Listening to the radio this morning I could not help but notice the reports of rioting in England over the government’s decision to significantly increase the fees that students will have to pay for tertiary education courses. This raises a number of significant questions to me, not the least of which is just how many people in our society actually need a university education and just how much of that education should the government subsidise and how much of it should be reimbursed by the student themselves when they are in a well paying job after graduating.
The Deputy PM was forced to admit it was ‘an extraordinarily difficult issue’ and hinted for the first time that Tory pressure might have also played a part in the shift.
‘I have been entirely open about the fact that we have not been able to deliver the policy that we held in Opposition,’ he said.
‘Because of the financial situation, because of the compromises of the coalition government we have had to put forward a different policy.’
He insisted that the Lib Dems had stuck to their ‘wider ambition’ of making sure going to university was handled in a ‘progressive’ way and did not deter poorer students.
Miss Harman was scathing about his claim that public finances were to blame, pointing out that the changes only start in 2012/13 whereas the deficit should be addressed by 2014.
‘This is about him going along with a Tory plan to shove the cost of He onto students and their families,’ she said.
‘We all know what it’s like, you’re at Freshers Week, you meet up with a dodgy bloke and do things you regret. Isn’t it true he’s been led astray by the Tories?’
Mr Clegg reminded that Labour had also attacked tuition fees but introduced them when they came to power and how the previous government had initiated the Browne Review.
‘I know she thinks she can re-position the Labour Party as the champion of students but let’s remember the Labour Party’s record,’ he said.
Miss Harman accused the coalition of hiking up fees while they are ‘pulling the plug on funding and dumping the cost on students’.
The idea that everyone should go to university is much beloved by the minions of the left but when this idea is writ large all they succeed in doing is to devalue the degrees that they create and to generate a huge industry that does nothing much for society in general.
I was very taken by this piece from Helen Dale (Scepticlawyer) when she said this:
1. There are too many universities, and too many people going to university. Many universities are very mediocre, and many of the students who attend them are very mediocre. We seem to have forgotten how to tell people ‘no, you aren’t very clever, you shouldn’t go to university. You are, however, good with your hands. You should get an apprenticeship instead.’ There is, as Stanley Fish points out, nothing wrong with a trade school. Upgrading what were essentially trade schools and turning them into universities was always going to be a bad idea, and now we can’t afford them to boot. And let’s not forget that plumbers make a very good living.
To my mind the issue, even for the poor, should not be that students will eventually have to pay for their own education but that there should be a way that talented students of limited means can gain access to learning that they would other wise be unable to afford.
As for those who are out there destroying other people’s property there is a very simple solution and that is to prosecute them, ensure that they feel the full weight of the law, and expel them from whatever institution they are enrolled at on the basis that they bring those institutions into disrepute.