Archive for December, 2010

“Bloody students”

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

The Young Ones

We definitely showered more than this lot

I’m in a (probably hypocritical) quandary about the whole student fees issue.

I have to be honest and admit that I’m one of the lucky gits that not only didn’t have to pay any fees as I started in 1990, but also due to the not-so-lucky fact that my parents had just divorced and my dad was skint, got a full grant (£2,500 in my first year, topped up with about £400 of student loans as I recall). This was, again luckily for me, in a time when only 10% or so of school leavers went to Uni, so we were still for some reason seen as the cream of the crop, and therefore worth investing in.

As I tirelessly said at the time (to the people in the pub who overheard me; the locals in Lancaster, for whom the students definitely seemed to represent a bunch of posh utter wankers; and extended members of my family who called me a sponger) there are many benefits of further education for both society and with the student. Higher average wages mean more tax receipts, there’s also a lower propensity to crime, more likelihood of bringing up children who also do the same (after smoking a few joints and pretending to be a bit of a rebel along the way of course), all of which helps/helped to justify the public purse funding of further education beyond the age of 18. When loans came in of course there was a lot of hoo haa about people helping to pay their own living expenses, but I don’t remember there ever being a question of the actual education being anything other than worthwhile for the greater good.

Sadly the party that is supposed to stand for access for those who can’t afford it appears to have scored an own goal, as this recipe formula only really worked at a certain level of access. Anyone who thought that Labour’s much vaunted policy of expanding further education to as many people who wanted it wasn’t going to a) cost more or b) devalue the qualifications earned was clearly mad (or needed a bit of basic statistic training – bell curve anyone?).

Add to that a recession and coming out of the oven is a generation of teens who have been taught that anyone who’s anyone gets a degree, and besides, there are no jobs for those who leave school at 18 anyway – ta da daaa – a perfectly predictable well baked funding crisis.

So someone has to pay for it, right? and surely the people who benefit should pay…. but should they *all* – and in what proportion?

I don’t claim to have a perfect answer, but I can’t see that dumping the entire, increased fees on the students themselves is “fair” (yes, you coalition lot).

Firstly, yes of course students benefit, but society does too; and the true opportunity cost of what these people will do instead needs to be borne in mind.
– Is it cheaper to have people at university, busy doing something constructive for themselves and which makes them less of a burden on society for the rest of their lives, than claiming jobseeker’s allowance and housing benefit. If there *is* a short term gain, how does this bear out against the lifetime cost – given that the majority of the fees are paid back and the future tax returns/losses.

A agree that students with money/from families with money should contribute something (not all of these families will help, it must be said – a rich dad can still be stingy), but education is truly an investment that pays back everyone who is involved, and I’m horrified that it’s being restricted to such an extent.

I desperately hope that people who are nervous of paying the fees aren’t totally put off, and choose to plough through anyway.

..and maybe those of us who’ve already benefited from the good old days should put our hands in our pockets and help them out a bit.

… a few quid for your old Uni to help fund a bursary anyone?
… a graduate tax for all graduates from the last 30 years?
… corporate sponsorships from industries that have the greatest need for educated staff?