Poisoned postgraduate market

The postgraduate market in Poland is broken, badly.

The HE Law allows institutions that possess BA rights to develop and sell programmes below Masters level: the post-graduate 180-hour long programme, after which graduates receive a diploma of completion (PgDip). Interestingly for UK readers, there is no division into certificates and diplomas. Schools are expected (and allowed and checked) to develop programmes within their areas of specialisation: those possessing BA in Economics rights cannot run programmes in accounting or management and vice versa. Of course, most go around this rule by creatively naming their programmes, so that abovementioned economics-rights holder would offer a post-grad programme not in “management” but in “economics of company management”. Maybe, one day, the Ministry will get wiser (or less lazy) and check these programmes and ban a few institution – the course structure clearly indicates the modules and desired learning outcomes, even if the name is….different.

Everyone and anyone offers these programmes, keen to access the one remaining cash-rich market segment: mature students who need to gain these diplomas to assure professional advancement, but do not need/want MAs (or, in case of most Poles, already have them), or are trying to shift their career/specialisation away from their original degree(s). These programmes are offered in weekend mode, and thus an institution can expect students to come from further away – however this is true only for the truly well-respected and highly-ranked. Others, including those from the 70-80-90th places lure only locals, and those (probably) too poor or lazy to go elsewhere. The Ministry needs to be notified, but the programmes are created within the institution and approved by the appropriate oversight body (mostly, a Faculty Board). The Ministry steps in only in cases of outright crisis. A leader or idea-generator puts together a set of subjects, and assembles a team of subject “masters”. Sounds grandiose. And is. In many cases, there is no idea “man”, but a victim ordered to bring in more money to the institution, or someone who is lacking in subjects to complete contracted teaching minimums. Often, the author assembles subjects not through their content, but by giving friends teaching hours – then the programme description reads like a drunken snake trying to sound sober, with sentences lifted and pasted in haphazard places, to make a sensible-sounding justification for the offer. Hours vary, from a 2-hour subject to 20+, depending on the need for the topic, power of its teacher to demand high hourly contact or goodwill of the designer.

In many cases the lecturers have little practical knowledge, sometimes the students happily embarrass the instructor, having come in from the real world and meeting a pimple-faced theoretician educated in a surreal public university with lecturers 90-or-older. Only in the top institutions, do students experience a true awakening and epiphany, exposed to top-class instructors with real-life experience and an extensive academic/research background, backed by an ability to convert theory into practice and vice versa, while incorporating the comments, ideas and experiences of the students (rarely BA-holding “virgins” with no industrial experience).

The students themselves are rarely crème-de-la-crème, highly motivated, talented, able to input the required amount of work. In most cases they are overworked, stressed, annoyed (at doing the programme, wasting their weekends, etc), and have bad attitudes infused by previous institutions or programmes. There are two important market segments (and client profiles): those who are required to continuously update their skills and thus have little real interest in the programme, its contents, lecturer skills; those shifting qualifications, but not willing to undergo the standard brutality of BA+MA re-tooling, and who are interested in a fast return-to-investment. The, there are those “unspoken of” – sneaky individuals who pursue any available PgDip – we will return to those in a minute.

A PgDip is reasonably priced, at around 4000PLN for its one year of weekend efforts in listening. Prices vary from 2500 in crappy locations or for truly-dodgy products to 8000 for programmes offering prestige, true knowledge or a recognised qualification. But, 4000 would be the national average for the 180 contact hours. So, it is about twice the average (net) monthly income in Poland – a decent expenditure, to be considered in advance with careful analysis of all pros and cons. In most cases this expenditure is carried by the student, with few companies willing to pay the fees (exceptions: professional/international qualifications or key/specialised knowledge).

