Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Students could face £9,000 fees


I was given money to go to higher education. I was amongst the last year of students whom could even claim housing benefit for their rent during term-time and unemployment benefit during Winter and Summer term-breaks. Cushy. Very privileged.

But back then about 15% of any year of students went to higher education, IIRC. And the last 'New' Labour Government set a target of 50% - which they made major progress towards.

The last Labour Government had introduced the fees? But specifically to fund greater numbers. Essentially a very good thing, greater numbers. But students at the time were furious, and I disagreed with their complaints, whilst understanding them. My view was a little different. Yes, I'm all for education: I would like 'free' life-long learning available to everyone, that's the goal, and the minimum. But it really shouldn't be used as an excuse for a piss-up and a state-subsidised A-road for social climbing. Moreover it has to be provided for by everyone else, including those who never get the opportunity to go.

So is it really worth sending 50% of each year's youth into 'university'?

One of my lasting memories of higher education was that nobody cared about any of it - apart from that it 'should make them money'. Even the people doing Business and Finance had no idea how they were going to make any money. They wanted money, and were 'studying' Business & Finance because they thought that was the way to get it. But what were they actually going to do? No idea......

Others were studying Law becuase 'it pays great!' I can remember being struck by how cash-oriented every single Law student was. Platitudes about the majesty of Justice just never even figured.

I found all that fabulously disillusioning. Not that I wasn't already disillusioned. And not that I set any sort of example. I was a far worse student than the money-driven bastards I saw all around me.

I had loved school and all the learning stuff when I was small - it was just life, and I loved it. And I did very well, generally. But only until my consciousness began to break through and I began to recognise my own life existence amongst everything, and I began to see I too was a 'process', a Student ID, a grantee, a UB40 claimant, a reproductive unit etc.

I then saw all that writ large at college amongst the acquistive students.

So, whilst I am all for learning, I am extremely skeptical that the community should expend so much effort on it - as it exists. Much of my experience of it was awful. And it seems to just exemplify the failings of the wider capitalist culture. Is it really something we want to be doing - sending most children into this? I can't believe it, though doubtless a £9,000 price tag will lead to greater consideration. And isn't that the point of the £9,000? To put people off? So I should be pleased? Well, I am, but that's why I hate it - because it will severely deter everyone but the most privileged. Of course, they say they 'will look after the poorest' - but that's relatively easy and insignificant. £9k won't have the least impact on the privileged, other than to heighten their position of privilege.

But would - has? - sending the masses to get 'an education' served its purpose? I don't think so, because the education they've been sent to get is of a particular sort: imperialist capitalist.

To me it seems a class issue - that the ruling class have tried to split the masses by offering qualification for 'elite workers'. It divides mass culture through buying-off a segment of the masses. The price is to accept the ideology (and now the debt too.) They thereby succeed in perverting the culture even more whilst further dividing the masses.

I just don't agree with the idea that most students hold dear - that getting an education should raise you above 'the others'. I don't believe it does. That isn't the point of it, is it? Well, sadly it is, and has been for a longtime. Always? The notion was always around when I was a student - 3 different times. Doubtless I expressed the same things too. But that's what I mean - the culture is what it is. It makes life - and learning - a shadow of what it is so easy to imagine it could be.

So, I'm not upset at all that fewer students will go to 'get an education'. But I'm furious that it might cost a bright average person nine fucking thousand pounds to get an education they really want. I'm also disgusted that very many are going to be so deterred by the costs that they will leave education aged just 16.

But I am also pleased people will be put-off from going to university. Why should we be sending people to such places? And why in hell should we pay for it? Why should everyone subsidise the indoctrination of an entire culture of privilege?

It doesn't help the class. (As in the proles, not 3M)

That's not to denigrate education - only to recognise how much of a factor it is in class structure - indoctrination - and that the only education available is entirely determined by the class constructs which provide the education. As is obvious. As it must be?

And so, the question arises - from where will change come? Hard to imagine, other than through a (crude?) materialism ie that conditions change such as to bring about a change in consciousness, and not the other way around. Ah - an old argument huh?

An interesting news story in retrospect - complaints about the education budget in the face of rising student numbers during the last government. (The next (ie present) government were to make much more enormous cuts in higher education - cutting the funding for teaching by 50%, for example.) Incredible to look back only 10 months:-
Guardian: Record number of new students, Ucas figures reveal

Funding row looms after universities take on 12,000 more applicants than the government is prepared to pay for

Update 1 - The Independent reports:
The Government was facing mounting fury tonight over plans to charge students up to £9,000 a year in tuition fees.

Under the proposals, which represent the most radical shake-up of student funding for decades, the fee cap will be raised to £6,000, with universities able to charge up to £9,000 - triple the current cap - in "exceptional circumstances".

Tuition fees currently stand at £3,290 a year.

It opens the door for England's top universities to charge the maximum amount, providing they ensure access for disadvantaged students.

The changes are politically explosive as many Liberal Democrat MPs, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, publicly pledged during the General Election campaign not to allow fees to go up.

The proposals, announced by universities minister David Willetts today, immediately led to fresh concerns about the introduction of a two-tier system, with poorer students being priced out of elite institutions.

1 comment:

socrates said...

Much of what you describe, I too experienced. Growing up, learning for learning's sake was what was going on.

Then hitting higher education, it was clear it was just an extension of inequality.

Sure, There were pockets of awareness. There were isolated departments and professors who were speaking profound truths. But to whom and for what purpose?

The right is very clever in stifling opportunities for masses of people to come together for the common good.

They put the clamps on Hollywood. They own the television networks. They even successfully found a way to manipulate public broadcasting in America. They couldn't beat them, so they bought into it. The greatest ideas seem to eventually become circumscibed into the status quo. The best of the best are marginalised. In that way, the ptb's are able to astroturf that freedom of speech is alive and well, while knowing there is not really much organised opposition.

Nice essay.