Andrew Adonis: a one-man tuition fee Twitter storm

Andrew AdonisWhat has got into Andrew Adonis? The former Tony Blair guru, now a Labour peer, has spent much of his summer having a go at higher education, and particularly vice-chancellors, attacking them on Twitter, and anywhere else he can, for their “greed”, for running a “fee cartel” and for leaving students with a “Frankenstein’s monster debt”. He’s asked the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate why fees are so high and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) to look into governance at the University of Bath, where the vice-chancellor earns more than £450,000 a year. In any spare moment he tweets the number of university staff at individual universities on annual salaries of more than £100,000, or the six-figure earnings of managers of the Universities Superannuation Scheme, recently revealed to have run up a deficit of £17.5bn.

Asked why the sudden campaign, Lord Adonis, tripping over one of the many papers on his office floor, spills reasons almost faster than even he can articulate.

“I’ve gone in pretty strong because it’s got to be clear that the current system isn’t sustainable,” he says. “And one of two things will happen – either the vice-chancellors will lead reform themselves, or it will be done to them.” Failure to act, he suggests, will bring “massive austerity, and they will have nobody to blame but themselves”.

On one day in July he did a string of 27 tweets listing high university salaries. He joked: “There’s a universities lobbying group called MILLION PLUS which all the vice-chancellors are joining because it’s their new salary target!”

It was when fees went up to £9,250 linked to RPI with 6.1% interest that he felt impelled to speak up. “I just thought this has got totally out of hand.” He argues there is “a massive, massive category difference” between fees of £3,000 a year repaid with no real rate of interest – the scheme he helped devise in 2004 – and the current system. Particularly worrying, he says, is that the high interest rate means those who earn enough to pay all their fees back, but not enough to pay them off early – such as teachers and doctors – will end up paying far more than those on huge salaries, such as bankers, able to dispense with the debt in a few years.

Internationally, the trend is for fees to go because they have become electorally impossible, he says. Fees have been abolished in Germany – “I’ve always taken the view that if Germany is doing something you should take really serious notice” – and in New York state.

He has philosophical reasons too. The idea of the fee system he helped introduce was that it was supposed to recognise the fact that both the state and the individual benefited from higher education so both should contribute. “What happened in 2010, which I think was one of the aspects of excessive austerity, was that we moved overnight to a system where the state withdrew and the individual was expected to make the entire contribution. That became, in my view, fundamentally unfair.”

But what has really set him going over the past few weeks is looking into what universities have been doing with the fee money. “I think it is a genuine scandal what has happened not just to vice-chancellors’ pay but to top pay, and that would not have happened but for the fees bonanza,” he says.

It could also be significant that Adonis’s two children are about to start university – one next term, the other is in the process of applying. He doesn’t want to go into this beyond the fact that he’s been attending a lot of open days, which, he says, “have helped me see things – positive and negative”.

Responses to his campaign have ranged from the supportive to the furious. But it already seems to be having some effect. While the CMA declined to intervene in setting fees, the universities minister, Jo Johnson, has told vice-chancellors they must justifyhigh salaries by exceptional performance.

And Hefce, the universities’ funding council, has announced it will be investigating governance at the University of Bath in light of Adonis’s concerns. Adonis, a former journalist for the Financial Times and then the Observer, is thrilled at this, which he sees as a big story: “It’s the first time I’m aware of that Hefce has investigated the governance of a university in respect of salaries.” Actually, he seems thrilled with his campaign altogether – “the Sun did an entire two pages on it …” – and vows to continue speaking (and tweeting) truth to power.

It’s not that he’s short of other things to do. As well as his role in the Lords, he spends three days a week as chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, for which he earns – “complete transparency” – £85,000, the pro rata rate (£142,000) of a permanent secretary, the same as his preferred salary for a vice-chancellor.

Nor does he believe higher education the most pressing problem facing the UK. This clearly is Brexit: he is due to deliver a book on how to stop Brexit next month. He was asked to do one on the future of higher education but is not sure that he will have the time. But he does seem to be relishing his chance to upset the education establishment.

Adonis, who was a councillor for the SDP and then the Liberal Democrats before joining Labour, was promoted to the peerage by Blair in 2005 and became an education minister after heading the No 10 policy unit. He describes Blair as “an extraordinarily natural politician” – they are still in regular contact. By contrast, he has not spoken to Jeremy Corbyn for 10 years. But he supports the Labourleader in speaking up for students, admires the way he has cut through with the public and can certainly see no prospect of another political party being launched in the UK. “The SDP was a failure. And the lesson I take from the failure was that you need to work from within the existing party system if you want to change the country, not engage in political fantasies of new parties.”