The EU has dropped a dog turd price bomb into the market, by allowing funding to be allocated to institutions developing and offering PgDips – the Union is keen on improving of qualifications, enhancing employment chances of the unemployed and enhancing the skills of grannies, teenagers, 50+s and anyone else who looks like an oppressed minority. Millions have been given out to schools, which prepare any combinations of subjects with an impressive programme name, just to get the money. Academic knowledge passing, learning outcomes, even professional ethics (don’t offer something you just read about yourself a day earlier) all go out the window, in a climate of reduced intakes, a decade-long demographic low and an inability to raise research revenues.

The Union has destroyed the market: it has funded the creation of countless crappy programmes, increasing competition for the prestigious, high-quality providers; it has allowed weak institutions to continue living in a market favouring their speedy demise (as signalled by the drop in full-time and part-time BA/Ma students); it has funded the creation of many useless programmes (created to be “unique” in a way that makes them useless in real-life work) and providing work to useless staff. But, most importantly, the precondition of these programmes is their provision at ZERO or much reduced fees (the Union frowns on schools taking its money for developing a programme and then charging full/real fees). As a result, there are now hundreds of PgDip’s offered at ZERO or minimum tuition (10% is the norm). And as a result #2, the average client is looking only for EU-funded (understood as “free”) programmes and is unwilling to consider a good, up-market, knowledge-heavy offer that is FULLY-priced. With the upcoming cuts in EU budgets, funding for such things may be cut swiftly, however the client has been poisoned for a long time, and it will take a lot of changes to make people consider fully-priced PgDips en masse.

These free, useless and widely-available programmes bring me back to the sub-class of student: consumer of all. Paying nothing or a few hundred PLNs (zlotys), these individuals have started a collectible frenzy, completing 3, 5, 10 programmes of various titles (and, assuming some rationality, content), picking up little, taking places from the much-more-needy (or more deserving) and, definitely, poisoning the employment market – which HR manager can now take seriously a prospective employee with 3 (tough, expensive and hard-to-study) completed programmes and differentiate that candidate from a post-grad industrial parasite that has “completed” 3 or more post-grad programmes sponsored by the EU (I personally know of someone having done 8 programmes, from accounting to law)?
Thanks Brussels…

The NEXT global crisis / bubble: insurance

Remember one fundamental truth: there is NO global warming (buhahahaha, or other evil laughter ). The weather changes are random and there is NOTHING we can do about it. Or so the right wingers and global masters claim, guzzling petrol, not paying taxes, stealing our money and eating babies.

In the world where “climate does not change”, an American agency for atmosphere and oceans (NOAA – Not Ordinary Annoying Agency) published some data that this year the US was blessed with twelve climate crises costing the taxpayer 1 billion USD EACH. The number of sub-billion-dollar catastrophes (shhhh…blessings) was not given, but we can assume that a few more occurred and more dollars got forked out to those affected.

Having just renewed insurance on my apartment, it got me thinking. Insurance is another mathematical betting game, where the insurer gambles that it will collect more in revenue from dispersed insurers than pay out to those negatively affected by misfortune. Some fancy mathematical modelling there, spreading the risk (bets, anyone?), analysing patterns and where necessary raising premiums to cover increased outlays (as did the insurance industry after 9/11 to offset the massive payouts post-WTC to everyone affected-and-insured).

Now, here’s my quandary: the USA is an enormous country with multiple climates, time zones, major differences between north-south and east-west, two oceans and some massive lakes&rivers. And a puny building technique where houses are made from cardboard. So, we have a continent just begging for God’s wrath: a tornado here, a flood there, forest fire here, earthquake there. Now, just about anything and anyone is/are insured from (against) THEIR particular mishap, but when the number of such tragedies increases as does the typological and timeline spread of such tragedies, because there is NO global warming (buhahahaha), then the mathematical models of insurance companies go out the window (unless a tornado took it out first).

