Universities Should Be About Knowledge – NOT Employment

Posted: December 9, 2010 in Politics
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Today, Thursday 9th December, the British Parliament are gathering to debate and vote on the first reading of a motion to increase university tuition fees on a stepped level, with £6000 and £9000 being the two caps. There are very violent protests concurrently taking place outside Westminster with students and riot police clashing amidst more accusations of police heavy-handedness. All of this is totally wrong, and a YES vote this evening will probably lead to massive scenes of violence and vandalism across the country.

What the parties are debating is how “fair” and “progressive” the fees increase will be, and are engaging in totally predictable back-and-forth with insults and accusations flying. These are the people we CHOSE to represent our interests. We chose them to have their say based on what WE want, not on what their party wants. I find it sickening that the people WE voted in are behaving like children. The behaviour shows just why major reform in the political system is needed. We CANNOT trust our future to a heavily divided party political system where laws and motion flip-flop between each parliamentary term.

But I digress from what I actually want to say.

What has been lost in this debate is that the exponential increase in university sizes is both unsustainable and ill-advised. University really shouldn’t be for everyone. It should be for the very best, those who wish to advance their own knowledge and engage in research positions, as well as medical candidates looking to become doctors. The idea that university should be used as a tool for people to gain employment is completely flawed. That’s what school and college is supposed to be for!

I would assert that any degree that is targeted at vocational students should be funded by employers. After all, they’re the ones who will gain from those specific degrees. Research and medical degrees should be funded by the state, in a manner that DOES NOT exclude the very best of the best because they might come from poorer backgrounds. Let’s get the universities back to the purpose of which they were intended to fulfil, which was the betterment of society through knowledge and research.

The alternatives to the pointless vocational degrees is to champion work-based learning. The young people will then learn on the job, gaining very real skills whilst also earning money, and crucially, NOT INCURRING MASSIVE DEBTS. In a society where the number of graduates flooding the market is killing the number of graduate vacancies available and effectively devaluing the degrees through mass availability. It’s simple supply-and-demand economics. More graduates, less jobs for them, and lower wages taken by those graduates.

The Government is intent on effectively privatising the university system…it’s the wrong choice given the sheer size of universities. The system proposed will have the effect of shrinking universities, but not in the way that is needed. We already suffer a shortage of medical students, do we really want to be putting more students off going for medical degrees because they will end up saddled with debts of more than £100k before they even start earning anything?

The vote will inevitably get through Commons, but still has to go to Lords. We can only hope that Lords reject it without major changes. Because if it gets through, there will be major surgery needed on the motion during the lifetime of this Parliament.

I urge every MP to vote NO to this bill.

  1. Emma says:

    Where do you draw the line? Vetinary medicine? Dentistry? Nursing? Health and Social Care? Sociology? Geography?

    University should be about learning whatever you want to learn. I agree with you on a lot of points but it certainly should be more than just research and medicine. A lot of people here may not use what they learned in their degree but it’s an incredibly good and useful experience for most people and to me, that’s worthwhile.

    Oh, and there certainly isn’t a shortage of medical students. Medical schools are oversubscribed at least 4:1 and always have been. There is a shortage of graduates because there aren’t enough places funded and there aren’t enough training places for afterwards, but there is no shortage of people wanting (and willing to pay) to do medicine at uni. Most of them won’t even blink twice at £100k debts. We’ll have jobs, we’ll pay them off. Medics are dedicated and not a little obsessive. The thing we need to worry about is the loss of people who are in education for its own sake. That would actually be a tragedy.


    • NewsDiscontent says:

      There’s certainly a shortage of places in medical schools, and this bears out in the shortage of junior doctors in the NHS.

      And you’re right, University should be about learning what you want to learn. I’m not talking about doing away with degrees entirely, I’m talking about getting employers (who are the ones who gain the most out of our universities) to pay for the people who do vocational degrees. None of the systems of repayment discussed have even mentioned employer contributions to degree costs. And that is wrong.

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