A little while ago a close relative of mine died. He was (ironically for someone who despised cricket) described as having had a good innings. Unfortunately for him his longevity became something of a nightmare. You see, the older you get, the less money the country has for you. In a society rightly proud of the achievements of the young, the old are left to fend for themselves. Fine, I hear you cry, I'm making £200 pension contributions every month. What are they complaining about?
Well, what probably occurs to these old folk is that the taxes they paid twenty years ago for their retirement are now funding a university education for everyone. They are buiding shiny new aircraft carriers so that we can rid the world of unpleasant regimes. They are bailing out private enterprises whilst the accountants head (unpunished) for the Cotswolds in their Boxsters.
There is enough money to go around but we can only afford to spend wisely. Special interest groups in business or the military or Brussels or New York cannot tell us how to run our country. In the coming weeks The Daily Mail and a collection of Vice Admirals will scream that cutbacks mean the Royal Navy is now smaller than that of France. It will be as if we have reached the final scene of Act V of "End of the World - the Musical". Luckily there is little chance of President Chirac sending an invasion fleet. The UK is more likely to wage war on Moomin Valley than France.
The state pension, on which many eighty year olds rely, now amounts to some ridiculous figure, probably less than your student living costs. There are many schools which have fungi growing on the walls. People die because there is not enough money for the NHS.
We have, therefore, established that waste is not an option, so why do you deserve to be at University? What right have you? Fewer than one in ten of your grandparents will have had that opportunity. Why, if we shouldn't be funding obselete warships, should we be funding thousands of places each year in university courses with no guarantee of students repaying the country?
The government has no duty to pay for your education. Luckily it makes commercial sense. This applies to arts and science courses alike. It makes business sense for an organisation such as UK plc to have educated museum curators, Violin teachers and theatre directors.
Unfortunately there is a limit to the number of students in all areas that we can afford to support. The country cannot afford £10,000 per head for a UCL art history course with only three hours lectures per week. It cannot afford to pay £15,000 per year for students to sit in the bar and yes, I apologise but, if you got two Es in your A Levels we cannot afford for you to be at Uni either. More than anything this country cannot afford to bear fifty per cent participation in shared higher education mediocrity. Therefore I acknowledge here, on behalf of students, that we are sharing the cake. It isn't fair to waste it. The days of Higher Education being a wasteful holiday camp for the rich are thankfully gone.
I reckon most students will agree with what is above, so now for the folk in Whitehall. If Mr Blair, Mr Clarke, Mr Adonis or any MP or Minister or Special Advisor is reading this article then they should hear this: You are spending our money. We employ you. You answer to us. Start working for all of us now.
Start this week: does 50% in Higher Education sound sensible?