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Apprenticeship or Degree?

I blogged some ideas about what to do instead of going to university, in case you don’t get in, some time ago. One of my suggestions was to not do a degree at all, but instead to get onto an apprenticeship scheme in an industry you would like to work in. I think it is important to note at this point that apprenticeships are not just for trade jobs like electricians or plumbers (nothing wrong with these either, they make better money than most graduates I know!), nor are they a poorer alternative to a degree and academic study. I’m bringing this up as apprenticeship schemes have been back in the news recently.

This Guardian article in particular gives a pretty convincing argument for ditching your ideas of going to university and becoming an apprentice instead:

  • No fees, you get paid!
  • No debt at the end of it.
  • Much better job prospects.
  • Setting up on your own and starting your own business is a serious possibility.

I have a few friends that didn’t go to uni, they just went straight into jobs (I don’t know anyone personally that did an apprenticeship). However, these friends that essentially opted to start their career straight away and work their way up are, without exception, doing much better than my graduate friends. They are happier in their work, more secure and make more money! Now, this could just be an incitement against me and my other lazy student and graduate friends, but to my mind there is a lot to be said for apprenticeships and simply working your way up!

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Turnitin plagiarism software can be beaten with technical tricks


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I haven’t blogged in ages, sorry. It’s been hectic with essays and the dissertation so finding the time has been hard. However, I read this interesting piece on the Turnitin plagiarism scanner used by most universities in the UK. Basically, with a few easily learnt technical tricks, you can fool the scan!

I don’t really panic about the Turnitin scan my essays get at university because I know I wrote them myself, what are the chances of someone writing in exactly the same way and about the same subject, not high I’m thinking. When I first heard about these plagiarism scans I did think it might be a good idea to scan my essays before handing them in. However, Turnitin charge and I was damned if I was paying. I ended up using a free plagiarism scanner called Viper which seemed to do a fairly good job. After a while though I stopped bothering, I figured I know it is not plagiarised and that’s good enough for me, if Turnitin decides it is, I’ll be interested to see why!

As for tricking the system, that’s all well and good, but what’s the point? Whatever you have plagiarised stands a good chance of being spotted by your lecturer anyway, they do read quite a bit around their subjects you know! If you can be bothered to trick the scan, just do the essay is my thinking.

I think a bigger problem for the universities and these scanners are the essay writers, like those at These guys will simply write your essay for you, they even say they will run it through their plagiarism scanner so you know it isn’t plagiarised! How do the scanners and universities deal with that? Not easily I’m guessing. You have to rely on the students’ good conscience. Remember, not all students are trying to cheat, some want to learn 🙂

Posted in Dissertations, Essays, Students, Tech, University | 2 Comments

Freelance writing work with Academic Knowledge

Painting The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins

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I’m taking time out from all these demonstrations. You can keep up to date on the latest demo information on the NUS 2010 demo site. You can also post your own event and demo details and view events and demos on a map, which is handy.

I am now trying to make some money 🙂 A friend of mine is writing for a company called Academic Knowledge. As far as I can make out from what he says and what they say on their site, they are a legitimate writing company. However, their primary writing jobs are essentially writing essays for students as ‘model answers’. You are essentially an essay writer for

I’ve got nothing against model answers per-say, but it does seem to skirt the edge of cheating in my opinion and frankly, it is obviously cheating if they hand your writing in as their own work. However, I am intrigued and my friend is making a couple of hundred a month, just writing a few essays. I’m thinking of applying to be a freelance writer with them and hopefully make a little extra cash 🙂

Does anyone have any experience of them? I’d love to hear if they are any good to work for!

Posted in Essays, Finances, Students, University | 2 Comments

10th November 2010 – Student demonstration and violence against tuition fees increase

The demonstration in London, on 10th November 2010, by students in England protesting against the government’s proposal to raise tuition fees to up to £9,000, ended in violence and anarchy.
student demo

Some will say, that it is about time students in this country stood up for something they believe in, that today’s self-serving and image obsessed youth lack the conviction and drive of previous generations of students. Others will say, that it’s a sad fact that this country’s students can only be mobilised to demonstrate against injustice when that injustice relates directly to them and their pockets.

Whatever your view, the demonstration was a success from the point of view that a huge number of students turned up. I think one of the greatest weapons in this kind of protest is sheer numbers. Nothing sends a clearer message to those in power, that a group of people are peeved, than a huge protest. The message has been sent, that the youth of this country are not happy!

The violent actions of the few should not detract from the overall message of this demonstration. It is just a shame that, as is always the case when the violent minority show up, the overall message, and entire point of the protest, is over-shadowed by the violence. If only the people that think violence is acceptable would realise this!

The protest was a roaring success, ignore the violent minority. It is a clear sign to the government that you cannot price people out of our education system without backlash from the people.

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University tuition fees will rise to £6,000 – with an upper tier of £9,000

A march and rally organised by the UEA student...

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Well, there is no more speculation, the tuition fees are going to rise to £6,000 per year with an upper limit of £9,000 per year. The government has pulled their funding of higher education and the universities are being given the power to take the shortfall from the students themselves.

I have probably blogged this to death; will this mean a two tier higher education system based on wealth? Will fewer students apply for university on the basis of cost? Will this mean the country’s knowledge based economy suffers? Who knows, but I think it is safe to say nothing good will come of this, except perhaps that the tax payer won’t be paying as much into higher education, but that is a double-edged sword as with all these cuts.

Higher education is going backwards. If you’d like to do something about this, the NUS and NCU demonstration on Wednesday 10th November 2010 is a great place to start!

