I’ve yet to make up my mind about the protests of the last few weeks. I watched the first live courtesy of a hyperactive BBC news channel, which probably gave a vastly distorted view of everything, and have been keeping up with – if not participating in – the rest of events. As a slightly bolshy leftist I broadly agree with Marx’s tenet that education should be free: I dislike the way it’s become a marketised social cost that must be repaid, when a good education is really a social benefit – that’s not really a radical viewpoint. Nevertheless, I think what’s been missed by the angry students and socialist agitators is that a lot of the education that’s affected is not all that good, not necessarily fit for purpose.
I don’t agree with charging any student nine grand per year to study. It’s too much burden to place on a teenager who isn’t really sure what they’re doing. I don’t agree with a graduate tax when a loan can be paid off and not hang over the student forever.
Having been both a student and an education administrator of late, I’m pretty familiar with HE: what’s needed is not necessarily to make undergraduate degrees more accessible to all, but to make education more appropriate to need and ability. So: students who are academically-able should be able to go to do a literate, academic degree at a university of their choice, and should have the same access whatever background they’re from. But many students would be better suited to vocational courses, or training, or apprenticeships, or something similar, and this is what is sorely lacking. Hiking fees and cutting university funding is NOT the way to solve the problem: it needs a more root-and-branch approach.