The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Bloody Students Again

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 28, 2009 @ 00:44

Urgh. What are this lot so happy about? Their degrees are likely to be bloody useless. Like mine.

Urgh. What are this lot so happy about? Their degrees are likely to be bloody useless. Like mine.

… was the first thing I thought when I began to muse about the topic of today’s blogpost, but with the issue of universities still burbling in the background while “success” in Afghanistan is widely celebrated, I thought it was still worthy of some further comment. But I won’t be making a habit of it, I promise.

Yes: in the past couple of days there have been a stream of stories about what’s going to happen to university tuition fees: culminating in this one from the Sunday Times which suggests that both Labour and the Conservatives are preparing the ground for significant rises.

Then, as if to hammer home the point today, Lord Mandelson came out (no, not like that) and all but told us that tuition fees are definitely going to rise by tacking on the usual caveat of helping the lower classes achieve degrees too.

What I find curious about all of this is, first of all, why now? A partial answer is that there is a review coming up required by the legislation that introduced student top-up fees. But that is not for many months and is, ostensibly, independent. The conclusion: it’s very clear that the debate is being framed in preparation for this review to basically say that only one answer is appropriate: fees must be allowed to rise.

Which is exactly why so many of us were implacably opposed to tuition fees in the first place, that they would be the thin end of the wedge that sees us moving closer to the American system of a financial market between the universities – where the poor don’t bother going at all, the lucky working class have to go to the cheapest (and worst) universities, while the elite continue to dominate at the top, which feeds into the continuing class divide. Typical Britain, one might say. That’s not to say things were perfect before tuition fees were introduced – they weren’t – but it’s clear to me that we’re going in completely the wrong direction.

My second point of curiosity regarding this current debate is also answered somewhat by the financial crisis. After all, as I pointed out a few days ago, it seems Mandy has chosen to lead the way by starting the cutbacks process already. Testing the water, if you will, against an easy, low turnout, target who are lost to the Labour Party for a generation anyway. Well, did you really think the cutbacks would have started by abolishing the pensioners winter fuel payment? No, of course not. Spending cuts are going to focus substantially on those who don’t matter electorally – and that’s entirely the youth’s fault for not voting.

Thirdly, and on a partisan point that I just can’t resist making – if Labour continue to ignore students, and the Conservatives choose to follow them down the same path, then the Lib Dems will remain the party of students for years to come. Today’s activists become tomorrow’s councillors and MPs – and the Lib Dems aren’t doing too badly in certain parts of the country out of all this.

If the Lib Dems continue to play this one carefully, talking about what is fair even when the chips are down and the economy is turning against you – as we did on the Gurkhas issue – we may continue to carve ourselves a neat little niche that could be very productive come election time.

Ahh. The refreshing aroma of principled politics!


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