Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Dear Lib Dem backbenchers, Tell the truth on fees before anyone else gets hurt.

I'm furious.

I'm furious for a variety of reasons relating to the higher education funding debate, but not Millbank-trashing furious. No, if I was to mask up and stick a railing through a window, it'd be the NUS who should be pulling down the shutters (I would never take direct action. I'm just trying to attract attention to the seriousness of this situation).

I'm furious because the backbenchers of my party aren't courageous enough to tell the truth to the public.

I'm furious because various student groups who are receiving generous funding to support themselves through university are telling future applicants they won't be able to attend when government proposals should IMPROVE fair access.

And I'm furious because the Scottish government is clinging on to a funding policy which is pinning both Scottish universities and students in disgraceful poverty.

I was going to call this blog post "Failing to see the wood for the fees". Deferred fees are not the determinant of whether young people can support themselves through university. Maintenance funding determines whether students can feed and house themselves through their studies and maintenance funding will RISE following the implementation of government proposals. MORE students from poorer backgrounds will be able to attend higher education if they aren't in ****ing prison after the latest riot.

The fury really started for me when I read that Lib Dems were lobbying Vince Cable to cap the fees at lower than £7000 because when you examine the implications of this you have universities struggling to fund courses and widen access on a lower income than they have at present and for whose benefit? The lowest earning graduates wouldn't be saved any money. The middle half would save a little. The highest earners would save a whole lot more*. When the **** did the Lib Dem back bench become the parliamentary defenders of the marginal financial interests of the wealthiest and most fortunate in society?

Higher deferred fees should only deter those who would not receive net benefit from a university education. Those who aren't academically inclined should look elsewhere. Those who are bright, motivated, highly skilled or entrepreneurial might be able to earn more and be happy without having to struggle through 3 years of academia that doesn't really motivate them. Student groups should be demanding the high quality careers advice that maximises this "good" deterrence and stop driving the "bad" deterrence that comes with poverty and a misunderstanding of the type of debt or costs that studying will bring.

If you really want to fight for the right of the disadvantaged to a top quality education, fight for an access levy so that only those institutions with at least average access to the disadvantaged can keep 100% of their £9000 fee.

But the one thing that made me spitting-mad, grind-your-teeth-while-reading, livid was when I started comparing the maintenance funding available to English and Scottish students and drew up this table: (also contains evidence to back up * above) So, in the land of free ****ing tuition, we see fit to let some students try to live on nearly £3000 less than their English counterparts while our universities go to the wall. It's no wonder the disadvantaged kids in Scotland are the least likely to go to university of all the regions of the UK Mr Salmond. Mr Russell. You can stick your empty-gesture free tuition up your respective voluminous backsides. I want a quality education for this nation's youth, and I want them to be able to enjoy it without rushing from lectures into a part-time job that they can't support themselves without.

Children. Students. Open your eyes. Aaron Porter doesn't have your interests at heart. Don't buy the lies about your ability to go to uni if your family is poor. Like some on the Lib Dem back benches he took a stance a while back and he's too much of a coward to tell you that stance is no longer correct. Please tell him (in as splenetic terminology as your youth allows) to call off this farce before anyone else gets hurt.

I never thought I'd engage in a near-socialist rant in favour of higher tuition fees and in defence of a Tory minister. But the government is proposing a fairer and better means of funding higher education in this country. Could we please start trying to properly get this message across?


Marvin Fenderson said...

The problem is that this assumes you can assess the value society gets from someone studying a degree by their increased learning potential.

Some degrees are straight forward and get you a well paid job. Engineering and Medical etc. but what about subjects that benefit the community but don't pay so well? Teaching & nursing being the obvious ones.

Won't more student debt means it's going to be difficult for people to study subjects which don't pay so well - English, Archaeology, etc. Perhaps they should be kept for the rich.

I have a friend who recently gained a degree from Solent University and didn't consider it worth the time it took out of his life, never mind the money. Someone else I know studying there just needs a UK degree and so went for an easy option.

It could be that higeher fees will kill off less challenging degrees.

But maybe people will prefer to go somewhere with a guarenteed pass for your money. The US website ratemyprofessors lets you view lecturers by how *easy* their classes are, because people want to keep a high GPA rather than get the best education.

Ewan Hoyle said...

It's not really debt though. It's a tax that you stop paying when you've paid enough. One of my favourite proposals in Browne is the SF Giving section which facilitates individual institutions receiving charitable donations from their alumni alongside the repayments or after their "debt" has been paid. It means some rich will probably pay a lot more voluntarily rather than compulsion driving increased risk of universities going private.

The repayment plan is so progressive that those anticipating not earning much after graduation might be wise to pick a course with higher fees. Chances are they won't have to pay the difference so they might as well sign up to the course that is presumably of higher quality.

More and more I think there will be a rush to £9000 and that government has been wrong to reject the tapered levy.

Graeme said...

I'm absolutely livid at this policy announcement as it's a huge piece of misrepresentation by the Labour Party that essentially amounts to a tax cut on high-earning graduates. My reasoning here: