Thursday, 9 December 2010

For the benefit of my Parliamentary followers

I seem to have acquired at least one regular reader in the Houses of Parliament. It may be Paul Uppal.

Just in case, I thought I should record in crystal-clear detail, why I oppose this huge rise in tuition fees and the other acts of educational vandalism currently being committed by the coalition.

In no particular order:
1. The abolition of the teaching grant will not be covered by the fees increase. Essentially, the government will be lending students a lot of money for a far worse educational system. We're already understaffed and under-resourced. Expect older, fewer books, bigger classes, fewer modules, cheaper staff, more pedagogically-unsound electronic delivery.

2. The division between STEM and other subjects divides courses between 'useful' and 'useless'. This is of course nonsense, and will only apply to the poor. Arts and social sciences are economically and socially useful, and no government has ever predicted the future: we just don't know what skills will be required in 10, 20, 30 years' time.

3. The rich will be exempt from the 'market': mummy and daddy will always find the means to fund an art history or literature course. Only the poor will be driven into vocational degrees. Culture will become once more the preserve of the élite few.

4. Élite universities are essentially closed to the poor and black. The abolition of the EMA and Aim Higher will reinforce the racial division of our universities. Did you know that Oxford's 'Outreach' program visited Eton 9 times last year? Those poor, deprived people. Meanwhile, places like mine will have to provide for excluded sections of the community on less and less money.

5. The Browne report sees education as a private good: something to invest in to make a profit in later life. I don't see education as a commodity, but as a public good. If I invest in your education through my taxes, you're less likely to need benefits, commit crime, become and alcoholic or drug addict. You might write books I love, cure diseases I contract, teach my kids, invent great machines or write sublime music. You might solve poverty or bring peace between warring nations.

6. Given that you'll be in debt for £50,000+ by the end of your first degree, why should you take a Masters' or PhD? It's just more years of debt, more years before you can think about raising a family or living in more than one room. Where are the new generation of intellectuals going to come from?

7. Or if you don't fancy postgraduate work, what will you do? All the socially useful jobs pay not very much: teaching, social work, charitable activity, civil service: you'll just about earn enough to start paying your loans off but not enough to have much of a life otherwise. Instead, you'll be tempted by banking, finance, law, speculation, property speculation and development… all the socially damaging activities which promote selfishness.

8. The Browne report made much of the need for a 'market' in education, in which 'student choice' dictates what courses run. This is of course, nonsense in two senses. Firstly, it implies that the 'rational consumer' actually exists when in fact nobody can ever have the totality of information required to predict what course will benefit her and society in the future, nor whether she's suited to the course nor - very importantly - whether she'll enjoy it. Secondly, Browne doesn't really believe it. If he did, he'd withdraw funding for science and related courses too. The rational student (this imaginary perfect 18-year old) would opt for science, maths or whatever, and bring her £9000 along. Browne knows this won't happen, and has decided to bribe students with government money for pet courses.

9. Why should the poor be forced into courses designed to get them drone jobs in our low-wage, low-skills economy? Especially when their posh colleagues will still be able to pick and choose. If I'd been told at 18 that I had to do a course which would get me a job, I'd have been paralysed. All I wanted to do - all I'm capable of doing - is read about books then talk about books. I knew nothing of the employment market, and wanted to know less. We live in a high-stress, oppressive capitalist economy which makes money by shifting the misery lower down. Can't we afford, in the 5th biggest economy in the world, to let students have three short years in which to indulge their intellects, widen their horizons, and learn for the sake of learning?

10. Ireland is utterly bankrupt. Wages are being reduced, benefits cut, taxes increased. And yet they aren't bringing back fees (abolished many years ago). If they think education should be open to all in this way, why doesn't our government?

Is that enough? I'll think of more things later, but this should do for now.


Benjamin. said...

This should be printed and used as NUS propaganda, excellent brief points on the destruction the fees increase will cause.

From a personal point of view, it will affect my chances of teaching deaf children if fewer schools can afford me, but worst is the already suffering bilingualism and deaf schools closing mean the kids some would envisage becoming the next generation of University applicants will be pushed to afford it.

Is my British Sign Language Level 3 sign class tonight worth it if I cannot find an avenue to pursue my aim of educating? This will be the fallout of the whole mess, people questioning themselves when they had no reason to.

Adam said...

Hear hear, Vole; like you I've always been opposed to Tuition Fees, but the time to protest was when Labour introduced them in the first place. Not a peep from the NUS back then, or is my memory faulty? Weren't they all too busy toadying up to Tony?

The Plashing Vole said...

Adam, you're right. I protested then. New Labour are Tory-lite: they accepted and even embraced the logic of the market and deserve condemnation for it.