Ning announces new prices … initial comments

Yesterday I received an email from Ning’s CEO Jason Rosenthal announcing the “exciting new developments in Ning” (which include the phasing out of free Ning) which will be rolled out in July. The mid-range price plan Ning-plus at $19.95 per month works out cheaper than the current offerings. The equivalent of the current Free Ning (Ning mini) will now cost $2.95 per month, is limited to 150 members and no groups, but will allow you to have no or your own advertising. There will be a free-to-educators-Ning but that is limited to K-12 (primary and secondary school) usage and will be supported by sponsorship from an unnamed educational software supplier.

Some migration tools are promised for those network creators who, like me I guess, will not or cannot pay to continue to run a network once the 30 days from July deadline arrives. For initial comments, Steve Hargadon of Classroom 2.0 has a well reasoned response to the announcement from the educational network user’s perspective and ReadWriteWeb (thanks Helen!) has also posted a comment on the free-for-education proposal. I am sure there are more reactions; I haven’t had much time this week to dip into the news stream, but do keep me posted via the comments!

Election promises…?

Tomorrow’s finally election election day (an event that seems to have been coming since May 2009) and we know that whoever gets into power will have some very difficult decisions to make. None of the three parties have really told us were the money’s going to come from or the cuts are going to be made, but here are my predictions:

  1. There will be a hung parliament … I’m hoping that it will be lib-lab ruling coalition, but fear a lib-con one.
  2. VAT will definitely be raised. There’s no way to avoid it because the deficit cannot be removed without raising some income. In Germany, VAT is 22% I believe.
  3. Expect University tuition fees to rise. The long awaited Browne report will be published after the election because I’m sure that no party really wanted tuition fees to be on the agenda. Probably won’t be a US style free market, but expect the sight of 100 vice chancellors wriggling to price their institutions’ offerings in the “Ivy league” even if they haven’t the research base or teaching excellence to warrant it.
  4. While more expensive courses for home students puts pressure on home student recruitment, and possibly tempers demand from the working and lower middle classes, expect even more draconian visa conditions being front-loaded on oversees students by the border agency in the name of immigration control.
  5. Given the triple whammy of lower demand from both home and oversees students, and the £1 billion reduction in central funding, there will have to be some serious reduction in staffing at Universities. Despite the rhetoric about protecting front-line services (not promised for HE please note) the axe will inevitably fall on teaching staff putting more pressure on staff-student ratios and seriously impacting the so-called “student experience”.
  6. We might get some form of proportional representation, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

One thing is sure, pain is coming and this Cassandra fears what’s hiding behind the meager gifts being offered by Brown, Clegg and Cameron.

There’s more Cassandra from Jonathan Friedland in today’s Guardian Comment.