Monday, July 11, 2011

About Uni Fees and Hypocrisy

Today’s BBC Wales news had an feature on the fact that 8 of the 10 Welsh universities would be charging the maximum £9000 fees for some, if not all, courses. No surprise there really. But what annoyed me in the film they showed, and in the general discussion of university fees, is the hypocrisy of people.

A popular argument for the higher fees is that of ‘why should “we” the taxpayer be paying for someone else to go to university, so that they can get a better job and earn more money?’ Aside from the necessity of a university education for many careers that benefit wider society (see my post from 15th November 2010 here) I have two retorts to that. One, better wages equals more income tax, therefore more money going to the Treasury. Secondly, the aforementioned hypocrisy. Prior to 1998, most students got a full grant for university, so it was totally free. This was paid for by the taxpayer. So, chances are anyone over the age of 31 who has a university degree got it for free. Then these people have the cheek to say that students a scrounging off the state now.

As I said at Methodist Conference, I believe that education is a right for all. If I was looking at a £21000 university course plus living costs I probably wouldn’t be able to go, as I couldn’t afford that kind of debt. I was lucky that by going to a welsh university and living in Wales meant that I only paid around £1200 a year. And I applaud the Welsh assembly for capping the amount welsh students pay at about £3600. But the traditional right-wing polices of limiting social mobility will bite. And it will not be a good thing for any of us.

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