I that people are now under the impression that legislation concerning top up fees has now been enacted. This is not the case; the Bill has yet to receive its second and third readings.
Consider this: the Hutton report is published this week. It is clearly evident that some MPs have been persuaded to allow the Bill through this stage in order to ease the pressure on Mr. Blair in the most testing week of his premiership. A lost vote on top-up fees and dealing with a potentially 'explosive' Hutton report would call curtains for Mr Blair and would seriously damage the credibility of the Labour Government. You must understand that Labour MPs don't want this; as a whole they peceive Blair as doing a good job but disagree with him on this issue. For the backbench MP, a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister would damage the party as a whole, and ultimimately it may lead to the loss of power in the next election.
That said, I must express my own views on the proposals for top-up fees.
The Labour government wishes to see 50% of a particular age group in higher education. It is this basic premise that is so flawed and is the source of all further problems. Lecture halls of British universities are crammed with more and more people, while the government will not allocate greater resources to them.
One must ask: do 50% of all jobs in the UK require a degree? Nothing like. The graduate job market is flooded; this is evidenced by the hundreds of bars and call centres up and down the country staffed by grads. Hence, the value of the degree is degrading. There was once a time in the sixties when one could graduate from one of Britain's 17 universities, be in demand from employers and have a relatively successful career.
Now we have the rabble of 'studies' specialists: 'meeja' studies, car park attendance studies, american studies, and so forth. And each student on these courses expect to be entitled to the same government funding as those doing decent courses at decent universities.
Until now, one would be forgiven for believing I am a firm advocate against paying for my education. I see no problem with this. To quote Chris Woodhead: "If young people are not clever enough to see higher education as a worthwhile investment, then they are not clever enough to be taking a degree."
Here are some arguments so typical of those wanting it free:
Yooni should be free because otherwise it isn't equal access for poorer people.
Even poor people can get loans.
We believe education should be freely available to those who want it.
Try arguing for your belief instead of just stating it.
Doctors and vets put something back into society. One day you'll need a doctor.
Everyone in work puts something back. Newsagents make it possible to buy your paper and milk on a Saturday morning. Swimming pool attendants make the pools safe. Hairdressers cut your hair.
Yooni graduates are already taxed at higher rates.
So are non-graduates who end up earning in the top band.
Perhaps a better solution would be this: those who want to do star trek studies at the University of Thames Valley can pay for it themselves. Thats right, the whole lot. Those who argue that such a student would be learning valuable skills in communication, logical reasoning, persuasive argument and so forth, should reconsider: this student would be far better off getting a job where he can learn skills that he will actually use; it is unlikely that he will get a job that utilises all these skills to an extent that justifies the money that society pays on his behalf. Those who argue that it would be biased against the poor should consider this: such a student does not go to uni to acquire decent skills that will make him an asset to our economy. He goes there to drunk and laid for three years. University is primarily an entertainment facility for him. Why should the British taxpayer fund this? We don't fund gap years, and neither should we. They remain the activity of those who can afford it.
Adopting this strategy would allow government funding to be injected into decent courses at decent unis where decent students can be given it for free. No discrimination based on 'class', and completely meritorious. The brighter students from poorer backgrounds will not be put off be fees their parents cannot pay. The not-so-bright: they can either get a job or fund their own mickey-mouse course entirely themselves.
This brings us full circle; the government needs to concentrate resources on the elite. This is what universities are all about. Breakthroughs in mankind are achieved by few great men. These men cannot be emulated by armies of inferior students. Unfortunately, in educating these armies the government is failing to provide a quality education for tomorrow's Einsteins who, as a result, may not realise their potential.