Reflection on the Government’s Response to the Student Protests

by Beth Cherryman

Obviously it is very convenient for the government to blame the few ‘protesters’ who evidently came prepared for violence.

The top news story of the night was Prince Charles and Camilla getting paint thrown at their Rolls Royce.  No mention of the vote or protest on any of the radio 4 news bulletins on Thursday.

It is also very convenient for the Tories to let Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats take the flack.

Cameron is trying to insight a moral panic by condemning “troublesome youths” or “thugs”, but actually this approach does not seem to be proving that effective.  (It has always puzzled me that policy makers systematically ostracise an entire sector of society, namely, ‘youths’.  Inventing phenomena like ‘mugging’ or sinister cultural references like ‘hoodies’ or ‘hip-hop rap’.  It’s ridiculous.  What do they gain by doing this?)

The argument that now students have to pay so much for their education, universities will have to step up their game to meet the new standard demanded by these consumers is, I think, flawed.  Currently universities can charge what they like to international students, and they so many applicants per place without altering any standards.  This is evidence that they can carry on as they are and they will still get the required number of applicants.

If I was entering university in 2012, I’m really not sure whether I’d think it was worth it. I would have to some complicated utility calculations.  In all probability I’d decide on something like law or medicine or a science – vocational.  Certainly I’d feel restrictions.  What is the point of going to university to study something you’re not really interested in just because you think it will increase your job prospects?  (Especially if it costs over £50,000 to do so.)

I only decided on what I’d like to do for a living, journalism, after contributing to student papers extra to my philosophy course at LSE.  Would I have the luxury to leave such decisions until I found something I truly enjoyed under this new system?  I doubt it because I would always feel the pressure to justify each choice I make in terms of the end-goal: a job that pays enough to be comfortable minus tax and graduate tax (and this is probably easier if I avoid the highest tax bracket).

As for access, the proposed new scheme will put lower middle class people off going to university – and rightly so – it won’t pay them to go anymore.  Except for personal growth, oh and because education benefits everyone in a society – the more people educated the better, but evidently policy-makers don’t care about that anymore.

Saying that you won’t have to pay anything up front does not change the fact that you will have to pay it back eventually, and it might take the rest of your working life to do so!

The fundamental problem with a graduate tax, in my opinion, is that you’re essentially buying before you know what you’re buying.  Like in the vote that passed last Thursday; MPs were voting on something that had not been finalised, that was still very much subject to change.  We don’t know what the actual policy is going to be, we won’t until January.  Similarly, we don’t know when we enter university if it is the right move for us, if we’ll enjoy it, if we will earn more overall because we went, etc.  The whole principle of graduate tax rest on a set of assumptions that are, moreover, by no means universal.

Why exactly does the burden of the deficit have to be pushed onto the shoulders of teenagers and children with no money or property?  They are entirely innocent in the creation of the deficit.  How is starting out in life in debt fair?  Of course the very wealthy will not have to worry about that.  To me this system reeks of elitism.

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