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Live! - Opinion

This article is an opinion piece and should be taken as such. It is highly likely to be biased, but either the article itself or the ensuing discussion will probably be entertaining. Live! takes no editorial line on opinion pieces.

All the answers to public spending... (yawn)

Jan 26 2004 06:58
Andrew Caisley
This week Le Potage finds itself tired and emotional again having got bored of being nice.
He has absolutely enormous ears but is he using them?

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?

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Discussion about “All the answers to public spending... (yawn)”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Jan 26 2004 13:06

50% in higher education has always been a ludicrous target. It's also responsible for increasing resentment amongst non-graduates - and this translates into increased support for top up fees. Sure no-one minded funding a handful of the country's sixth-formers to go on to three years of uni education at the country's expense - these students were then going on to be the doctors who treat you in hospital, the engineers who build your bridges etc etc. But when random Joe Punter who left school at 18 and got a job, been paying taxes since then sees that every eijit with two (or fewer) brain cells to rub together is swanning off to piss about for 3 years at their expense, well then every graduate is tarred by the same brush.

What I'd like to see is each course considered on its merits and funded accordingly. Medicine and *good* science courses would be fully funded - no top up fees and a grant would be allocated for students studying these courses. It would be fairly easy to do - every course is already assessed and by doing it on a course by course basis then good courses at c**p universities would still survive. Other, non-funded courses could charge what they like - but a lot of the c**p ones will probably fold.

Unfortunately I suspect it will be the next big thing in graduate recruitment among the City - join us and we'll pay off half your student debts or whatever.

2. tom t   
Jan 26 2004 14:39

On the bright side, if the Gov't wins the vote on tuesday, it will probably have the knock on effect of closing the c**p Unis.

People at some point will realise the idiocy of getting themselves educated somewhere that won't do anything for their prospects, land them in serious debt and make their already s**te A-levels look worse.

If that happens then those old polys will either have to close, or innovate (by which I mean ignore centralised commands, and start working out a system that suits them and the apprentices who want to come and use them, rather than be told by the Gov't how many pointless targets they need to meet / min. numbers they must take on to qualify for less funding per capita.)

Then we might revert to a system where Unis compete for the best students (academically) by offering the 3-A students bursaries to study there, whilst rejecting out of hand those students who are academically unsuitable or too lazy to do any work for their A-levels. If at this point there are still rich pickings from the offspring of the nouveau-riche, then I can see Uni of Buckinghamshire expanding.

3. medic   
Jan 26 2004 14:45

i disagree totally.

Its about finding the best way to increase the skills base of the nation. Its about giving people more oppertunities in life and making them realise that their future does not have to be linked to thier social class, but rather the individual candidates ability...

sure - some degrees at certian institutions have no real merit to them - and their is no counter to that.

but if u reached a situation where u had 50% of the nation in some form of higher education - and in circumstances were the students themselves would be paying for it,, people wouldnt be wasting their time studying degrees that wouldnt lead anywhere....

u would have a clear split between higher education courses which were of the traditional acedemic sence (maths, history, physics) and then courses which were more vocational (plumbing, building, carpentry)

I think what the goverment is proposing makes sence. It ultimatly empowers the student.

The central theme in the atricle seemed to be this idea of being able to justify yourself / social responsibility.

i.e that u should only commit to a degree if you know that afterwards you would be in a better position to contribute to society...

well i put it to you that by having 50% of the nation in some form of higher education - thats exactly what would happen...

As even the student with " 2 Es at Alevel " would have more of chance at succesfully being able to design their life - and in terms of self development - they would be able to make more of themselves then if they just went straight into employment - and ok - they might not be able to give back as much as a candidate with 4 As, but so what?

education is not a business - and when discussing its role in society and the direction we want it to go in, financial restructions shouldnt come into it.

and as for the point about our navy being smaller then frances - brilliant !

At least that means the goverment have disowned any attempt to emulate our military's colonial / superpower past - now time for the daily mail (and its readers) to do the same !!

Jan 26 2004 22:38

Amusingly (sort of) i have spent the evening being asked about apprenticeships. A subject I now almost understand...

Its like a parralell univers esometimes....

mind you i heard today that because the tech colleges (or regional colleges, or whatever they are being called now) are paid by "results" it is very hard to find propper courses to send those they are trying to make skilled craftsmen

5. medic   
Jan 26 2004 23:18

oh eeeeep - having just read tom t's point in the other thread:

" If you ask me, we could have world class Unis for 100% of the population if they finally realised that whether or not we have nuclear weapons, if there's an all-out nuclear war, we'll all be dead anyway, so might as well save ourselves the money!

But no, maintaining this front to the world that we're morally superior and militarily brain-dead is really worth the ?2bn+... Apparently "

i'm reckoning i should take back the following:

" At least that means the goverment have disowned any attempt to emulate our military's colonial / superpower past "

done !

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