I have started this blog post three times now. I am trying to put into words how I feel about the proposal that will allow UK universities to charge up to £9,000 per year in tuition fees, and the accompanying student riots, occupations and demo's that have been widely reported by the media.
The introduction of tuition fees in 2008 changed the relationship between tutor and student forever, to one of provider and consumer. Variable tuition fees bring the market system into education and turns learning and growing into a saleable commodity, which is arguably precisely what the government want. They get to withdraw state funding and clear the path for their rich corporate buddies to start filling the gaps. In return for their money, students are demanding 'value for money' and 'good customer service'. Universities are cramming more and more students into less and less space, with declining 1:1 tutor time and fewer lectures and seminars. And the emphasis of university is increasingly geared toward fitting specific industry moulds, rather than meeting the needs of the student and preparing graduates with a range of transferable skills and experiences.
I think that education should not be quantified only by its financial worth. Students should not be 'processed' by the system and spat out as market fodder at the other end. The arts and humanities should be as equally valued as science and engineering. The best universities should be available to everyone, and based on academic merit, not family income, and students should not have to worry about mounting debts of thousands of pounds when they graduate.(I graduated when yearly fees were much less than they are now, but after also taking a loan out for London living expenses I am still facing a big debt; one that I am nowhere near paying off. I was told "don't worry about the debt, it wont really affect you. Study now, pay back when your earning". And its rubbish, the amount deducted from my monthly salary is not small.)
From the National Union of Students:
“The Prime Minister obscures the fact that the Government is removing 80 per cent of public funding for the university teaching grant and all public funding for arts, humanities and social science courses. Of the £3.6bn provided by the government for teaching in English universities, £2.9bn is being removed in one fell swoop, doing untold damage to our economy, culture and society."
I find the whole thing depressing and sad. For me, this is about fairness and equality. It is about fighting to learn for the sake of learning. Its about protecting the future of the arts and humanities. And its about being real about the impact of these changes on poorer students, many of whom fear a lifetime of debt.
Anyway. Rant over. I'm going to be joining, at least briefly, thousands of people today to lobby the UK parliament as it votes on whether to raise yearly tuition fees to £9,000.
Wish me luck.
You can follow live coverage of the vote in parliament here, and the student demonstration's here
Also, a brilliant article on this issue appeared in Amelia's magazine.
And, If you want to get involved and do something, you can of course join the demo, or you could put a message of support on facebok/twitter or email your MP etc.
Depressingly, perhaps predictably, the vote passed.
There has been a lot of bullshit spouted by the media about yesterdays protests, which is surprisingly (naive?!) biased and one sided. This article, by Enemies of Reason however, is brilliant. Read it.