On the Browne Review Leaks

OK, so I was planning for this next blog post to be about the catalogue of errors being made in UK Museums across the board, however I am finding it really hard to write a diplomatic enough post not to destroy my hopes of a museum career, and recent trends in the UK government have given me an excuse to rant; so here goes nothing…

At the beginning of next month Lord Browne and his appointed review will report on the subject of how to finance higher education, which is good in itself because higher education is in desperate need of a better funding strategy as the current one neither pays the bills nor encourages poorer students into the system.

However I bet every student will be able to guess which method of funding the system is the one that has been leaked out as the favourite? Yep, you guessed it, according to an article in The Times newspaper, the review looks set to call on parliament to raise the Tuition Fee Cap to a whopping £7,000 per student per annum – you heard me right – £7,000.

So what exactly have they discounted to come up with a preference for this hideous, elitist option? Well there are I am sure a great many options have been tabled, including the Russell Group‘s call to completely remove the fees cap, the Graduate Tax and the option of asking Businesses to pay towards the costs.

The Russel Groups “suggestion” does not even merit discussion (from a student/equal opportunities perspective) because it would allow the universities to charge whatever they like! Between you and me I would not be surprised if that meant charging international student rates to UK Students (£10,000+). Meanwhile the Graduate Tax was the preferred option of the National Union of Students and one or two lecturers unions, and although not my personal favourite (because I am a cynic and expect the taxation would never end), is one of the better options for the task. This option however is said to have been ruled out completely by the review. The final option that I know anything about is this idea of making businesses “pay” for the luxury of the huge pool of graduates available by asking them for a tax contribution to higher education, this is a good idea, but does anyone honestly see large or small businesses willingly letting such legislation pass? of course not, lobbyists rule the day on that, and business can afford to buy the best.

Now back to this £7,000 figure, this is just the fee that is paid to the university for the privilege of being taught your subject, it doesn’t go towards living at the university of your choice (not even halls residents), or the costs of any learning materials or even the cost of field-work if you are in a subject like I am (Geology).

The BBC (1/2), Telegraph, and others have all been quoting the results of polls by various groups (notably including that “useless” left-wing organisation, the NUS) stating that most students wouldn’t go to university with higher fees, and they may be right, although I’m sure there’s an element of “if we have to, then we will” amongst students, especially all the while that Student Finance England are paying the fees for them. This isn’t quite the point though, the rich will always be able to afford it, and won’t be worried about the costs of the loans in the long-term, so why should they care?

It’s the poor and the middle classes that are going to feel the pinch, even more especially those parents with mortgages and other debts to pay off. If it wasn’t for my parents I wouldn’t have got past the second year of university, let alone be entering into my fourth or even considering a PhD, and while I know an anecdote is useless as evidence; I dread to think what the financial situation would be for students without some amount of parental help.

Another point (which I will expand upon in a different post some time soon) is that the UK looks set to be paying for and doing less science research, we are as one columnist put it, set to retreat from the knowledge empire. I would say “What the F*ck”, but the current Vice President Academic Affairs at Southampton University Student’s Union put it far more eloquently when he tweeted the following:

@robstanning: fees rumoured to be increasing & research cuts also planned: http://tiny.cc/8l11z how can the gov. justify charging students more for less?

Anyway, enough of my ranting. Sufficed to say if you are a potential student from the UK, you have three options as I see it –

  1. be rich,
  2. get screwed or
  3. go study abroad.

Thank heavens I’m going to have graduated before this disaster hits the undergraduate schools at UK universities.

Ben Brooks

Short-Link for this post: http://wp.me/pFUij-7y

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