Lower Education

Though I’ll be writing about the Tory smash-and-grab raid on the economy more generally, I just wanted to share my reaction to this morning’s announcement of the plans for higher education deregulation (which, essentially, is what this is beginning to look like).

Fees for undergraduates will rise to between £6,000 and £9,000, with the latter chargeable not where universities demonstrate any sort of egalitarian intake, but where the y have outreach programmes for the poorest students. This fits perfectly with the Conservative view of how the elite should function, i.e. by the maintenance of the position of the super-rich augmented only occasionally by outstanding (and presumably extremely grateful) members of the extremely poor. It is positively Victorian in its embracing of a model which will exclude the vast majority of society. The ‘charity’ for those lucky few scholarship children who will be packed off to our glorious centres of knowledge will, it turns out, be diverted from the provision of free school meals. Still the nasty party. Worse still, this money will be managed by a City-led committee – call me cynical, but I rather expect to see them favouring the interests of a budding Alan Sugar over a nascent Grayson Perry. For example.

Speaking of the super-rich, they will (predictably) be the greatest beneficiaries of this change, since if they are able to pay their fees up front they will be allowed to do so, hence ensuring their qualifications cost far less (in interest) than those who have to pay back their fees later in life (and I do think this constitutes a significant change from the various recent situations). The interest rates on the loans are slated to increase by at least 3% per annum, so on a loan of at least £18,000, it’s a significant chunk of money. While this government is demonstrably out to make the lives of poor British people even more miserable, the material effect of their cavalier experiments will also cut into middle class wallets; the question remains whether this will be noticed, or rather whether the middle classes will continue to accept the fallacy that these particular sacrifices are necessary and in their interest.

Fees, though, remain a side issue, despite their emotive nature. It is the future of funding of higher education more generally which is going to decide whether our system is completely stripped of its educational nature and converted into a purely economic processing line. Stefan Collini’s excellent article points towards what will be a barren, uncultured and cruel university wasteland; it’s certainly worth a read.

Published in: on November 3, 2010 at 8:36 am  Leave a Comment  

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