It’s not normally like me to use a blog entry to talk about politics, or even, to have a good rant, however, today I feel like I need to let off some steam. Today I’d like to rant about university tuition fees – or rather the moaning about university tuition fees.
Before I set off, let me say up front, I believe that University should be free. I also believe that everyone should have the opportunity to be able to attend for free, but only, and I stress the only, based on academic ability. And I talk as someone who paid fees for my three (long and painful) years at the Queen’s University of Belfast.
This past week, the UK government have decided that Universities can set their own fee level between £6,000 and £9,000 per academic year. A considerable hike from the £3,000-odd that the level is today (I believe the fees will rise commencing 2012). I happily condemn this decision. It’s not right, and it’s not fair… people shouldn’t be discouraged from University because of their financial background. Goodness knows it’s expensive enough to go to University without having to pay for your tuition fees.
However, the moaning and gurning that has gone on this week since the announcement is shocking. Moan, moan & more moan. People are saying that it’s going to make universities ‘elitist’ – umm… that’s a good thing. However we need to be weeding out the medium and weak academics, not the poor. Our universities should be for our best academic minds… not everyone.
This is part of the previous Labour Government’s fault… this crazy idea that everyone should go to university. A complete nonse. By letting everyone go, it means that almost everyone’s degree is worthless!! Since I got my 2:1, a decent (if not outstanding) achievement so many people have gone through a degree that if I was to go for a job interview, having a degree in itself would mean nothing.
And by being populist, the former Labour Government have created an environment whereby everyone expects their kids to go to University… that you’re now considered a failure if you don’t go to University. This is of course ridiculous, but it’s how people think. We’re a country who has to import most of it’s building skills… plumbers, electricians, builders, engineers come from Poland, Lithuania, Rep. Of Ireland, etc. Try going to a mainstream hotel chain in a main UK city & chatting to a local hotel worker who isn’t management. You’ll meet Czech, Spanish, Estonian, you-name-it…
It’s all just blah… we’ve created a culture where you must have a degree & manual, menial jobs are below us… well it’s time we had a good reality kick & wised up.
Keeping in mind a few basic principles of our society:
- University should be free
- Everyone should have the opportunity to go to University for free
… and recognising that there is a limited amount of money available to fund people through University for free, it’s time the Government and the Universities talked about what the UK needs as far as Skills are concerned, and the real cost of delivering that skill set. Then the Government can identify the priorities and put the right level of funding in place… whilst accepting that we cannot afford everyone to go for free.
We of course offer the opportunity for everyone to go for free but we differentiate by academic ability. If you’re our ‘crémé de la crémé’ (or ‘cream de la cream’ as I like to say) then you can go to university for free (in terms of your tuition).
People will argue that this still favours the rich because their schools are better, they can afford more tuition for their kids, but frankly, I don’t care. I went to a comprehensive & I did well at GCSE and A’Level without extra tuition, if you want something enough, the state system offers you the chance. It’s up to the Government to create a more level playing field in terms of consistency of that state offered education, and there are gaps there, but that’s a whole different rant…
So, in summary, my suggestion works because:
- It preserves an affordable tertiary education system for our Government in a time of austerity
- It maintains equal opportunities for everyone to get to University based on academic ability
- It preserves the status of a Degree as something worth having
- It may create opportunities for further savings as we reduce unnecessary Universities
- It realigns the country along the lines of what we need, not what we want
It’s time we got away from this idea that everyone is the same, and needs the same solution… everyone needs an equal opportunity at the start of their working life, not and equal hand out.