So, insurance companies are finding that they have to either: increase premiums, reduce (or deny any) payouts through cheating on contract and definition interpretation, reduce their profit margin (oh, the horror!!) or transfer the burden onto others (by going global and finding insures in countries where less bad things happen and stealing their premiums to pay the Americans). The problem with increasing premiums is that it changes the risk-versus-reward calculation of policy-holders and one by one they begin to drop out from the system: a poor famer here, a sneaky company owner there, further reducing the amount of money available to pay out to those who remain. Now, the globalisation option (buying insurers elsewhere, reinsuring on global markets) would be useful IF there was no global warming and no weather patterns changing everywhere (and since there is no global warming…buhahahaha).
So, where will the insurance companies get money for their payouts? And, of course, if these are stock traded companies when and how will their cash shortfalls become public knowledge? Will we find another leverage pyramid with trillions stolen (paid out in commission and consultancy fees) and the government (e.g. the same citizens who paid already in insurance premiums) left to pay off the massive debt (by the way: debt to WHOM)?

Food for thought: in Canada (I seem to recall), they tried to institute a no-fault car insurance system administered by the state: every accident gets a “it’s not your fault” payout and the rates would have been lower than in the commercial version. The model was killed by “the business” as insurance companies yelled bloody murder for potential loss of profits from poor suckers (e.g. drivers forced to pay for mathematically calculated/inflated premiums).

Food for thought 2: my apartment’s insurance policy covers (or so they promise) to pay for damage to the roof incurred from a blast wave (I kid you not). Now, as I understand the causal factors of a blast wave, there are 3 major ones: major explosion of some plant (chemical, nuclear, or maybe something like the Hungarian red mudslide disaster?); meteor entering the atmosphere (at that point I won’t care about my roof as if it has a blast wave affecting ME, then it is also landing ON me and squashing ME) or the most logical and probable: supersonic wave from a passing plane. Now, in the third case, the only planes that are supersonic are military and even they do not fly above mach 1 in peacetime and beyond military training grounds. Only in combat (e.g. WAR?????), so if there IS combat over my house, then (again) who will care about the roof getting blown off? But, I am sure that the premium contains some $$$ to cover that eventuality anyway. The last case is a nuclear detonation, but that is… WTF!!!!!!

Food for thought 3: After “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” came out, enterprising insurance salesmen started selling asteroid insurance (“in case your house gets damaged”). Probability and Fate being what they are, one house DID get damaged by a rock from space, but upon claiming the payout, the policy-holder was politely informed that an asteroid upon entering the atmosphere becomes a meteorite, and his policy did NOT include those.

I might be getting older, but my mind increasingly leans towards the Texan form of insurance: AK447 and a bunker. Screw the mathematical freaks and their useless models. I hope they get fat on our money today, so we can eat their bloated bodies later.
Don’t invest in insurance products… buy gold. Even in Costner’s “Waterworld” people would know what it is (and use it for teeth).

