Let us first state quite unequivocally that that there is a difference between the old fees charging system and the new one. In fact from the upper middle-class perspective of the politicians passing these laws they may well feel the changed system is better than the one that precedes it since the new system will charge after usage and based upon a threshold of earnings where the new system charges at the point of usage regardless of earnings or circumstance. The danger is to assume that debt that isn’t immediate is preferable to that which is, whereas in the working and lower middle classes often the very opposite is seen as true, you do not undertake now that which you cannot pay for.

As someone who staunchly protested and campaigned against both I find either option objectionable and retrogressive, and I believe this country is not merely letting down the younger generations but it is selling the entire population short socially, politically and economically. If university graduates supposedly can afford to pay more because they earn more then income tax will take care of that and progressive stepping of income tax bands can increase the revenue via the ONLY fair method of doing so as it will always tax on means, “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs” as ‘someone’ once said. If graduates are not going to earn more then these new measures will not raise the income that is expected thus rendering them not a help to the deficit as has been portrayed. Fortunately, one might surmise, at least the teaching of languages in this country is so woeful, and likely to get only worse, that it is highly unlikely many will be able to go abroad after their degree and thus avoid paying the fees back.

At present students pay for tuition fees up front and must also sort out subsistence whilst they study. This has over the last number of years progressively marginalised the numbers of students from the working classes and stretched the finances of those from the lower middle classes to breaking point. For the working classes a university education can often be seen as a waste of time, families do not have a tradition of tertiary education and do not see it as necessary. However in this globalised image rich world expectations for children are by default very different to those of their parents not to mention the fact that the heavy industrial jobs that may once have been seen as a generational inheritance no longer exist as a safety net. It was clear from the early 1990s that students without subsidiary finance to the maintenance grant and student loans were going to have to seek part-time employment in order to make ends meet. Part-time employment inevitably means less time studying and puts those students at a disadvantage over their wealthier peers. it is true that sometimes this can indeed focus the mind more, not being able to afford to fail means one must try to ensure passing exams in a way that those who can afford to retake may not see as so necessary. Is this fair though because make no mistake for a student at university in London with hall fees, tuition fees and living to pay for this is a very substantial sum indeed, the effect is slightly lessened outside the capital but remains a serious problem.

The long-term effect of this has been to commercialise education, students will take the course that they feel will best lead to a good job, after all they need to make lots of money in order to pay back the thousands of pounds of debt they have accrued. This has drastically changed the sort of degrees people are doing as they are acting now with financial consideration at 18 at which time, with the best will in the world most 18 year olds are not nearly as worldly-wise as they would like to think they are.

Students and parents but particularly politicians are missing the point on what education is actually for and why it must be disassociated from vocational training. Each are vital, I would in no way seek to place one above or below the other for they are so different that it is not a valid comparison. There are many who do not wish to study academically and for whom vocational training should be readily available, there are others for whom academic study is about personal well-being and roundedness and vocational training may or may not then be something afterwards, or in some cases before or during academic studies.

If you look for academic studies anywhere on education and crime, either via library catalogue searches or via the internet you will find a wealth of papers showing a clear correlation between the increase in post-secondary school education leading to an exponential decrease in crime. Now try to look for studies that contradict this fact. If you find any please send me the links because I couldn’t. That the educated are far less likely to commit crimes of a violent nature or require unemployment benefits is not going to come as a surprise to most, inclusion and participation being more likely to help people integrate into society more than social exclusion and disenfranchisement is hardly rocket science. However this goes on in that there is further evidence that this then leads to a great deal less internalisation and thus episodical mental health disorders such as short-term depression which itself means a lesser impact on learning difficulties such as dyslexia. Education really is the great win-win, perhaps in the way no other expenditure in public money is, except perhaps a comprehensive preventative health care system.

The financial impact of academic study CANNOT be measured in the short-term, if indeed at all and herein lies the absolute lunacy of cutting arts and humanities subjects which are seen as less use to business and enterprise. Were that even to be true, which of course it isn’t then would it even be a bad thing? Was Socrates good for the economy? What about Homer, or Brecht what sort of industrial use did they have in their time, or the reams of creative individuals that receive no acclaim in their lifetime but continue to create anyway? Does this negate their work and existence, does it devalue it below the level of the HR manager or Chief Operating Officer? Or must we always keep in mind that the pursuit of money and profit is not the reason we exist and therefore not the fundamental tenets around which our society should be based?

There are sections of the right who have a habit of saying that if academic education is for personal betterment then why should the tax payer foot the bill as if in some way the breadth of education and roundedness of an individual can only ever be of benefit to that individual. This as the studies outlined above illustrate is nothing short of utter nonsense. What it comes down to is what do you wish your tax money to pay for and there we do indeed have a simple choice: education and preventative healthcare and a benefits system that far from rewarding people for being out of work seeks to actively retrain and help people into whatever kind of work they may be able to do; or a lottery system where the amount of money that you are principally your family has determines in advance what opportunities you may have. This is a stark choice and you will be told there is no alternative to the cuts, this is because the people telling you there is no alternative are those for whom the cuts will have little impact. These are the people for whom a return to pre-industrialised feudal Britain represents a favourable scenario, you need to ask yourself whether you, and crucially your children will end up as master or serf remembering that the vast majority end up as serfs. What it all boils down to is this: Do you wish to pay taxes to ensure a better more educated society with inclusion and opportunity for all regardless of means or do you wish to pay taxes to clean up the mess of not having done so?

Answers on a placard please.

Song Of The Day ~ Queen – 39