Thursday 4 November 2010

University Fees Scandal

It was Rog T who once wrote that Don’t Call Me Dave has made more comebacks than Status Quo. This is not a comeback! As regular readers will recall, DCMD decided to quit the blogosphere in preparation for his new life as a part-time University student. Over the course of 422 postings, he said pretty much everything there was to say about the greedy self serving parasites who run the Town Hall and the equally useless and ineffective Labour opposition.

Indeed, there is nothing that Barnet’s discredited Tories could ever do that would either surprise DCMD or induce him to resume writing about the council. Rather, this one-off posting has been prompted by the coalition Government’s announcement to hike University tuition fees to between £6,000 and £9,000 per annum.

The decision exposes the Liberal Democrats as the shameful two-faced hypocrites and liars that most of us already knew them to be. Perhaps they had simply become accustomed to making populist pledges in opposition without actually considering that one day they would have their grubby mitts on the reigns of power. They do not need to worry about voters making the same mistake again.

But worst of all, there is something deeply unpleasant about a group of privileged MPs, many of whom have benefited from a taxpayer funded University education, removing the very same privilege from future generations.

Now DCMD is well aware that the nation’s finances are in a perilous state thanks to Pa Broon’s near destruction of the economy, but when Tony Blair introduced University fees (having explicitly promised not to) the Conservatives bitterly opposed the plans - and for good reason. Put simply, it is surely better to have students in higher education than languishing on the dole with no prospects?

Of course, even in good economic times, not every degree leads to an automatic job, but it is certainly true that when times are hard, job applicants need every bit of assistance available and a degree gives students a far better chance than having no qualifications whatsoever.

In the run up to the last General Election, David Cameron said, correctly, that the country was living beyond its means and borrowing had to be brought under control. A generation has been raised on the concept of cheap and seemingly endless credit. Yet the very same person who was preaching financial prudence, is now telling students they have to rack up bills of tens of thousands of Pounds, to be paid back at a rate of interest above inflation.

Is it really wise or desirable to allow students to start out their working lives already up to their eye-balls in debt? Furthermore, students with the temerity to pay their loans off early will now have to pay punitive mortgage style redemption fees. Apparently, this proposal is a sop to the LibDems but it is hardly likely to encourage financial responsibility in later life.

A Government spokesman on the radio explained that during the review carried out by Lord Browne (he who lied during a court case a few years ago) it was discovered that when fees were first introduced, it had no noticeable effect on admissions. Well no shit Sherlock! School leavers have no concept of money or debt. They haven't had to pay a proper bill in their lives. But by the time they have to start repaying their student loans, it will be too late.

Many young students will be unable to pay the higher fees. These are the same people the country desperately needs to generate the future wealth necessary to pay the gold plated pensions for MPs and civil servants. It will be nothing less than a scandal of incalculable proportions if our best talent is excluded from higher education for short term financial savings.

The Education Minister, David Willetts, told the Commons that the proposals are in the best interest of Universities. It is not immediately clear how it can be of any benefit to society if only the richest students can afford to attend in future.


Mrs Angry said...

Welcome back DCMD. I am glad to see you are embracing the student lifestyle in militant fashion. We expect to hear that you have organised a sit in in the canteen before the week is out.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Mrs Angry

My campaigning days are long behind me. However, it is important that there is a proper debate about the future of higher education in this country. Do we consider it to be a right or a privilege?

The Government can tell us how much can be saved by cutting the higher education budget by X%, but can they tell us the consequential cost to the economy of so doing?

A nation’s prosperity relies on the skills of its workforce. If we do not teach people those skills, then employers will simply look abroad, and that immediately plays into the hands of extremists.

You can argue that some degree courses have greater social/economic value than others, although that is likely to be a highly subjective argument. But it seems self evident to me that making it harder/more expensive for students to go to university is a classic case of the state cutting off its nose to spite its face. Yes, there is a cost to taxpayers to fund higher education. There always has been. But that cost has always been repaid through a combination of the income tax graduates pay once employed and the corporation tax their work has helped to generate.

