We asked two of our students, who happen to have opposing views about the whole tuition fees story, to share their thoughts.
by Thomas Evans
I’ve never liked students. In Leeds they were particularly annoying. Seemingly all from the South East, loud and brash, looking like they are from some curious bastard offshoot of ‘Hollyoaks’ and ‘Village of the Damned.’ All blonde, with annoying haircuts, clad in whatever was deemed fashionable at that particular time. They treated my hometown with a certain disdain, as it were some Northern outpost that existed solely to cater for their shopping and nights out. They ghettoised vast swathes of the city, with families having to move out because they were such a pain in the arse, only to be replaced by more students.
It’s different here in London. You don’t notice them. I didn’t pay all that much attention to the recent student demos until they pretty much came knocking at our door. SCA is situated just over the river from Millbank house, where the hordes of disgruntled students and angry youngsters amassed to lay siege at the Tory party HQ. On that particular November afternoon the police helicopters circling overhead were so noisy they drowned out the audio of the live feed of the riots I was watching on the BBC website. I was shocked by the sheer rage unleashed by these young protesters. It was as if the government had declared that they were going to ban Facebook.
I’ve no problem with a bit of civil disobedience. We are a secular western democracy and it’s our right and should be exercised, but peacefully. What I’m not up for is willful destruction of property, arson, vandalism and behaviour that could result in someone’s death. Throwing a fire extinguisher from a rooftop into a crowd below is pretty bloody stupid, by anyone’s estimation. If you’re going to engage in violent protest you should expect consequences. The police had a difficult task, and showed remarkable restraint yet still came in for criticism. Hell, even Iran got in on the act summoning the British ambassador to protest against the “violent and inhumane” policing of the student protests in London. That’s like us calling them liberal and progressive for burying women waist deep and throwing rocks at their head. I hope they meant it as a joke. If it happens again, the police should use water cannons against the hardcore element. Ruining the protesters’ hair would break their spirit, and the news would be a lot more entertaining.
The protesters all seemed to have an inflated sense of entitlement. ‘I am entitled to subsidised further education funded by the taxpayer. It’s my right and I will have a hissy-fit about it.’ No it’s not. If you want to go away to university and spend three years of your life studying some useless arts degree that’s fine – do it on your own coin. Besides, the value of having a university degree isn’t quite what it once was. Does the UK really need more graduates in Sports science? Media? History? The jobs market simply can’t accommodate them. Rather than subsidising everyone’s higher education the money should be spent on basics such as the UK’s schools and healthcare. The government could then give a boost to manufacturing and engineering or other more useful subjects by subsidising university courses in this field, and help academically gifted individuals on a case-by-case basis.
When I was twenty I went to university myself, and had a student loan to pay for it. I did a Media and Communications degree that was vague to the point of being useless. I was taught how to film and edit on technology that at the time no one in the industry used, and is now defunct. I had around 8 hours’ worth of lectures and seminars a week and the rest of the time I’d sit around in my pants on the Playstation mastering Tekken 3 or just hanging around with my then girlfriend. The course could easily have been condensed into 1.5 years. So as well as around 9k in tuition fees I unnecessarily spent a ton of borrowed money on rent and a good portion of the rest on 2 for 1 drinks offers on what resembled bottled fluorescent piss on midweek student nights. After all this I entered the jobs market pretty much unskilled, unprepared and still unsure of what I wanted to do, and I’m now saddled with around 15k of debt. Of course I accept that I have to pay it back but in hindsight it wasn’t worth it. If I’d been faced with a greater financial responsibility at the time I was deciding whether or not to go I would certainly given a lot more thought on what my options were. As I now know that there’s nothing I’ve done since I graduated that I couldn’t have done without a degree I’m certain that if the fees were the same then as they are today I wouldn’t have gone.
University isn’t an automatic progression from A-levels or college. Nor is it a place to go to and procrastinate for three years. For those who are serious about going there’s still a loan system in place to lend them sufficient money, even with the recent tuition fee increase. Having to pay for their education will make prospective students think long and hard about whether the debt will be worth it and consider questions like ‘could I get to a better position by not going and working for three years? Is a degree worth spending 18k on when compared with t he sort of job it will help me get? Do I even need a degree to get into my chosen industry? What do I really want to do?’ The ones that do go will hopefully take a more diligent approach to their studies. If fewer people go to university because of the increase in fees maybe this will facilitate entrepreneurial activity, or there’ll be more young people opting to do apprenticeships. Plus there’ll be fewer annoying pissing, puking reprobates clogging up the streets in towns and cities across the UK with discarded fast food packaging and vomit.
