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October 14, 2010

A constant refrain from those defending the massive cuts in public spending is the notion that we cannot and should not leave subsequent generations to pay for our financial folly. How does this sit with Browne’s proposals to hike up university fees, when students in the future will graduate with debts in excess of £35,ooo?

That clattering sound you just heard was a generation of politicians, all of whom benefited from free higher education, pulling the ladder up on the next generation.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. CharlieMcMenamin permalink
    October 15, 2010 9:07 am

    Well, yes, all that is absolutely true.

    It’s interesting to note that Richard Murphy speculates on a different, more structural reason for this step. His language isn’t especially clear on this, but I think what he is saying is that part of the function of this system is nothing to do with HE per se but is about opening up new markets for financial services such that we can recreate the whole smorgasbord of CDOs, Credit Swops and so on with a new crop of raw material of personal debt.

    I mean, we’re close to saturation point in terms of mortgages – and the whole financial world almost went belly up becasue too many of them were sold to the wrong sorts of people and the risk magicked away with clever-clever financial shenanigans. So let’s find a new way in which large sections of the population can be persuaded to acquire massive, long term debt which can then be traded.

    Seen in this light it is clearly everyone’s patriotic duty to take on as much debt as possible, as early as possible, in order to prop up the City of London and its analogues around the globe.

  2. Rabelais permalink*
    October 15, 2010 5:11 pm

    Hi Charlie,
    I read Richard Murphy’s post. As he says himself later, he was thinking with his fingers, and it’s not the most eloquent piece he’s ever written (Bastards, kinda sums it up for me). Nevertheless, I think he’s absolutely right, Browne’s review has fuck all to do with education or the cost of sending people to university and everything to do with new financial markets. The very introduction of tuition fees by Blair carried the same logic. I’m sure I’ve made this point elsewhere on this blog.

    Even in terms of successive governments’ stated aims and objectives for education, I just can’t see how increasing fees makes any sense, other than as a devise to get people into debt, insure their long term political compliance and open up a new financial market.

    Will increased fees and marketisation result in better quality HE? Why would it do that? The market cares nothing for quality, only profit. We’ll get the supermarket-effect in HE: a few Waitrose and Marks and Spenser at the top end, Sainsbury’s and Tescos in the middle and ASDA’s cheap and cheerful brand for the lower income student. Not quality, just stratification.

    Will it produce enterprising and entrepreneurial young graduates in the future? Well, fees seems to breed a ‘dependency culture’ into them — living at home, dependent on mum and dad to help them get by rather than striking out into adulthood.

    Will, it produce better educated graduates? That’s doubtful. Too many of my own students spend to much time on part-time jobs to give their studies their full attention. Also they’ll act even more like consumers rather than students. The two are irreconcilable, in my experience.

    Social mobility? Fuck me, that’s well and truly consigned to the dustbin of history.

    The only people that any of this will benefit are the rich (as usual). I am so heartily depressed by it all I could man a barricade.

    Why does everybody else get more right-wing as they get older and I seem to be heading in the opposite direction and feel like reaching for the Anarchist’s Cookbook?

  3. October 15, 2010 6:23 pm

    “Will, it produce better educated graduates? That’s doubtful. Too many of my own students spend to much time on part-time jobs to give their studies their full attention. Also they’ll act even more like consumers rather than students. The two are irreconcilable, in my experience.”

    Don’t forget they will expect more of your time as they are paying more money. Put that in your REF-pipe and smoke it.

    Social mobility has been falling anyway right? Just a continuation of New Labour.

    As for getting more left-wing. You are one of those professionals Marx and Engels talk about in the Manifesto. Your own oppression is driving you into the arms of the revolution 😉

  4. Rabelais permalink*
    October 16, 2010 9:24 am

    Bout ya Garibaldy?

    I can already feel a chill-wind blowing through my REF. But there is an important point here: one of the consequences of Browne will be to make the gulf between research and teaching even greater. I suspect that the ideology of customer service will lead some institutions, faculties and schools to prioritise the ‘student experience’ rather than research lead teaching. This is a dreadful pity because courses that are delivered by staff who are research active in a field tend to be much more engaging than by departments were research is absent.

  5. October 16, 2010 2:04 pm

    Students – a pain in the REF?

    I think you are probably right that some institutions will decide that the way they can maximise their income from is from spinning the line that their staff are dedicated teachers, who don’t waste time with that other business. Drop research, put up student contact hours, increase electronic resources and IT (free laptops?), and see if people will come there on that basis may well be what some go for.

    Interesting to see some already talking about the possibility of universities closing if they can’t compete. Also that they expect fees to be capped at £8,000. A lot of bluff going on I think, although I do think at lot of the Oxbridge Tory types would see no harm in trimming the number of universities. Forgetting of course who introduced the changes in 1992, and thus betraying their own Thatcherite heritage with which they are desperate to reconnect. Class snobbery more of a problem now than under Thatcher I fear.

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