The University of St Andrews last week joined the ever-growing list of universities who have decided to charge the maximum amount of fees to students as allowed by law. The backlash has been both vocal and predictable. The headlines are awash with tales of indignation from various sectors in society that are opposing the rise in tuition fees to U.K. students.
Students themselves, always eager to get their clean hands dirty in messy political disputes, have been on the front lines of protest in an attempt to reverse the cuts, citing politicians as demonic fascists, conspiring to destroy the poor. It is time all groups got together and began to discuss the issue with more pragmatism.
Why should a university with an outrageously high drop-out rate and poor employment prospects get the same level of funding as one that produces some of the finest minds in the country? The answer is that it shouldn’t.
Although controversial, the truth probably lies in finding the line between which universities deserve funding and which don’t.
Traditionally, a university is a place of academia, where one can gain such an education in the sciences or arts that allows them to become experts in the field. These minds should push the boundaries of mankind, advancing society for the greater good. As such, universities in their purest sense are something for the government to fully support and fund.
However, in recent years, we have seen a change in the purpose and standard of the common undergraduate degree. Several years ago, Tony Blair campaigned on a promise of getting 50% of school leavers to university. It is no understatement to suggest that this was one of the most ridiculous ideas in the history of education policy.
It is clear to see where Tony was coming from; it sounds good to the public. If he could convince voters he wanted their children to have a better chance of going to university and walking through the open gates to unending riches and power, then they would surely be more likely to vote for him.
And rest assured they ate up his words like a fat child would eat a cake, without hesitation or consideration for the consequences. In lieu of this, let us now consider such consequences. The sad reality is that 50% of school leavers do not have the intelligence or academic skills needed to become a successful graduate. Some people are better suited to be electricians, carpenters, or plumbers, because they are better at working with their hands than with their minds.
That is not to say that those who do work with their hands are of any less use to society, quite the contrary. In generations past, it was this working class who would oil the wheels and cogs of our economy, allowing us to put the intelligentsia’s ideas into practice. Only the arrogant and ignorant would look down upon them.
Unfortunately, our greed driven society has been convinced that a university degree is the most certain route to success and wealth.
This increase in demand for degrees now far exceeds the government’s ability to fund them, and as such, fees have been raised time and time again until they have reached a figure that puts the vast majority of funding on the head of the student.
Instead of enlightened graduates forging new ideas and innovations, we have a wave of debt-ridden paupers, flooding the job market with mediocrity.
Surely there is a more pragmatic solution to this crisis? I refuse to believe the situation is irreversible. Those who have the brains to attend Christchurch College or U.C.L. should not be prevented from doing so purely from lack of income. It is these people who should be helped the most.
Unfortunately, the time has come to bring an end to the graduate with a 2:2 from Bournemouth in Media Studies and concentrate on what universities are actually good at: producing the very best.