Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Up the Students

I was on the train on the day of the first student protests, sitting next to two police officers discussing the embarrassment of being outclassed by a bunch of kids, and I think we all saw how they managed to get their own back over the last few weeks.

My kids are now at university studying hard sciences, having been supported through their A levels by EMA, and in earlier years by Tax Credits that meant that I, as a single mum, was able to work a bit less and be able to be there for them when they needed moral and practical support.

The appalling undercutting of all of this good work in the deficit panic is making me very angry. Not just because of the gob-smackingly large sums that students will owe, but mainly because of the attitude that it is only the individual students that benefit from further and higher education so making them pay for it all out of their own pockets. Can it be right that the state withdraws completely from supporting a whole tranche of education? It certainly seems shameful to me.

This has already happened to adult education, which has now become a mainly middle class hobby apart from in some cushioned islands (usually funded by charities or far thinking local authorities - and therefore likely to sink in the current wave of cuts). Our society is richer culturally as well as economically by having people study English literature and history and other ‘soft’ subjects and the attitude that somehow these are second class topics I think diminishes us all. I can predict the Daily Mail outrage in a few years time when history is no longer being taught in schools as there aren't any history graduates.

Yes, there is plenty of scope for restructuring higher education, especially the occupationally relevant topics, but this is just madness.

Of course, there are even worse things going on, not least the demonization of benefit claimants, but somehow this for me just highlights how nasty and narrow things are going to get.

Rant off.