Somewhere, there was a cheer last week. Quieter than the Government was expecting. Bringing noises that didn’t sound quite as expected.
Yes, the dropping of Tuition Fees does sound good. But the question we should all be asking – just as we should have when they were first brought into being is ‘at what cost?’.
Living in the age of political idealism made manifest as we currently do, it is all too easy to get distracted by the noise from the media as new public policies are launched.
We fail to look beyond and see the true consequences of what the Government of the day is doing with our money, and what the legacy – and yes, what the fallout will actually be from everything they do.
The creation of Tuition Fees was one of the biggest travesties of them all, simply because it all sounded so good, whilst the negative impact and knock on effects across so many different areas of policy were simply too-far reaching to justify anything about it which was tangibly good.
The UK’s Education System has been failing us all for a long while anyway. But the impact from Tuition Fees was never going to deliver much that really helped anyone in the way that the genuine concept of equality in education for all really should.
That so many former, existing and future students are now destined to have a lifetime of debt must surely now be a given.
Yet it is through the accompanying shift of emphasis from quality of teaching to fee-generation and profit alone within the Further and Higher Education Sectors which has secured the Blair era one of its darkest, yet most unrecognisable legacies as the true cost of ‘degrees for everyone’ becomes manifest and begins to become widely known.
It should come as little surprise that the leaders of the Institutions in these Sectors are now worried that a restriction on Fees may begin a process where ‘struggling’ universities are set to close.
That is the true price of making education a business, where money should never have been the target of a reprioritisation of direction. And certainly not in a place where the benefit to the student, our industries and the National interest itself are so very closely entwined.
Beware the siren calls and suggestion of this being an attack on Social Mobilty too. Academic qualifications have only ever been a very small part of what it takes to get any one person through the perceptual barriers which hold so many people back. Whether they be school-age students, young people, graduates, career changers, returners or retirees, we all have a part to play in everyone else’s future too.
The reality is that the State should pay for everyone’s education. But in doing so, we must be practical and realistic about how access to education is applied and how much benefit is derived to us all from the provision of each and every course.
We must recognise that there is just as much value to be gained by opening up truly vocational opportunities for the less-academically-inclined at the age of 14.
And that as a result of doing so, not only would we release many young people from the painful and unnecessary realities of being in debt, we can also exploit the opportunity to create a parallel track of time-served and experienced trainees to support all of our businesses in a way that the obsession with degree level education has all but denied.
It would be far more sensible to begin this process of change now, accepting that neither the student nor the Nation itself can afford the process of awarding superfluous and non-beneficial degrees. And help the Sector to change through reform, rather than through a process brought on by necessity, which is what is currently sure to happen, if Politicians continue to think that money is the only benchmark by which the future of education can and should be defined.