Thursday, 10 June 2010

Oiks Out..........

How often do you here the complaint: "They're all the same, it doesn't matter who you vote for, there's no difference between the parties...".

Well read this...

The Tory Students Minister David Willetts reckons that..
"...the cost of hundreds of thousands of students' degree courses was a "burden on the taxpayer that had to be tackled"."
It's worth repeating that phrase: according to the Tory Minister responsible for students, more students and a better educated population is "a burden", on society. It's not a blessing, as it should be, to the people getting the education and the society benefiting from a better educated workforce. And Willetts has the reputation of one of the more intelligent Tories....

Who do you think will be damaged by the coming Tory attack on this "burden": kids from lower income backgrounds, or those from comfortable middle classes? No need to ask, is there?  With 17 millionaires in the cabinet, many of whom went to Eton and Oxford at the same time, we know where their sympathies lie.

When I was at school in the 1960s only 6% of school-leavers went on to university. There simply were not enough places and anyway it was thought more fitting for bright working class children to get an apprenticeship or a job in a bank or some other steady employment. University was for those and such as those, not the alunmi of Gasworks Senior Secondary. If your father was a doctor or a lawyer or a professional with a university degree, you would go to uni. If not, forget it. One aspect of there being so few students was that the country could afford generous government grants for those few attending university.

In other words, the vast majority paid their taxes to subsidise the the further education of the upper middle class minority, while being content to have lower expectations and aspirations. Of course the better educated middle classes then went on to snaffle all the top jobs. That was the established order of things, although it was changing slowly as the decade progressed.

Fast forward thirty years, and we find that one of Labour's greatest achievements has been the increase in the number of students from lower earning households that have managed to get a university place. The fee structure may be unpopular, but the over all target of getting 50% of young people into university has resulted in more working class kids getting a degree and the opportunities that entails.

A good thing you might think: better education and higher status for more individuals and a better educated workforce for the country. You might consider this as common sense and a necessary prerequisite for a modern economy to flourish: not so, apparently, the Conservative Students Minister.

And, BTW, the Lib Dems had a manifesto commitment to abolish student fees. Now their coalition "partners" are openly touting higher fees and more targetted fees. The predictable result will be that fewer people from poorer backgrounds will get to university and even fewer will get a place at our "elite" institutions like Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, the LSE..

During the election campaign there was much soul-searching and emphasis on the apparent lack of social mobility in the UK. The Lib Dems in particular thought that this was some sort of betrayal of the lower classes. Now even the so-called social liberals like Simon Hughes are silent as their Tory masters dictate that working class university entrants are a "burden" on honest tax-paying middle class professionals.

So, never let us never again hear this "they're all the same" mantra, although TBH, the Tories and the Lib Dems are becoming more and more indistinguishable with each passing day.

P.S. just came across this at PoliticsHome...
"Simon Hughes "hopes" student fees won't rise".
Yep. And Pontius Pilate hopes they won't crucify that nice Jewish lad he's just washed his hands of......

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