Deciding on whether or not to go to university is not something that should be treated lightly. If people are positive university is for them they’ll have to weigh up the costs in relation to the benefits. This is the right way to make a major life decision. Education is free until you are 18 in this country. At that age you are legally considered an adult and if you are serious about higher education and think it’ll be worth it, you should be prepared to pay for it.
That’s pretty fair if you ask me…
Unfair Britain – Unless You Are Tesco
by Rory Tregaskis
My recollection of school is savage fights in cramped classrooms, flying chairs, playground beatings, constant bullying and a French teacher with no French, or English. I decided university wasn’t for me because I thought it would be more of the same. The debts put me off, which even then seemed huge. There wasn’t much choice in the matter any way. I left with two A-levels. D and C.
I got a job making cocktails I couldn’t afford in fancy bar, worked at call centres for a while. Eventually I blagged job in media sales that I despised but stayed for three years because there were so few opportunities (until I was accepted at the SCA!). Most recruiters wouldn’t talk to me because I didn’t have a degree.
The disparity between students from state schools and fee-paying schools is huge. Compare the private school near where I grew up, Latymer to the comprehensive I attended. Notable old Latymerians include Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Heston Blumenthal, Lily Cole and Bruce Forsythe. Who went to Chiswick comp? Phil Collins.
The recent bills to scrap the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and cuts funding to higher education will only make this worse.
At Quintin Kynaston school in St John’s Wood every sixth form pupil receives EMA, and ten of them are homeless. The school has exemplary performance, for the past three years every pupil leaving sixth form went on to higher education. When their EMA stops however it will be inconceivable for most of them to finish their A-levels, the increase in university fees will be irrelevant.
EMA is a weekly allowance of £10-£30 for students aged 15-19 from families with household incomes of £30,000 or less (though four out of five students on EMA are from households with an income of less then £21,000). For many students this is the only thing that keeps them in education
Michael Gove, the education secretary says “EMA is a dead-weight cost”, but according to research 70% of the 600,000 students currently receiving EMA will leave their studies when it is cut. This means young people, equivalent to the population of Manchester will become unemployed. Youth unemployment is already equal to the population of Birmingham. The Job Seekers Allowance they will claim will add up to £939m annually, scrapping the EMA will only save £560m.
These cuts pass on the country’s current debt to future generations. Old, rich men caused the deficit and are making young poor people pay.
The country is becoming a plutocracy which is to the detriment of everyone not just the poor. A society that favours privilege over competence will be a country run by posh oafs, while more able people will languish on the dole.
I accept something has to be done to beat the deficit. But if you study the facts it is clear that the cuts are ideologically driven.
David Cameron’s claims “we are all in this together” and “we have no alternative” are not true. These cuts affect the poorest most, and there are alternatives.
If the legal loopholes that allow tax avoidance were closed the cuts would not be necessary. Here are some top tax shirkers:
Tesco (in 2010 avoided enough tax to build three large hospitals),
Walker’s Crisps (avoided enough to build two secondary schools last year),
Vodafone (so far avoided enough tax to pay for almost every cut being made in 2011),
Diageo (annually avoid the amount spent repairing the UK’s potholed roads in 2010),
Cadbury (following Kraft’s takeover avoid enough annual tax take every one in Scotland to the cinema twice and have enough left over for popcorn)
Philip Green (tax dodged by the sweatshop tycoon in 2005 could pay the full increased university fees of 32,000 students),
Boots (avoid enough tax to pay the salaries of 14,000 NHS nurses every year).
George Osborne (the chancellor formally known as Gideon, has dodged up to £1.6m in tax).
Looking at vanity projects like the fortnight of sport in the East End next year (cost to the public £3.3bn so far), you wonder if frugality really is number one on number ten’s agenda.
If you go to university to study a subject that won’t guarantee a high income then debt will plague you for the rest of your life. Subjects like music and art will be neglected and leave the country with a cultural deficit.
The fee increase will affect poor students most. The psychological impact of knowing that on leaving university you will be in debt roughly equal to two and a half times the average salary, with a one in five chance of being unemployed will put many people off. This in a time when social mobility is in terminal decline (only three of the twenty minsters in the cabinet went to comprehensives) will leave a generation hopeless and forgotten.