Shameless – US is OK, but UK blows away

I got hooked on Shameless, the American version, currently waiting for its 3rd season. The family is a bunch of crazy losers, fighting for every day, making pitiful amounts of money to buy the cheapest products that even the Chinese would ignore, fighting their additions and weaknesses while breeding like rabbits.
.
The actors for the US version were amazing. The Dad, an actor of nearly-Oscar stature, drives the show with his drunken “loserness”.
.
However, I then discovered the British version – as with many amazing TV show, it was the Brits that conceived and implemented the idea. Shameless UK is a 9 season story, meaning that the Americans have a lot of seasons ahead of them. The UK version (original!) of the father, although less known, is even better!
.
It is a hard show to watch in “marathon” mode, watching episodes one after the other – I survived 3 seasons at one go, over a few days, but then I had to take a break, coming back to the next seasons after a month-long break. Why? I missed the crazy crazies.
.
The UK version is deeper – although the US version shows similar lumpenproletariat lowliness of existence, the UK version is more dark, depressing, soggy, downtrodden. It reeks of Manchester, the unemployed for decades part, and such an atmosphere is difficult to replicate in the US. Even the accents are worse in UK, and anyone who has heard the real tongue will appreciate the depths of the UK show. Interestingly, I wonder how many non-native English speakers watched the UK version and grasped the words, terms, social and cultural and local inferences? I found the US version much easier, maybe because it is aimed at a simpler (??) audience that cannot understand (and thus appreciate) the accent-context?
.
I have mixed feelings about the show, and maybe that is why it draws me in every time.
.
They are amazing losers, people forgotten by God, fate and state, descending with each episode lower into the definition of whatever bottom-feeding-scum that can be found in the Devil’s dictionary. Drugs, alcohol, thievery, hard crime, violence, betrayal, failure are the standard issues in their daily lives. Cheating and stealing are not just limited to the outside world, as the family does the same to each other, close friends, etc. Crime lords, crazies, criminals, psychos surround them, adding mayhem to their lives.
.
At the same time, there is something sweet and optimistic. These are humans at the bottom of the social scale for whom, it turns out, blood is the only determinant of (whatever remaining) loyalty. They are the gang of crazies out against everyone else. There is love (twisted, psychotic, supremely emotional, irrational and unpredictable) that powers them along, gives them strength in time of ultimate doom, while the closely-knit universe of a few people (dozen?) is faced with the challenge of taking on the entire world. They somehow survive.
.
Knowing how the world really works, enforces the simple message of that show: blood is thicker than everything else. There is no escaping family.
.
A lesson for us, in Central Europe, filled with lovers of the Vodka fluid, is interesting: just like the father in Shameless, every alcoholic loser can utter reality-altering philosophical sentences that explode your reality. If it is not him/her, then similar sentences can be provided by the scarred children. In their single-second of clarity, alcoholics are sane, super sane, Plato-like-sane. It is a pity they descend into chaos and destruction immediately after…
A lesson for all in the world, relates to a question: what will people do, to achieve any, Any, ANY happiness in their everyday-miserable lives?

Graduate careers – a critical perspective

Universities insist that they are providing students with the best education that is perfectly integrated with the needs of the labour market. This, in theory, should lead to 100% employability of graduates, immediately upon receiving their valuable piece of paper.

Looking at the people in different subjects, each one with an ambition to become the top dog in their field, it is clear that students should not rely on the promises of universities claiming to have the secret to immediate career success, nor depend on university career offices to find them the perfect job. A person’s success is a combination of luck and own career management. Depending on others leads you to an unemployment benefit line.

Students – plan and manage your own careers! NO ONE else will do that.

Otherwise, you will be swallowed by the tide of identical graduates, finishing your programme, your university, the same programme in dozens of other universities. Thousands of clones are pushed onto the labour market each year.

How to succeed – what is a good graduate career?

  1. Plan your career for the next 5-10 years.

University is not a period of life, after which comes “something else”. University is a stepping stone for the next 10 years of your career. You will have received the knowledge and skills (and degree certifying to that fact), from which you should step into full-time employment, preferably in an area related to what you’ve just studied.

I ignore useless people who moan that “they don’t know what they want to do”, as those people are wasting everyone’s time, efforts and the financial resources of family or government.

Good people, intelligent people, will have a good idea where they want to go, what they want to do.

Build a secret plan.

University (Bachelor) => Graduation => First full-time job, early experience, getting the first employer onto your CV => experience working + understanding real people (and crazy bosses) => Masters (part-time not to lose work?) => Second job or sizeable promotion within original organisation =>First mortgage … Etc.

Follow the plan.

Figure out what happens in the industry that you want to work in, what are the trends, where is the cool work, where do people earn or make money, who the powerful people are. And then, plan yourself pursuing that.

Develop alternatives in your plan. Be ready for changes – in your first few years OTHER PEOPLE will make decisions about you, so you always have to be ready for good and bad decisions made by THEM about YOU.

