A rise in tuition fees might just be exactly what this country needs
Much to the anger of student organisations across the country and the shame of red-faced Liberal Democrats, university tuition fees have gone up. For an English student applying for higher education this year the average tuition fee is £8,527. On the surface of it this sounds like a crime: denying education to those in our society who are unable to afford it. However, according to UCAS figures, the proportional fall in applications is similar across social backgrounds.
This revelation leads to the shocking, unthinkable suggestion that a rise in tuition fees might just be exactly what this country needs.
Before the rise in tuition fees, people were going to university who should, quite simply, not have been doing so. Instead of applying for work experience or apprenticeships in a chosen career they were choosing to study pointless courses vaguely associated with that field so that they could have both a degree and three years of partying under their belt.
These courses, a halfway point between traditional vocational courses and old-fashioned subject degrees, have been introduced by increasing numbers of universities in order to provide more opportunities for people to go on to higher education so that everyone feels like they have an equal chance at life.
So essentially, as increasing numbers of people were encouraged to go to university regardless of the degree they would study, it became, not a way of developing oneself in a certain branch of academia before stepping out onto the career-ladder as a more intelligent and rounded person, but something to do because everyone was doing it and you could finish with a course that ‘sort of had maybe some practical application to loads of different career paths’.
As someone who studies Latin and Classical Greek, the question of ‘what the hell are you going to do with that’ is often leveled at me. Now, on a practical level my subject has its uses, such as forming the basis of a career in teaching or research, or (at its most basic) it is just really useful with crosswords and Scrabble. The point that people tend to miss is that the study of Classics is what university used to be about and should still be about today: a rigorous training and stretching of the mind that gives you the ability to apply yourself to whatever career you choose to pursue. Not a half-arsed course for which you attend at most a lecture a week and that leaves you with a degree that no one really knows what it is.
Crucially, a rise in tuition fees, as UCAS’ figures have shown, does not impact harder on those who are financially worse off. In fact there has been a sharper fall in applicants from wealthier backgrounds than poorer. Admittedly, this is in part due to the fact that some families are only just above the income marker that distinguishes those who are eligible for support and those who are not. However, universities do have financial scholarships and support systems for those who are exceptional and deserve a university place but struggle with financial problems. As a result the people who should be going to university can go, as long as they have the motivation to ask for help and make it happen.
So, instead of a fee rise disadvantaging people depending on their financial status, it creates the academic elitist environment that boat race swimmer Trenton Oldfield so ridiculously protests about, but that is so crucial to the advancement of this country.
The reality of life is that some people are clever and suited to a university education and some people are not. Those who are should be directed towards higher education while those who aren’t should go into apprenticeships or start work experience to form practical skills to start themselves on the career ladder – not wasting three years and thousands of pounds on a degree that in reality offers no actual benefit. The fee rises may just help this come about.Tagged in: coalition, degree, liberal democrats, tuition fees, university, vocational study
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