A university should be a place of light, of liberty, and of learning – Disraeli

Reaction to the Government’s higher education reforms really got under the skin of my researcher, Tim Hewish, who launched into a passionate defence of the Government’s direction of travel. I asked him to write this post… — Steve

Much has been said about the Browne Report on Higher Education and the subsequent Government response. Most falls into the category of diatribe and the rest is often socialist, reactionary non-thinking.

The Government’s statement was sound. The reforms will actually help bright prospective students from poorer backgrounds attend university. What must be made clear is that the fee increase does not penalise any student when they first enter their undergrad degree. Sensible proposals that students do not start repaying the fees until they earn over £21k coupled with the option of an early repayment system means graduates can start to pay off their debts should be welcomed, not condemned.

Also it is, at bottom, a loan. These must always be repaid. But if one were to look at the table and chart below one can see that the grants and loans are even more favourable than my own university experience from 2005-2008.

I have read David Willetts’s statement to the House on the Government’s view of the Browne Report, where he said:

“Under our proposals a quarter of graduate – those on the lowest incomes – will pay less overall than they do at present.”

Behind the exclamations of pseudo-anger from students, they need to accept a few basic principles. Speaking as a recent graduate, a university education is not a right, but a privilege.  Under New Labour, the push to get 50% of people into university, on paper sounds laudable, but in practise has led to an imbalance in young people’s perceptions of work. Many are leaving with degrees that are not up to the academic rigor that is demanded from high end careers, while businesses have claimed that they have had to re-teach basic work skills.

What is frightening is this has led to a sense of entitlement in people of my generation. It is sadly the belief that everything should just be handed to them by the State. Watching the Sky News reaction this afternoon, the teenagers who they interviewed said that if they went to uni they ‘won’t get a job’ when they graduate.

What was striking was the view that a job would be ready and waiting for them as if their hard work was already completed. Why doesn’t someone think about creating their own job and start being entrepreneurial?  It is not the State’s role to provide Higher Education and then create a job for you. We have tried cradle to grave socialism and it is a failure. Young people do not want a planned life so why should they favour a planned economy?

Furthermore, another pupil said her friend went to university and then dropped out and was now in debt because of such action. But again, this was his decision. Why should this individual choice be another taxpayer’s concern and then in effect bail out his mistake? If anything, prospective students should be given the full details on the decision to attend university.

A final point on the student debt that hangs over my generation is that to be brutally honest many of us simply do not feel its weight on our backs. In a world where talk of billions has turned to trillions and the fact that we have our whole lives to pay off this student debt on a very low interest rate, this simply isn’t a priority.

The anger is misdirected. It should be turned towards the hectoring and micro-managing of the State.

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Comments & Responses

One Response so far.

  1. Sarah says:

    “What is frightening is this has led to a sense of entitlement in people of my generation.”

    Excellent blog Tim.

    I am sick of people saying that high fees and living costs puts off those on lower income backgrounds from going to university.

    My opinion is based purely on personal experience: Neither of my parents went to university and neither has ever earned very much money. I recieved my £3000 ‘maintenance loan’ (not even enough to cover rent in Norwich!) but no help from the government in the form of grants etc. despite the fact I haven’t been given a penny by my parents since I was 15. Nor would I expect them to.

    And you know what I did to pay my way through uni.. I worked my butt off at minimum wage jobs with evening and day shifts to fit around lectures, sometimes 45 hours a week during term times and holidays. And I was only 1.5% off a First 😉

    Apologies for blowing my own trumpet ^^ but I get EXTREMELY angry when politicans/the public then turn around and say ‘those from low income families won’t be able to go to university’. yes they will, if they WORK HARD and stop complaining!