Will they do the right thing and rethink University Fees?
Today is decision day for MPs. The proposals to allow all universities to set their own fees (up to £9,000) and deny thousands the chance of a university education are set to be voted on.
I don’t think university education should be universally free and it currenty isn’t. New Labour had to bring in fees because they set themselves a target to encourage 50% of school leavers to go to university. Now the country is paying for its success. This country has no economic need for graduates in those numbers, recession or no recession. So, we need to find a balance between opportunity and expectation. Graduates currently leave university thinking someone, somewhere owes them a job. Who says a graduate is more prepared for prosperous work than a competitor who has had a 3 year head start in the workplace? There are, however, certain graduates that ensure more success than others.
There are qualifications this country does not have enough of. IT engineers, language teachers, nurses, dentists…the list of professionals lacking in this country is quite large. Why not subsidise the education of students in these subjects to counter this imbalance instead? Use fees to discourage people from studying the media (which will never, ever get you a job in the media) and encourage them to study sciences instead? These graduates would be most guaranteedto have a job after graduation, earn lots of money and pay lots of tax. Not to mention all the flat screen TVs and cars they will buy to jumpstart the economy.
This policy is a really good example of the Coalition throwing out the baby with the bathwater. They have decided university education is expensive, so people will have to pay for it. If they can’t afford it, they can’t go. This is grossly unfair.
University education is only expensive when graduates don’t have jobs to go to when they graduate. We ushered our youth into university out of snobbishness and middle-class aspirations and didn’t realise that it’s not the manner in which you are educated, it’s the subject you are educated in that important. So now we have hundreds of thousands of graduates, given the oppotunity of higher education with an expectation of success which we cannot meet, because they graduated in Cultural Studies.
When I went to university at the turn of the millenium, I studied a course where I was required to attend 2 lectures a week, 2 seminars a month, and sit an exam at the end of every year. Where is the assurance that higher education standards will improve when the fees start to be paid? For £9,000, I’d expect Jay-Z to deliver my module on the Gold Standard. Where are the checks in the policy to ensure students, who fees will effectively turn into customers, will get value for money?
The policy is rushed and lacking in nuance. Why not means test fees for the next 5 years so a generation of parents have the opportunity to save and prepare for the possibility their children will want to go to university? Why not set criteria that means universities like Oxbridge, LSE, Warick etc don’t set a £9,000 blanket fee structure across the board? Why not raise the salary at which loans have to be paid back even higher, because the more money a graduate spends, the better off the economy. Why not encourage more students to study at home, study part-time or to study later in life – something I am an advocate of as I am doing this myself. There are many ways to make Higher Education less of a ‘burden’ whilst still accesible.
In slashing higher education budgets by 80%, Gove and Osbourne have proved what Mervin King knew all along. They are inexperienced, hack-handed and don’t know what they’re doing.
I hope MPs don’t see a vote against this policy as a vote agains university fees in general. We have to face facts. University will never be universally free again. But a vote against this policy is a vote for common sense. We do not need to make university education accessible only for the advantaged, we need to make it advantageous.