  1. Be aware of important trends.
  • Statistics are your enemy – every year thousands of identical students graduate and go looking for the same jobs.
  • Degree inflation – the value of lower degrees or qualifications is diminishing, as (see above) thousands graduate each year in each discipline. Soon, every cleaner or security guard will have a Bachelor (and a Bachelor in “ochrana”, that are offered, for example in Poland ;p).
  • Competency inflation – 2 languages are the norm, as are three. Four or five are desirable. You know Word? LOL – How about Visual Basic for Excel? Driving licence? Maybe a tank driving licence is still unique…
  1. Decide on the final outcomes of your education.

Be aware that there is a trade-off between quality/prestige and price. If you want to get your higher education done easily and cheaply, do not expect good jobs afterwards. There is a reason why top companies/organisations hire form best universities. Quality education = a lot of knowledge. But then, quality education = $$$$$$$$.

The chances of getting an amazing job with a bad education are remote – you would have to find an employer who does not understand the low value of your diploma and then, after appointment you still have to show your unique skills (if you have them). This combination of luck is unlikely.

If you did a low quality Bachelor, then jump in quality/prestige for the Masters. Bad Masters? Do another one in a better university. Hell, go abroad.

  1. Don’t waste time – differentiate yourself.

With thousands of clones graduating each year, you are among them, lost in the crowd. Everyone has the same degree title, similar GPA, even identical subjects on their transcripts. During your studies, pursue additional differentiating factors:

  • Learn more languages (with certificates, proving your skills – just not IELTS);
  • Gain additional qualifications/certificates, both at university and outside;
  • Work experience BEYOND what is required towards the degree (holiday work, part time work around classes, even full-time work integrated with classes) – anything to show to a potential employer that you are a “real employee with experience”;
  • International mobility (exchange) for a semester, to show intercultural and international experience and competencies (or even multiple exchange semesters in different countries, as is increasingly the norm in Europe) – show that you can live and study abroad, that you can deal with foreign cultures, languages, institutions, laws and people;
  • International double-degrees (or triple, if you can get them), where you gain a second degree while studying for a year or two at the foreign partner university – if possible seek programmes that award DIFFERENT degrees, enhancing your value to a potential employer;
  • Research towards your future career – write a dissertation on a topic that will show your future employer your interests, competencies or ambitions;
  • Take courses or gain skills towards your future career (all degrees allow for electives, or take additional courses/credits);
  • Get involved in projects outside of classes that will enhance your experiences, show your organisational skills, people skills;
  • Start projects, that will show your innovativeness and entrepreneurialism;
  • Attend conferences, events, to gain certificates, see what really goes on and, maybe/hopefully, pick up contacts of useful people, whom you can later contact about work/projects/opportunities;

 

And then, your CV will be INTERESTING to an employer, who will see a young person of above-average competencies, experiences, someone to whom a job offer MUST BE MADE.

You could argue that the lazy ones will get jobs too, but their chances are much smaller, as they are all IDENTICAL. You could argue that some weak graduates will get jobs because of family contacts – although true in some cases, understand that most employers need GOOD people (not children-of-friends), and will in many cases opt for the QUALIFIED CANDIDATE – you.

And after getting the job, you start on the SECOND challenge – developing your career ;p

“Głupi” student?

Głupi student – niedawna zadyma medialna ze studentem wściekającym się o zadawane pytania na obronie, spowodowała ogólnopolską histerię nt. edukacji młodego pokolenia.