Unless the Government can prove that this is no longer the case, then these proposed changes will simply demonstrate the old adage that politicians know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Citizen Barnet said...

It's good to see you posting again. Perhaps you could say that you can post only occasionally. Then you wouldn't have all this hoo-ha when you do post!

I like the way you keep finding right-wing reasons to embrace left-wing causes. Very deft.

Seriously, though, I agree with you on the general point: countries - societies, economies - need lots of educated people and a broad education base, and ought to share in paying for them.

I studied history for my first degree - I think it taught me and my classmates useful analytical skills as well as literacy. And an astonishingly high proportion of the class went on to become accountants!

We should have a lot more education throughout life. All that intellectual potential going to waste is immoral.

baarnett said...

Hey, I'm the one who uses the "Pa Broon" phrase in blogs.

Welcome back. There is an economic problem to address, though. Only 7% (?) of people went to university in the 1960s. It's 45% (?) now.

I want higher education to be free or low cost, to allow all who would benefit to obtain it. And importantly, skill-based, non-academic education needs to have equal standing in the eyes of the chattering classes.

But people don't vote for higher taxes for this. So the politicians are only trying to square a circle. A low-tax economy is essential for growth, but in the short-term, incompatible with higher education!

Don't Call Me Dave said...


I accept that it is very difficult to justify why taxpayers should have to subsidise my education, even though I would have been entitled to state funded education had I enrolled at University way back in 1980. I am now a mature student who is studying for the pleasure of learning rather than career advancement and so I will pay my way.

I accept the need to reduce the budget deficit as quickly as possible to avoid future generations being burdened with out debts. At the same time, it would be a false economy to cut the higher education budget now, only to land ourselves with a massive skills shortage in 10 years time - which will most likely cost more to rectify than the government currently hopes to save in this spending review.

On a general note, I do think we have a poor attitude to continuing education compared to other developed countries. I agree that it is a huge waste of our most precious natural resource if we do not all employ our brains to their maximum potential.

Don't Call Me Dave said...


I agree that a low-tax economy is essential for growth. That is why I think the Government is completely wrong to try and reduce the deficit by a combination of spending cuts and tax rises. It has been shown time and time again that reducing taxes increases economic activity. The left argue that reducing taxes takes money out of the economy. This is complete nonsense. It is still in the economy - but it is in our pockets rather than the government’s! People, left to their own devices, spend their money far more efficiently and wisely than governments ever do - whatever party is in power.

But as I have said above, I do believe that cutting the higher education budget, however tempting it might be as a quick fix solution to the deficit, is a false economy.

Moaneybat said...

Well done for saying it and I'm definitely with you on this. When I was in need of the career change, like you, paying for it, as the vast majority of part-time students had to do when the " Dearing Report" was published around the time New Labour gave us a thousand new universities with barely a research department, the rest is history.

It is not that long ago when one of my children graduated from University College London, fortunately living in London and from a Barnet cancil ouse, debt was kept to a minimum,(unlike wealthy Westminster, Barnet was not a deprived borough to qualify for extra funding). Having graduated with an MSci Chem she now works in the "low - paid" PUBLIC sector. Most of that graduating group are in the financial sector, with one in the Senior Service.

The sibling and my youngest is like both you and I, he at 21 is currently paying for it from his own pocket, while working part-time, simply because he does not want to be in debt until 67, a debt that started as a student in an unpredictable future. It's a wonder where he goes to get a job that will pay him such big money to pay more taxes, he does not speak Mandarin or Cantonese and any 'outsourced' private employer would barely buy him the fries with a burger in the UK. He will probably be going into the Public Health sector, if there are any jobs left and then on one year contract for the the next round of efficiecy savings due to remote technology.

It was not that long ago that North London Univerity and Guildhall merged to become London Metroplitan.

Whatever the hypocritical parties of the LibDems, sharing the power, Dave, you are so right when you say "People, left to their own devices, spend their money far more efficiently and wisely than governments ever do"

Good Luck