the current one.

It seems that the government is only now actually realising this point, and finding that actually they're not going to be saving any cash whatsoever in the long term, because all the money they would have given to the universities is instead going to have to go to students to give to the universities. The government will have handed over the same amount of money, and the only real difference is that they're owed a ton of it back by students who won't be able to actually pay it back for a good ten or fifteen years. The warning that educational spending will be cut if universities charge the maximum is, for me, just a demonstration of how poorly this change in spending has been executed, and how little foresight the government seems to have had with it.

It seems what they were trying to do was to cut educational spending per student, but stop fees per student going up by the same amount, so ultimately the money which the government paid out to universities and students would decrease and they'd be running less of a deficit. Aside from the fact it'd put a shitload of universities out of business, and strain the remaining ones, this isn't in itself a terrible idea. Except presumably to stop universities complaining so much or completely folding, they've allowed them to hike the fees up, yet apparently still expected them to run with a tighter budget, and pass up the opportunity to make up for the shortfall in government funding by simply charging students more. Which is utterly retarded because that was never going to happen. You can't offer an alternative source of funding and then expect them not to use it.

It's a mess, but what's really pissing me off is the way the Tories and Lib Dems seem to be trying to twist this into being the fault of the universities. It's shameful how the politicians seem to be trying to make out that the universities are the ones who are evil for charging students so much, and are trying to completely wash over the fact that it was them who allowed them to do it in the first place. You can't legalise stealing and then get all uppity and preachy about how terrible people are when they start stealing stuff. It's disgraceful.

I'd probably talk for a bit about Egypt, and the fact that an absolute shitstorm of revolution seems to be kicking off in the Middle East, except I actually don't have a huge amount of knowledge on the whole set of events and why anything is happening, past having read a handful of articles on the BBC. I just think that it's pretty cool how revolution and anti-government protests seems to have almost become a fad in that region of the world, and a few successful overthrows of regime have basically set a precedent and let people realise that actually you can rebel against an undemocratic government and overthrow it if you want to.

The cycling world cup is this weekend, and I've watched a fair bit of the action so far on YouTube and the BBC, and there's been some pretty good racing. The men's keirin event was awesome (as usual), with Chris Hoy taking gold with an epic crash pile-up behind him. What was most insane about that race was the way that the crashed riders hurriedly picked themselves back up and hobbled over the finish line to grab the medal-finishing places. Including Azizulhasni Awang, who managed to get over the finish line to take the bronze medal with this injury:

I mean, HOLY SHIT, how do you get back up and make it across the line with that? How the fuck does that sort of thing even happen? Nasty crashes are very much part of the sport when it comes to sprints, in both road and track cycling, just because things happen so quickly and there's so much energy involved in going for the line, but I've never seen anything like that before.

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