Niewiele osób zauważyło, że uniwersytety są ofiarami wieloletniego procesu (nie)edukacji, jaki uskuteczniają szkoły podstawowe i średnie. Współcześni wykładowcy dostają do obrobienia towar wybrakowany, zatruty, wypaczony, posiadający minimalne umiejętności (ale za to ogromne ambicje i oczekiwania). Trudno jest cokolwiek zrobić z takimi “studentami”, którzy nie chcą i nie umieją się uczyć, nie posiadają podstawowego zasobu wiedzy, słownictwa, ani woli do podjęcia niezbędnego wysiłku. Na uczelnie trafił rezultat współczesnego “consumer universe” uwarunkowany na prostą transakcję “pieniądze = rezultat” (czytaj: dyplom) bez jakiegokolwiek wysiłku pomiędzy. Oznacza to, że jakiekolwiek wymogi, standardy, oczekiwania ze strony uczelni i pracowników są zbyt wysokie i nie przystają do współczesnego społeczeństwa niedorobionych FBkowiczów i podobnych im NKowców. Przeczytanie podręcznika i materiałów pomocniczych, systematyczna nauka przez cały semestr, odrabianie zadań domowych (we wszelkich postaciach), otwartość intelektualna, samodyscyplina – to wszystko nie przystaje do Polski 2010+ i jej młodzieży. Nie pomagają państwowi administratorzy (mamy dwa ministerstwa zajmujące się “edukacją”), politycy (w Sejmie znajdziemy mało intelektu), media forsują ludzi “sukcesu” nie wynikającego z zalet umysłu ani jakiegokolwiek realnego talentu a ilość współczesnych wykształciuchów (absolwentów rożnej maści programów licencjackich lub magisterskich, o profilu rzadko przydatnym w życiu) nijak nie przeradza sie w jakość kapitału społecznego RP3.5.

System nie działa, a wybryki co głupszych jedynie pokazują jego wewnętrzne zepsucie. Niestety, politycy i administratorzy niczego nie zmienią – sami juz przeszli, najczęściej przez wcześniejszy system (ten mniej zepsuty) i nie muszą dbać o to co wchodzi do uczelni “po wiedzę”, a raczej po dyplom. Rządzącym rewolucja nie jest potrzebna, zaś ewolucja jest nieskuteczna.

Patrząc na ilość uczelni przyjmujących każdego, kto potknie sie na chodniku i wpadnie do działu rekrutacji, należy sie zastanowić czy aktualny kierunek, tzn. masowe kształcenie wszystkich o wszystkim, przekłada sie na wymierne korzyści dla Polski. Przecież nie można nawet powiedzieć, że państwo ma z tego podatki, ponieważ uczelnie nie płacą CIT za działalność statutową. Ilość nigdy nie przekłada sie na jakość a masowa rekrutacja wyławia takich “geniuszy” jak owy zszokowany magistrant. I będzie ich coraz więcej – i tutaj należy zadać pytanie: czy to jest jeszcze szkolnictwo wyższe, jeżeli takie głąby dochodzą do obrony pracy?

Twisted reality of education fairs

Having just done a nice round of international educations fairs (and looking forward to two more), I can’t help but voice my amazement at the excitement among local education institutions. I like watching the students, who come for information about opportunities for studying abroad and the salespeople from western universities that tirelessly sell the promise of a top-class education in “place X” or “city Z”. These fairs are now big business, often organised by private companies that collect a sizeable royalty from universities wishing to expose themselves (pun intended) to the money-possessing student-wannabe. Universities see these events as a good way to contact clients and spend many thousands of dollars or pounds on sending the representatives (with massive amounts of publicity materials) to various corners of the world.
.
All good.
.
What drives me insane with education fairs, is the lack of logic at the local universities and private institutions – wherever I go for a visit, there are posters and leaflets advertising such events. WHY?? Don’t the local HEI players understand that these events are intended to steal students away from them, away from their country, students who will often never come back? Why advertise your own competition? Why help foreign institutions whisk away much of the best talent, those speaking good English, motivated and who can afford western levels of tuition?
.
Having posters of these “academic piracy” events in your institution is not a sign of coolness, nor internationalisation. It is purely bad management, lack of proper perception, a careless approach to market, supply and demand. It is as if Apple had an advertisement for Samsung or Microsoft talked about the benefits of Ubuntu (competitive operating system). In real/normal business this would never happen, so why in higher education?
.
Am I the only one that always binned these education fairs posters/leaflets?
.
We pride ourselves on teaching students to think, but in our own back yard, that activity is less perfect, sometimes even missing completely. Dear Rectors, start ripping those posters down and yell at your teachers who unwittingly (gullibility is not a good thing) place these “how to steal a student” adverts in your universities.