Infrastructure and education are his two big interests, he says, because both can transform society, and on education, he has strong personal reasons for this claim. Abandoned aged three by his mother, he spent much of his early life in a children’s home because his father, a waiter then postman, struggled to work and bring up Adonis and his sister. Thanks to Auntie Gladys, the inspirational head of the home in Camden, north London, he secured a state scholarship to a boarding school, Kingham Hill in Oxfordshire.

He was only the second pupil from there since the war to make it to Oxbridge. “It was a massive culture shock,” he says. “But I loved it. And it’s been the making of me.” He was in Oxford for “the 10 best years of my life”, first as a student at Keble College, then as a postgraduate at Nuffield, and taught for three years at Jesus. If there is one job he covets it is that of chancellor of Oxford, following in the footsteps of his hero, Roy Jenkins. For him, Oxford remains the best university in the world but “I think we have lots of very good universities. I think universities are one of the great civilising forces of life.”

He is clear about what he would like to see happen from next year. He wants top institutions to take the lead and unilaterally cut fee levels. He also wants any vice-chancellor paid more than £200,000 to cut their own pay – those paid over £300,000 should halve it. This, he claims, would not only help cut fees but give managers a better relationship with their university staff, whose basic pay rise last year was 1.1%.

He wants his own party to lead the debate and Johnson to promote cross-party agreement on a lower fees regime and reintroducing the state teaching grant. The 6.1% interest rate on student loans, he predicts, will go, and this will inevitably mean restoring the cap on student numbers, lifted two years ago by the then chancellor, George Osborne. Fears that this could reduce the number of disadvantaged students making it to university, he says, could be eased if higher level apprenticeships take off. He also believes universities should open all year to offer intensive two-year degrees.

Isn’t this an idea long supported by the Conservative government? Yes, he agrees, but, just as with government calls for restraint on vice-chancellors’ pay, nothing’s happened.

“When I was a minister I only went on about things I was going to make happen,” he says. “I very rarely talked about things I wasn’t.”

  • This article was amended on 8 August to correct the year when the decision was taken to raise tuition fees to up to £9,000 and to clarify that academics were given a basic pay rise of 1.1% last year, not a pay cap at that rate.


Student body demands refund of Gauhati University’s entrance exam fee

This year’s entrance examinations for various postgraduate courses in Gauhati University, to be held from July 20, were postponed.

Guwahati: A students’ body on Saturday asked the Gauhati University (GU) authorities to refund fees and other expenses of candidates who were to give the entrance examinations which were postponed indefinitely after a meeting of the institute’s admission committee on July 17.

This year’s exams for various postgraduate courses in GU were to be held from July 20. These were put on hold after the Gauhati High Court on July 15 stayed the test on the basis of a petition by some graduates.

The court, however, allowed the university to go ahead with admissions through the existing mode on merit basis.

The admissions were scheduled for July 28 and 29, and classes were to have begun from August 1.

“Some 50% of more than 20,000 students from across Assam had applied for the PG courses. The university has had a history of botching up admission tests and should have taken adequate measures when the court gave a ruling on a complaint by only four students,” Kashyap Choudhury, president of the Assam state committee of Students’ Federation of India (SFI), said.

The SFI asked the university to refund the candidates and compensate them for their disappointment as they could not study in the university of their choice.

GU officials declined to comment as the “court was involved,”but said counselling for admission to BTech courses had begun. These courses include biotechnology, computer science and engineering, electronics and communication and engineering and information technology.

On the entrance tests being put on hold, a lawyer of the petitioner explained: “GU had decided to hold the entrance test via a recent notice without amending its previous ordinance in which it had said that admission to PG courses would be done on the basis of merit of the candidates in their respective graduation results. The entire process was violating the existing ordinance.”




Paytm to Charge 2 Percent Fee on Adding Money to Wallet Using Credit Cards

Paytm to Charge 2 Percent Fee on Adding Money to Wallet Using Credit Cards


  • Paytm found that some credit card users were abusing that 0-fee transfers
  • To combat this, Paytm is charging all CC deposits a 2% transfer fee
  • It is refunding this money in the form of a coupon you can use on Paytm

On Wednesday, wallet company Paytm announced that it will be charging a 2 percent deposit fee from credit card users going forward. According to Paytm, this was being done to combat misuse of its zero-fee transfers, explaining that savvy users were rotating their cash through the wallet to earn essentially “free” money in the form of reward points. Paytm said that to ensure that genuine users don’t lose money, it will return the 2 percent charge in the form of coupons that can be used on Paytm.

