Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Duff Degrees and Social Mobility

Nick Clegg made a speech today in which he identifies "social mobility" as a problem that he and his new Tory friends want to address.

Speaking as someone from a large working class family (father a labourer) and who earned good money for a few years, was self employed, owns his own house and has kids who went to university and are now "professionals", I do not disparage anyone's ambition to better themselves.   

But I just cannot believe that the Conservatives are serious in their strictures about "social mobility", given that, if "social mobility" is to mean anything then, when poor people go "up the ladder", someone from the middle classes has to "go down the ladder". Any policy which leads to the deliberate impoverishment of the "hard working middle class", will not be popular with that particular class. And they are, after all, the Tories natural constituency. "Vote for us and we'll make you poorer" isn't a credible election slogan.

It strikes me that many Tories are also fond of saying that too many people go to university nowadays….it’s too easy, it devalues the worth of a degree, where are all the plumbers and mechanics to come from, eh, can’t get the help nowadays…..

....You have to sympathise.

Well, I’ve got a proposal to address both problems: it goes like this....

First we reduce the number of university places, thus automatically improving the quality of university education (won’t it?).

Then the clever bit…..we make it a rule that if the parents earn in the bottom 30% in terms of wealth and/or income, their children get first dibs at the top universities (assuming they have the intelligence), and then all the other university places until the universities are all full of the children of the lower orders. In this way highly paid professions such as the law, journalism, the media, consultancy, politics, advertising, top civil service jobs and so on, would much more open to young adults from lower earning families

Conversely, if the parents earn in the top 70% or are in the top 70% of wealth holders, then the children get redirected (we can call it “advised" to soften the blow) into apprenticeships or shop-work or bus driving. Tories rejoice, the shortage of plumbers and joiners is solved in a few years.... now we can get the help!

Voila! Two birds with one stone! No more duff university degrees with too many no-hopers clogging up the system, and real social mobility in half a generation!


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