Call me Lecter, Hannibal Lecter

James Bond just kills people and beds beautiful women. Hannibal does all that and somewhere, when he has the time, he eats them, arranges them in beautiful formations or helps us admire how blood can enchantingly squirt from a severed artery across a clean white wall.

And, I do mean the TV series, now in its 3rd season, although the movies are cool too.

Long time ago, I came across Manhunter Red Dragon (not the pathetic remake “Red Dragon”), which introduced me to the word of killing people for fun, and Hannibal (at the time played by some other British actor), enjoying himself. Then Silence of the Lambs with Agent Claricccccccccccce Sssssssssssterling and the bottle of Chianti. And a few days ago, I finally found time to watch Hannibal Rising, which I loved, for the death, the illustration of pain turning into psychosis and of course Lin Gond (sexier Joan Chen) with Samurai swords. God created Ms. Gond to wield a sword and do terrible things to men. Weird timing, as just before that scary movie, I did a marathon re-run of the first 2 seasons of Hannibal, with the awesome Mads Mikkelsen (look for his other movies!).

We all KNOW who Lecter is, as Thomas Harris has created a movie super (anti)hero that anyone with a TV has been exposed to. But, the TV show takes us deeper. This is the phenomenon of last 15 years – good actors run from cinema movies and get involved in TV series. Why? Whatever a director can fit into 90 minutes for a cinema, can be deepend, enhanced, developed, accentuated, built-upon in a series of 5-6-7 seasons, each having 22 episodes, each episode lasting 46 minutes. TV series’ beat movies each time. They make us feel at home…

Hannibal kills. But he makes it look soooooo nice. Never before have you watched a movie or a TV show, seen the beginning where a single individual does his shopping, work, sports and YOU know that he is soon to meet Dr. Lecter. And, as the creators of the show intended, you KNOW what Lecter does. So, unlike CSI, when you expect murder, you watch Hannibal and enjoy the ripening of the… meat. Is the “Meat” training (for good meat taste)? Is the meat working (smart meat)? Is the meat scared (fear releases hormones that SPOIL the meat). Hannibal likes music, he loves his food, he appreciates beauty, he listens to opera, he can scare psychologists and confuse forensic detectives. In the meantime, he finds new meat (victims), plays with them, kills them, leaves some meat in the refrigerator and….
– Throws a lavish dinner for his stratospheric-society friends;
– Arranges whatever is left of the victim(s) in to aesthetically appreciable forms;

In the meantime, he is able to find other sociopaths and, have fun with them, by warning them of impending FBI investigations, FBI raids or… he simply talks to them about the aesthetical consequences of their work. Why dump a body in a river, when you can glue the body in a funny way to a ceiling?

Simultaneously, the TV series Hannibal plays with the FBI by providing them with forensic advice about (other) sociopaths, advises them on cases of incarcerated psycho inmates (including one unlucky FBI consultant) and, best of all, invites the FBI geniuses to dinners during which he serves many amazing dishes containing meat.
Hannibal scares you, makes you think of becoming HIM and also, instils the desperate, immediate need to become a vegetarian.
Unless, you appreciate the dialogue from episode 1 series 3, when Hannibal talks to a kidnapped (other) sociopath:
Other sociopath being eaten: Cannibalism was common among our ancestors. The common link between us and the apes was missing, only because we ate him.
Lecter: This isn’t cannibalism Abel. Cannibalism only happens when we are equals.
Other sociopath: This is only cannibalism if you eat… ME.