Later, its founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma clarified that the coupons can also be used on third-party sites to pay Swiggy or Uber, although this mechanism has not been activated yet.

As noted in the post announcing this decision, since November, Paytm has been allowing users to take cash out of the wallet to their bank accounts at no charge. Typically, cashing out has attracted a fee from wallets. At the same time, Paytm and other wallets haven’t charged fees for depositing cash into their systems. This meant that credit card users could fill up their Paytm wallets using the card, then transfer that money back to their bank accounts, at no charge. “They were not only getting free loyalty points which effectively is free cash but also getting access to free credit,” Paytm noted.

This would be subsidised by Paytm’s own costs, as the company pointed out.

Incidentally, Paytm pays fee to card networks or banks whenever you use any payment instrument like any other online commerce company. Paytm pays a hefty charges when you use your credit card to card networks and issuing banks. If user simply adds money and takes to bank, we lose money. Our revenue model requires users to spend money within our network and we make money from the margins available to us on various products/services we offer.

For this reason, Paytm is now charging a 2 percent deposit fee from credit card users, and refunding them the same in the form of a coupon that can be used on the Paytm app. As we mentioned, on Twitter, Sharma has clarified that the coupons can work on third-party sites as well, and added that you will be able to use these with apps such as Swiggy, Uber, although the FAQ on the page currently still states that it can only be used on the Paytm app.

There are a couple of other caveats listed on the FAQ page. For one, these refund coupons will only be given when the amount you’re filling up is more than Rs. 250. If your transaction is lower than that, you will not get a coupon. Also, you will get a fresh coupon every time you top-up Paytm using a credit card, these coupons can not be clubbed, and have to be applied manually and individually. Also, these coupons can only be used in a single transaction. Also, the coupon isn’t applied as a discount on the transaction – it gives you an instant cashback to your Paytm wallet.

The coupons can also be used for bill payments, recharges, and so on, these are not limited to shopping on Paytm Mall. The vouchers will expire on December 31, 2017, but the FAQ mentions that this can be extended on request.

These charges are only being applied on credit card users, so if you’re using a debit card, net banking, or UPI/ IMPS payments, then you are not affected by this move.

Disclosure: Paytm’s parent company One97 is an investor in Gadgets 360.

Tags: Paytm, paytm wallet, cashbacks, Transaction fees, Credit cards, Loyalty points

Delhi Congress To Get 1 Million Signatures against Petrol fee Hike

Delhi Congress To Get 1 Million Signatures Against Petrol Price Hike

Petrol rate has visible a steep hike of Rs. four.47 a litre and diesel by means of Rs. 6.forty six a litre in thefinal five weeks.
NEW DELHI: Congress’ Delhi unit has said that it’ll release a marketing campaign to collect 1,000,000signatures in opposition to the latest hike in petrol and diesel expenses.

Attacking the Modi government over the boom in petrol and diesel expenses, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president Ajay Maken said, “The Modi authorities has inflicted every other blow on the humansof the united states of america in this soaring heat with a steep hike in charges of petrol and diesel.” Headded that the marketing campaign might be performed between June 6 to June 8.

Petrol and diesel charges have visible a steep hike of Rs. four.47 a litre and Rs. 6.46 a litre respectivelywithin the ultimate 5 weeks, taking retail costs to their maximum in twelve months. The modern-dayboom came on may also 31 whilst oil corporations hiked petrol rate by Rs. 2.58 consistent with litre and diesel through Rs. 2.26 a litre.

Mr Maken additionally attacked Delhi chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for growing VAT and excise duty on petroleum products twice within the past 15 months. Terming the hike as “Modi + Kejriwal Tax”, he said thecommon humans had been being deceived by way of the country and relevant governments by usingthis “unjustified” boom.

“Modi and Kejriwal need to without delay withdraw the excise duty and VAT on petrol and diesel so that thecosts of petrol and diesel may match down providing respite to people,” he stated.

about Mr Kejriwal, Mr Maken stated, “He used to make tall talks like there has been no need to hike taxes in Delhi, but in his 15-month rule, Kejriwal hiked VAT on petrol and diesel twice to place a heavy burden at thehumans.”

He stated the signatures of human beings opposing the hike will be submitted to PM Modi or Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Mr Kejriwal.