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2011 shortage of university places compounded by rush to beat rise in tuition fees

Well, I said in my post on the serious shortage of university places in 2010, that the roll over effect into 2011 would be a serious problem. Well, with the proposal to rise tuition fees in 2012 coming into play, you now have a double rush of people applying to university now to avoid the tuition fee rise and all the students that missed out on a place at university in 2010.

I think it is fair to say, that with the funding cuts and cost cutting at the universities and colleges, plus the rise in mature students applying for places in 2011 as a result of the recession, and the double hit of all the students that missed out in 2010 and all those rushing to get in before the proposed rise in fees; that getting a place at university in 2011 is going to be the toughest yet!

If this fills you with fear, it should if you are applying in 2011, then take a look on-line at the alternatives if you don’t get in and how to improve your chances. I outlined a few ideas on what to do if you don’t get into university in a recent blog post. The studying abroad options at universities in Europe and the USA was covered in the Sunday Times on Sunday 24th Oct 2010, so that is a bit of an endorsement if this idea tickles your fancy.

Good luck everyone!

p.s. If you’d like to do something about this, the NUS and NCU demonstration on Wednesday 10th November 2010 is a great place to start!


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University tuition fees increase plan comes a step closer

Vince Cable MP addressing a Liberal Democrat c...

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We all said, will going to university in England soon be the most expensive option? Well, the answer to that question took a step closer to becoming a yes yesterday. Vince Cable, a man that said he would oppose any rise in student tuition fees, a man that is part of our ruling political party, that said it would also oppose any rise and, in fact, wanted to scrap fees altogether, has said YES to the proposed fee rises by endorsing the Browne plan.

I feel very sorry for any young people starting university around 2012 because they are predicted to have an average debt of £30,000! If they are thinking of studying medicine then you can double or triple that figure.

(Read all about the Browne review on the BBC here, there is an excellent overview)

This is what will happen if these plans go ahead:

  • Poorer students will get larger grants, but it won’t be enough. Students from poorer backgrounds struggle now, so many will simply be unable to go on to higher education.
  • Middle income families are going to have to fund their child’s education. No ifs, no buts, no maybes, they will. If the proposed maximum maintenance loan is £3,750, it is not enough. I know students paying as much as £400 a month rent over 9 studying months, that’s £3,600. I’d like to see Vince Cable feed, cloth and heat himself for a year on £150. Parents will be funding the remainder of their kid’s education, plain and simple.
  • Only the very well off will be able to go to the higher level institutions as they will charge higher fees. We all know they will, so why hide it. These institutions are already dominated by a wealthy elite, this will be the nail in the coffin.

Rant over, sorry. This makes me very angry and will push England out of the new world economy, make no mistake. I don’t think it should be free, I don’t think everyone should go to university, but £7,000 a year plus living costs is too much to expect young people in education to pay. We are suffering an economic catastrophe brought on by our debt culture and we are instilling a culture of debt in our young people as soon as they leave school. Borrow thousands of pounds, it will be fine, it won’t, take a look around.

If you’d like to do something about this, the NUS and NCU demonstration on Wednesday 10th November 2010 is a great place to start!


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Will going to university in England soon be the most expensive option?

A march and rally organised by the UEA student...

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I’ve read a number of articles recently about the potential for student tuition fees to jump up sometime very soon. Basically, university’s currently have a cap on what they can charge per year. This is currently £3,290 per year. There is speculation that this cap could change and that universities could be able to charge £7,000 to £10,000 per year, imagine that!

The Telegraph have an interesting article outlining how, if this were to happen, English higher education would be the most expensive in the world! In fact, only a rise to £5,000 or more would put us top of this infamous league.

I for one cannot see how tuition fees as high as this cannot fail to create a situation where only the wealthy can afford to go to university. Even if only a small number of universities decided to up their fees to this level, wouldn’t this create a two tier system where the elite go to these elite (expensive) universities?

Screw this! Stop the funding cuts to universities and then they won’t need to raise fees. Whatever happened to education for all, no matter what your class or wealth?

If you’d like to do something about this, the NUS and NCU demonstration on Wednesday 10th November 2010 is a great place to start!

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Student challenges his degree result in the high court

Queen's University Belfast.

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The story about Andrew Croskery, from County Down, applying for a judicial review of the grade he received from Queen’s University in Belfast has been covered quite extensively in the news recently.

Basically, this guy got a 2:2, but he is arguing that he did not receive the supervision and tutoring he needed, and this is why he got a lower result. He is arguing that his employment prospects have been seriously reduced and that the university’s refusal to here is appeal, as he had already graduated, violated his human rights.

I do sympathise with this guy, I would argue that a lot of students don’t get the supervision and one to one tutoring they need. I don’t see my tutor anywhere near as much as I need to and neither do most students I talk to. I know some masters students that have to book weeks in advance to see their tutor. If I’m honest though, you shouldn’t need the kind of school teacher supervision you got at school. The point of further education is that YOU study and learn your chosen subject. If you can’t do that without being told how and when to do it all the time, then perhaps higher education isn’t for you. On the flip side, I do think younger undergraduates coming straight from school or college to study at university could use that kind of supervision in their first year. The kind of self motivated study you need for further studies doesn’t necessarily come straight away and needs to be learnt  in itself.

Perhaps a wider issue is that universities cannot provide the supervision and tuition they would like to give due to massive underfunding, but don’t get me started on that, just demonstrate against further cuts! Alternatively, you could always buy the help you need, just buy an essay from these guys 😉

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