Throughout, we are shown taste, class, gene se qua, gravitas, and all the other cultural qualities that any well-bred member of the social elite can exhibit. Lecter enjoys beauty, music, opera, quality, food, tastes, smells, pheromones, emotions (of others), and the overall life experience.

The movies made Lecter cool. The TV series makes him a role model. But can our society survive such examples of sociopathic perfection?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HW9rtFYsEw

Lecter, as created by Harris, is the guy that you can identify with. Got frustration at work? spend a day imagining your bosses eviscerated on fishing rope, some metal hooks and a good S&M cage. Annoyed with your office neighbour? Take him “to lunch”, where you serve him/her with their own leg, well-baked in thyne, wine, with some basil thrown in. Never got paid by the boss of your collapsing company (while he, the Boss, continues to drive the Ferrari)? Do a garden BBQ, where the “meat” is fresh, really fresh, recently “off-the-bone” and juicy, moist, tasty, “as if it came of the cow a few minutes ago”. If only the “cow” appreciated the guest comments, while it (the “cow”) hangs in your garage, bleeding, crying, trying to call its mother…

Doctor Lecter, you received a trully USEFUL education 🙂

Regulation to combat collapse of private HE

The collapse of first UK/IRE colleges (first of many) operating validated/franchised degrees and for-profit HE (sub-degree) programmes, has raised the issue of private for-profit education and its ability to “properly educate” its clients (no, not students).

For me, the key issue in collpase of private HE, is the nature of these organisations, created as private, limited, companies, operating under commercial law, without much recourse to (sometimes non-existent) Higher Education Law. The pace of closures, one college shutting its doors over a weekend, another over a week, leaving their students dumbfounded, broke and uneducated, forced to seek alternative providers (and paying twice for the same programme), indicates that an “educational private limited company” is an oxymoron. The life cycle of a PLC and that of an HE institution are mutually exclusive. As are their finances.

If the individual nation states are unable or unwilling to create adequate protection systems for HE students, then maybe it is time for Brussels to step in and regulate this hazy, chaotic and fast-evolving industry?

It is clear that an HEI must be regulated for its specifics. Is education really a commodity or is it a public good? Should there be allowed private owners, able to withdraw profits or shut down upon financial collapse, based on a subjective, personal, emotional, selfish decision? Why cannot all HEIs have charity status (even there, profits can be appropriated and extracted, but through less easy means)? Critical decision-making ought to be moved away from single individuals and put in the hands of collectives, some kind of supervisory boards (despite the fact that they keep on failing in governing corporations) – a few dedicated people will have a different rationality to a lone owner. There should be education-related financial guarantees, focused on the ability of the school to sustain the delivery of programmes until their completion: the Irish system of financial bonding is nice, in Poland the HEI is expected to continue educating while selling-off its assets to pay for delivery, while in Greece there is a minimal fee (.5 mil EUR I think) to operate an HEI.

Part of the responsibility for assuring continuity of education should fall on the regulator, preferably in a way that allows the students to continue receiving their education at the same location and gaining the title/certificate that they chose. Unfortunately, this goes in the direction of large and competent Ministries with actual competencies in HE, able to take on the task of running a collapse HEI or providing some centralised educational location. The Irish had a decent idea – demanding that private HEIs have signed “alternative provision arrangements” (with other private HEIs) in case of collapse, but I don’t think it is enough.

A key issue is the provision of degrees – in the West many private HEIs operate programmes ending with the awarding of degrees from a different institution. In my world, they are not really HEIs, but rather “a business making available learning facilities and providing administrative support for an established academic institution to operate outside its own campus”. Currently, most universities that have externalised their programmes expect other private HEIs to pick up the abandoned students from a collapsed pHEI rather than taking them all in and completing the education process at the Alma Mater.

Private = for profit. For profit = non-academic rationality. Non-academic = not higher education.