Jacob Kelly
I am a second year student of Economics and I am extremely lazy. I don’t think that laziness is per se a bad treat; after all, it has undoubtedly contributed to the greatest innovations in human history. (I privately hope my laziness will do as well)

However, my teachers and professors complain. They say I refuse to do anything extra to what is required in my course. I sleep in lectures and I'm passive in classes (if I bother to turn up). I only do the absolute minimum of work necessary to get a degree. Honestly, I think I'm a nice guy; and I think most of other students are nice people. We’re not a horrible lazy generation of parasites who will live off the welfare state, yet we make very little (close to zero) effort at university. What’s wrong with us?

Let us introduce a bit of Economics here, namely the concepts of opportunity cost, incentives and optimisation. The two main functions of university are education and qualification. Why do students come to university? If you ask most of them, it’s not primarily because they’re interested in the subject area, but because they want to get a good job and live a happy life. Nowadays, putting aside possible consultations with experts, with the use of internet and a public library you can teach yourself virtually anything and for free. As a consequence, the educational purpose of university is seriously weakened to the point of clinical death.  In contrast, unless you’re an entrepreneur, getting a degree is a necessity for a good job.  For a degree you need to sit at university for at least three years until you’re awarded a degree. What incentives do students have based on this?

This is a typical optimisation problem. I'm minimising costs, maximising utility, subject to the constraint that I must pass my exams to get a degree (which is imposed on the assumption that it will increase lifetime utility). I have little opinion of the value of education my university provides; furthermore, there is no benefit I can derive from studying hard, it only takes time that I could spend on things that I value more (opportunity cost). Therefore university work decreases utility and increases cost, thus I wish to minimise the amount of workload. My only incentive is to get a degree (whatever grade I chose to). As a result, I will do the minimum amount of work required to get the grade I want and will do nothing more than that. Any other behaviour would be irrational given the assumptions.

In conclusion, it is irrational for students not to be lazy. Students have every incentive to come to university and then do as little work as possible to get a degree. That is precisely what they’re doing.
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30 Jan, 2013148 Views
Jacob Kelly
Vote by John Banker.
  1. In free education, the market defines what is useful for you to study. Then you make a free choice to study it (or not) because it is the best way to get a good job (providing you want one). At university, you are forced to learn something that professors think you should learn. You don’t see the relation between the curriculum and you future career (if there happens to be any). You made a free choice to go to university, but you have little free choice over what you study – you only choose a broad area. You have little incentive to do more than what’s required to get a good grade in your degree.
  2. In free education, you are more likely to study broadly than focusing on one particular area, as paradoxical as it may sound. No-one knows what the market will look like in 5-years’ time, not even next year. Employers will demand people with a combination of general skills and knowledge, which will create a demand for such exams and courses
  3. In free education, you can’t make a mistake in choosing your degree. Many people have no idea what they want to study, thus there will be a demand for an open general course (or just access to online videos in all areas of human interest), where you’ll spend say half a year just browsing around all possible subjects, until you find the one that suits you best. No stress, no worries, no complicated transfers to different schemes, no wasted time and money.
  4. Unlike university, free education enables you to pursue your passion. You can take as long as you like (providing you pay for it) in the trial period to find what fulfils you, to find your bliss. If that’s something that’s also useful market-wise, then you’ve won the lottery. If it’s not, you can always do both what you like and what is useful.
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29 Jan, 201355 Views
Jacob Kelly
My task here is to outline what university education might look like if there was absolutely no government regulation in that area. Your task is to either accept it as desirable or reject it as naïve and harmful. Deal?

OK, let’s have a look at free university education. Actually, the term university is quite misleading because if education is free, why have a university?  There are two principal functions of university - education and qualification. You need to get information from somewhere that will serve you in your career and your employer needs to see that you have passed a certain set of exams which verified your knowledge of this information.

Now imagine that we split these two functions. Imagine that you want to become a financial analyst (my favourite example). You wish to get a job with ‘Future Bank’. Future Bank specifies the necessary qualifications and skills you need to acquire to be considered for this position, such as Macroeconomics, Finance, Mathematics, Computer skills, etc.. You go to ‘Qualifyme’ that issues certificates in these areas upon successful passing of an exam. You learn about the knowledge required for the exam and face two choices – attend a course at ‘ExamSuccess+’ that will prepare you for this exam, or simply teach yourself. Let’s say that you teach yourself in 6-months’ time, pass the exams, and voilà  you’re qualified to get a job! You have saved yourself 3 years of your precious life, sounds good?

Alternatively, you could temporarily move into a housing area where people of similar interests concentrate together with research specialists whose interest is in drawing on potential clever assistants and also earning a few extra bucks by tutoring. You could come and leave at any time, there would be no binding contract between you and the housing area. You would only pay tuition fees to lecturers that you liked and you wouldn't bother with something you didn't want to do. There would be no compulsory coursework, no exams, no stress.

Intrigued, eh? Good. But you’re having second thoughts, aren't you. In such a free system where I don’t have to do anything I will just do nothing.  This will be the subject of the next post. Meanwhile, think about what you’re doing under the current system (if you're a student).
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29 Jan, 2013142 Views

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I'm a second-year university student interested in a wide variety of subjects and topics, especially social science.