Saturday, December 4, 2010

University Fees For English Students

This is not the usual thing I put on here but it does not fit my other blogs either. I hope those interested in the subject will find their way here. This is important.
There is an urgent need to settle the student fees issue. Justice must be done.

I have given serious consideration to the matter regarding University fees as applied to English students. Wales and Scotland who, to those not aware of the situation in the UK, get their huge grant to run their internal matters such as Education, Health and Social Services from Westminster, pay the fees for their students (and are generous with other social services too). Hardly surprising that English students feel hard done by. Hardly surprising if some English tax payers feel somewhat annoyed too. But that is another issue.
I can see a certain logic in students paying back the costs of their university education but I believe it to be deeply flawed. At least, the cost of student fees should have been left as they were. But maybe the whole business of higher education needs looking at and trimming done. I would question why the school leaving age has been raised.

Like many of the older generation, we were brought up never to be in debt. We saved for all our needs. There were no credit cards (thank goodness). A mortgage was a necessity due to shortage of rented accommodation and long waiting lists for Council houses. We were in a bed-sit for three years and still at the bottom of the housing list because we had no children. We would not have children until we had our own home. It is somewhat ironic that we, along with others who know the value of thrift, are now having to pay for debts not of our own making. And for excesses in handouts that have made it cruel for many who work to be worse off than many who don’t and have no intention of doing.

With this in mind, I believe it to be totally unjust that today’s young people will have the burden of paying back University fees for their own education (at least at this higher rate), at a time while paying taxes to help subsidise the final-pay pensions of the more fortunate, the cost of supporting the ever-increasing elderly at home or in care, and credit handouts for this, that, and the other, not to mention the escalating sums for the NHS as new drugs and procedures are discovered to lengthen life and ease pain, while many are living lives as if to test how long their heart, liver, and lungs will last. PLUS the graduates, on starting work, putting aside a large chunk of their salary for their own future pension. What a burden!

Youngsters seem to have little say about their education. When I taught it was child-centred learning. Now they are pushed into exams as though passing them is all that education is about. Money would be better spent getting youngsters into apprenticeships and continue, where appropriate, studies through Evening classes and a day release. A University education was once held in high esteem, that honour seems to have diminished. Surely with realistic opportunities for those who are not University inclined the way could be paved for a better future.

Education is lifelong and enters every aspect of life. But, at least, each citizen should have the right, at some time in their lives, for two or three years of free higher education, if appropriate, at University level.

(I speak as someone who had to give up a college design course at the age of sixteen so as to earn my own living, my father having become seriously incapacitated — benefits in 1949 were almost non-existent. I was fortunate enough to realise my ambition through sheer hard work and luck. Later I trained to be a teacher. I gained all my qualifications, then and later, as a mature student. I know of others who gained all of their qualifications through evening classes and rose to high levels of management or engineering.)

Already, there are cutbacks for care of the elderly, cutbacks in other major and important departments. At this time, perhaps it would be appropriate to raise part of the shortfall by putting a tax on top of VAT for those luxury goods that only the truly well off can afford?

As for the marching students, those who simply mouth slogans without knowledge should get to know the facts. Marching is fine, protesting is fine when orderly, but following 'the crowd' in ignorance of the true facts, makes the public wonder if they are ready for mature learning.

NOTE: Photograph of Nottingham University. My brother was a student here in the late 1940's at a time when 'boys like him' did not go to University. (There were few Universities then). He left school at fourteen, gained an apprenticeship with Rolls Royce and attended night classes. He went on to study for higher degrees and gained a scholarship to study in the USA for his PhD. When he died, he had 54 patents in his name and was acknowledged as a specialist in his field. He was also involved with athletics and gained various awards and prizes. Determination is needed to get on, in all walks of life.

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