Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Privileged and the Primeval

Part of the austerity measures put in place by the coalition is a substantial cut of the education budget. Higher education will feel the brunt of that cut, with much of it's funding vanishing, with the hope being that the universities and colleges step in and become self-sufficient bodies.

So student fees are set to rise to pay for it. Subsidies are evaporating - our government is investing as little as it can get away with in the further education of our 18 year old's, the post-graduate education of our graduates and research performed by our turbo-brained workaholic geeks.

Won't somebody please think of the geeks?

When I went to university I could barely afford my place, in fact I only paid it off two years after graduating. It goes without saying that I still owe £(undisclosed) in student loans - but they don't matter. Those fees I struggled so hard to pay off, working throughout my degree as an event supervisor, failing to keep up with the payments and getting away with some luck in the final year (my LEA paid up after refusing to for two years - I never queried it, thinking it must be a clerical error and just not wanting to upset the apple cart) (don't tell them) were substantial.

One time I felt like I was getting on top of them: I remember strolling into the finance department after two years of avoiding the place like the plague and paying off one and a half grand having worked 14 hour days, every day of the winter break. I was so pumped. I wanted to go in with one of those oversized cheques. It was great.

I worked evenings and weekends and tried to get my college work done, including some reading for my dissertation. It was pretty tough. And, in the end, I failed to pay for it all - my sister had to help me out with the last £500. It was just a little too much. Well, those fees are set to triple.


That would raise it to £9,000 a year in fees. There's no way an honest man can pay that amount of money and do a course and pay rent. You'd have to be earning at least £15,000 a year - after tax - so that's about an £18,000 salary - and live like a church mouse. It's just not possible for a student to do - you'd have to have a full-time job, thus you would not be able to make it to lectures.

So the result would be that universities would once again be exclusively populated by the well-off and the mollycoddled, with the occasional, intensely driven, insomniac workaholic bucking the trend.

Tomorrow I'm going to discuss the student fee protester's anger. Today I wanted to lay out their argument: tripling student fees will decimate the education of a generation. Working your way through college will not be possible any more. Good, honest students will disappear, to be replaced by the privileged and the complacent.

Let's face it: there's nothing a mob hates more than well-healed young people getting something denied to the poor. It resonates on a primeval level that Emilia, Bertie and the Stillingfleet-Billingshurst twins don't get that £9,000 is a lot of money to commoners. That particular frequency of resonance has a way of smashing windows.

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