Saturday, December 11, 2010


I've been thinking about the disturbances of the last few days, well those that have been close to home at least. At the forefront has been a new wave of student demonstrations on the streets of London. Student Fees are the issue at hand. For those of you 'over the pond' this may seem to be rather a strange thing to protest about. In Britain it's a slightly more complex issue. You see one of the fundamental aspirations for the last century or so has been to provide the opportunity for all levels of education free of charge to all who qualify academically. Financial means, in theory, was to have no place in either gaining or maintaining your place at University. Because of this Britain gained it's first fee paying 'private' university in relatively recent times.

Well now the bubble has burst but I'm not convinced by the outrage on the streets. It just seems a bit stage managed and, being suspicious,  I wonder what the government is trying to hide by playing up the issue of the violence rather than addressing the very rickety path they are walking in getting the fees legislation through. Now personally I can live without a 'University for All' policy. In the rush to try and get the enrollment statistics up over the years, and thus being able to crow about a more educated equal opportunity society, the 'powers that be' have ruined many fine further training institutions by forcing them to adopt the ways and means of research institutions. A friend once quipped, spying a new child's sand pit, that if we were not careful during our 'health and safety' check, the government would reclassify it as the Silicon Research Faculty of the University of Wherever.

Is there, however, a real social justice issue here? I have no doubt it will weasel it's way into the intercessions of many parishes this weekend. Is the real question being overshadowed by a bunch of retro set young brigands who are desperately to do one better on their grandparents of 1968? Is the question of appropriate education for all really being sacrificed for the sake of some feel good statistics?


  1. My view as a graduate is that a University education should be free for all. However some courses studies and sports science benifit neither society or the student and are a Total waste of time.

    Also the previous government was obsessed with the idea that nurses should have degrees, my mother entered nursing school straight after her A-levels and was a very good nurse until she left the profession.

  2. If higher education is a social good then it follows that it should be publicly funded. I benefitted from five years in higher education in which all tuition costs were paid and I also received a means-tested maintenance grant. The present system seems designed to habituate graduates to debt and thus initiate them into the "credit card culture". Ironic, really, given that the present financial chaos was created by encouraging people to borrow beyond their means to repay.

  3. There is a major social justice issue here but also a legal issue.
    My view is that many students are motivated by the double standards of Liberal Democrat politicians who were elected as members of parliament on a manifesto that explicitly said there would be no increase in university tuition fees. I see this as a major legal issue for the UK having MPs elected to the House but not voting in accordance with the manifesto they were elected on.
    The likes of Clegg try to push back and tell us that it is our own fault for not electing a majority government. I think most people do not buy into this.

  4. I just love the look on Camilla's face and the one who put it there !

  5. Certainly, education available to all is a worthy goal – and our situation here in the US is very different – but I question whether ‘a university education for all’ is desirable or something that governments should seek to guarantee. Not everyone is capable of benefiting from ‘higher’ education nor is it a necessity for everyone - despite what some academics and politicians would have us believe.

    Insisting that ‘everyone’ should have a degree seems to be a social construct at odds with the experience of everyday life. Given the reality of secondary school education here in the US, many students are ill-prepared for the rigors of university learning and much time has to be spent to ‘bring them up to speed’ - if that is even possible in some cases. Here it tends to be an ‘equality’ and ‘diversity’ issue many times, with universities lowering standards or manipulating entrance requirements to ensure the politically correct ‘mix’ of students.

    This tends to lower the value of degrees, the obtaining of ‘degrees’ in useless subjects and the forcing of some young people into a system from which they will draw little benefit. Better to let them pursue careers for which they have an aptitude - and for which there is a need - but where degrees are not a prerequisite. Many people have achieved great success without ever having set foot in university.

  6. Yes, it is a social justice issue and third level education should be free for all. In a globalised economy, a country needs a knowledgable and well-trained workforce to compete internationally. Having free education probably ends up saving the taxpayer anyway as the graduates will have higher salaries (thus spending more and making tax higher contributions) and attract inward investment into the country


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