The Gorse Fox has avoided comment on the row over tuition fees. This is not because he is apathetic, but more a victim of time pressure. So what is to be done?
The problem sits at the nexus of several malignant factors: 1) the last Government left us with debts of 1Trillion; 2) the ridiculous assumption that tertiary education is a right for everyone; 3) the devaluing of tertiary education with the introduction of meaningless and valueless degrees; and 4) the idea that University education should be paid for by everyone else – not the recipient.
Let us examine these one by one.
Firstly the profligate Labour Government spent thirteen years or so breaking its own rules of prudence, lecturing us on the economy and reacting to the world wide financial crisis by incurring further debt. Just as a reminder, they had sold off the UK gold reserves at the bottom of the market, they had raided pension funds, and were still 650 Billion in debt before the financial crisis. According the Office of National Statistics, the Banking crisis cost the Exchequer 50 Billion, but the Government continued to spend like there was no tomorrow – and for them, there was. The Gorse Fox would also point out that they have admitted that if they had won the election, they too would have cut spending – but only by three-quarters what the current Government have decided upon.
Secondly, there is the ridiculous assumption that tertiary education is a right for everyone. The average IQ in the UK is probably about 110, and this means that whilst there may be many people with high IQs, there are similarly many who are not so blessed. It is neither sensible nor reasonable to assume that it is the right of all people, whatever their ability, to have a University education. The Gorse Fox does believe there is a universal human right to education, but this is provide people with the tools for living – reading, writing, basic mathematics, social awareness, some history, and some geography – maybe even a foreign language. This should all be provided in primary and secondary education.
There is a great value in University education, where it provides relevance and value to the community. Sciences secure our continued progress as a race, history understands how we have come to be who we are, geography (a degree in colouring in maps) helps understand the nature of our planet, its riches, and its peoples. These all contribute to the wealth of human knowledge – even Political Science (a degree in arguing, some would say) has some value. There are, however, many many degrees that have no value to society and have been developed purely to provide simple subjects for the intellectually challenged to pass a couple of years and to gain funds for the University.
Finally, there is the idea that we, the tax payer, should fund University education for everyone that wants it – and that they can pay it back (eventually). Again, there are several converging problems here. Firstly, value for money. If the Gorse Fox is going to invest in something he wishes to know that it is value for money. By this, he means that a) it has value to society – like the sciences, medicine, law etc. and b) it is delivered in a valuable way. Recent discussions with University student have made it clear that their 3-year courses are so spread out, and punctuated with so much holiday that they could very easily be reduced to two years, if not one. A by-product of this would be a saving in the overall cost of the University education.
In the USA and Canada, University is far more expensive – typically 50-100 thousand dollars. This is paid for by the student, the family, a philanthropic grant, the military, or some enlightened employer. This has a number of positive outcomes. The student needs to work to pay for the tuition, and this provides a steady stream of staff to allow Malls to remain open late into the evening, which in turn increases the circulation of money from people shopping after work, and the students themselves. They requirement to earn the money to pay for the education give the student a stake in their own success.
We have lived too long in a society that thinks everything should be theirs by right. Success should be an aspiration that is fulfilled by hard work, not by hand outs from those that do work hard.
As for the student protests of the past few week. The Gorse Fox supports the students who marched peacefully to make a democratic point – even though he disagrees with that point. He utterly denounce all who resorted to violence and intimidation. He hopes they are found, prosecuted and imprisoned for a long time.
In case anyone looks on this stance as hypocritical – the Gorse Fox is fortunate enough to have an exceptionally high IQ, he did NOT go to University, and he is fortunate enough to be paid very well for the hard work he has done for the last 38 years and will continue to do for the next 947 working days!