The Right to an Education

If you come from Scotland, or indeed anywhere in the United Kingdom, as I do, you will be aware of the on going debate surrounding University tuition fees. If you come from somewhere else or were just not aware of that fact, then, yeah… that’s what’s happening. The reason this debate is going on, and has been going on is because of the polar-opposite approaches taken on either side of the border; in Scotland university tuition is free for all Scots studying their first degree. In England and Wales – still part of the same country – this is not the case, with universities being given the ability to set their own levels of tuition fees. Currently, these fees are capped by law at £9’000 pa, however, that still leaves students with a possible debt of £27’000 as soon as they leave university, and that’s not including extra loan amounts for living expenses. The fact that our young people have such a large debt looming at the end of their degree course, in an economic climate where getting a job upon leaving university is not guaranteed, even unlikely, is simply not acceptable and is causing more and more young people to drop any hopes of going to university on financial grounds.

The fact of the matter is, that university is once again becoming a class segregated affair, and I don’t mean teaching classes, I mean that university is becoming something only the middle classes can easily aspire to. With fees at their current level, and the government looking at plans to raise or even scrap the cap, we may begin to see a situation where prices simply spiral out of control leaving the students from the poorest backgrounds unable to partake in higher education. The argument given is generally that the economy cannot cope with the cost of introducing government funded tuition fees, however it still manages to support things such as MPs’ pay and expenses, the royal family and trident? It is simply not a valid argument. It has been estimated that scrapping tuition fees would cost the taxpayer around £4 billion, in comparison the cost of the U.K.’s ‘Trident’ nuclear deterrent is closer to £15 billion of taxpayers’ money, now I’m only a physicist, but I’m sure 15 is a lot bigger than 4.

The idea that young people should be priced out of education due to the economic climate is not a god enough answer; the NHS complains about a lack of doctors and nurses, school class sizes grow due to a lack of teachers, businesses collapse because of poor financial advice, British manufacturing and technology production slump due to a shortage in qualified persons. It’s almost as if there is a link between these cases and the rise in the number of young people not attending university. With fewer people holding degrees and advanced qualifications, of course our economy is going to suffer.

There is also the argument that young people need to know how to manage money, how to pay off debt and that if they start of with debt they will feel like they have to work harder to pay it off. Nonsense, in a country where even people with years of experience and multiple qualifications are struggling to get a job, what chance does the young graduate with little work experience have? And to start that with 27k and upwards already needing to pay off? It is simply not fair, nor is it feasible, to expect young people to cope with such a situation.

And what about the class situation? Why should that be fair? That only those who have come from a wealthy family should have the chance at an education? Again, unfair and completely unacceptable in modern society. Why is it then such an issue? People claim that it will demean degrees, or that people will go to university not wanting to go or simply doing a ‘Mickey-mouse’  degree. There seem to be so many reasons that people seem set against it, that it will somehow undermine everything British and that the economy will collapse and all of England will be sucking into a gaping hole in the Earth’s crust. But it is nonsense; we need only look at the situation in Scotland.

In Scotland, all Scottish young people who wish to go to university to study can do so, with their fees paid for by the Scottish government. What’s more is that it is sustainable, it works. Young Scots have the ability to study in higher education regardless of financial background, with the knowledge that when they come out the other side, the only debts they will have are those for living expenses. The degrees are not diminished either, there are not a flood of people with pretend degrees walking around. Why? Because the universities don’t offer silly degree titles and people tend to study at university because they want to do so; many people choose not to and just go into employment from school or go to colleges. But the simple truth is that it works.

The other truth is this; it is their right to receive an education, based on their ability, not on the size of daddy’s wallet. As much as the Tory led government would have us believe, not all poor people are idiots, and not all rich people are clever. I know plenty of people from less well of backgrounds who simply couldn’t have dreamed about going to university had tuition fees been in place, yet are excelling in their fields at university level. If people want to be educated, and have the ability to do well in their field, then they have every right to be educated.

I cannot abide by this idea that one should be excluded from such a basic right as education simply due to financial background. If we continue to impose tuition fees on our young people, we will suffer in the long run; with fewer doctors, teachers, politicians (not necessarily a bad thing), scientists, architects, etc. Tuition fees are not good for the economy, in fact they may well prove to be quite detrimental to our economy and to the country as a whole. Britain has had a fantastic record of world leading education, world renowned scholars, philosophers and scientists. Let’s keep that record up and scrap tuition fees.

 

I apologise for the rather rushed nature of this post and the absence of posts for a while, but I have been engaged in the nitty-gritty world of politics, I will explain in my next post. For now, however, thanks for reading and, as usual, feel free to leave comments and continue the debate in the comments section.

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