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Tuition fees

Watching the news about the reaction to the changes to tuition fees, I had to go back and check my own recollection of events.

I can remember student loans coming in while I was at university, and feeling deeply uneasy about them.  There were protests, but oddly, to my mind, there seemed to be little effect on the number of people starting university.

In 2003 topup fees came in despite the promise of Labour at the election, that they would not.    Again, this seemed pretty shocking to me, but the claim was that it would allow more people access to a degree, and there seemed to be a fairly widespread feeling that this was worth the candle, despite the costs. 

I was very surprised.  I looked at the costs and thought 'no way would I have gone to university to come out with that millstone round my neck!' . Repayment rates seemed alarmingly high and the prospect of lifelong debt on a fairly modest wage very likely. The whole system seemed structured to penalise university education severely. 

Now the new Government have done this new thing, and suddenly there is OUTRAGE! everywhere and the whole thing is a hot potato.  What I can't quite figure out is why the potato is suddenly SO hot.   So far as I can see, the financial situation of the more modest earners will be considerably improved, even though the total debt is greater, the weighting is much more towards the richer end of the spectrum, so that modest earners will be considerably better off.  In fact, the new package looks more liveable with than the old one. 

Is it just because the Lib Dems said they wouldnt' do this?   It feels rather as though the students are channeling a wider anger that is really aimed at cuts elsewhere in the system, but they are pushed to the front, because they are young, and gullible, and they don't know yet that politicians never do what they say they will...   Poor old students.  



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
9th Dec, 2010 20:23 (UTC)
To be honest, I think it's more to do with it being a Tory government. There always seems to be an over the top reaction to absolutely everything the Tories do, and yet when Labour do much the same things, no one seems to notice!
9th Dec, 2010 20:45 (UTC)
The 'Thatcher's children' accusation struck me as particularly odd. I was at university when Mrs Thatcher resigned, and my tuition was fully state-funded! I have very mixed opinions of the woman, but I don't remember her being notable for reducing the ability of poor kids to go to university.
9th Dec, 2010 21:06 (UTC)
OTOH, she did her level best to abolish grammer schools, because they gave poor children the chance of a leg-up.
9th Dec, 2010 21:32 (UTC)
You're confused - it's the other way around. It was the Labour government of 1965 that moved away from grammer (sic) schools with Circular 10/65. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circular_10/65

"Within days of the election of a Conservative government in June 1970, the new education minister Margaret Thatcher withdrew the Circular. The replacement, Circular 10/70, allowed each authority to decide its own policy."

The 1976 Education Act (Labour again) compelled local education authorities to introduce comprehensive education. This was repealed by the 1979 Act (one of the Thatcher government's first pieces of legislation). This latter Act also introduced the Assisted Places Scheme whereby clever but poor children were given financial assistance of up to 100% to attend private schools. This was abolished (by Labour) in 1997.

Given that poor people are more likely to vote Labour and rich people are more likely to vote Conservative, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense that the Conservatives would want to give children a leg-up while Labour wouldn't.
9th Dec, 2010 21:47 (UTC)
That's not my memory : during most of the Thatcher years I was at a (rather crap) private school that benefited from the grants provided to allow poor clever children to attend such schools.

Revolutionary-minded Small Bunn felt strongly at the time that this was using public funding to prop up a corrupt system, but those that benefited from them seemed to become devout Thatcherites as a result.
9th Dec, 2010 20:50 (UTC)
I think you've hit it on the head here. A lot of these protesters can't remember a Tory government...
9th Dec, 2010 20:39 (UTC)
There was the original introduction of fees in the late 1990s too, capped at around £1000 plus inflation. Wikipedia reckons from September 1998. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuition_fees. Doesn't seem to get much of a mention in the media when they are recounting the history.
9th Dec, 2010 20:47 (UTC)
Oh yes, should have mentioned that.

(on another note, isn't it scary how much of our collective memory is now Wikipedia!)
9th Dec, 2010 21:49 (UTC)
A lot of the outrage is probably to do with the cuts (100%?) to arts/humanities subject funding as well as the cuts to the STEM subject areas. What I find wierd is that a lot of journalists will surely have gone to uni to study art/humanities degree and yet they've nearly all been rather quiet about that question.

A science journalist I know circulated a joke he'd heard

LibDem HQ: 'Hello caller'
Caller: 'Hi I want to buy a copy of your last manifesto'
LibDem HQ: 'I'm sorry but we've sold out'
Caller: 'Yes I know that but I want to buy a copy of your manifesto'

It is true that Labour do seem to get away with nasty policies better than Tory governments, though I don't see why any government should be able to do that.
10th Dec, 2010 09:39 (UTC)
The press coverage is entirely about fees though, not funding, this is what boggles me a bit..

I bet Lib Dem HQ is very tired of that joke by now...

I'm actually sort of reassured that 27 Lib Dems voted for and 8 abstained. This is something they really didn't want to do, and has got them into a lot of poo (literally in Clegg's case!), so it seems pretty likely they would not have done it if there was a good feasible and fundable alternative.

I generally quite like it when politicians end up doing things that don't please the public, it seems to me that means they are going against their worst instincts to please the crowd.

If they wanted to be popular-but-irresponsible, they could have resigned en masse and brought the coalition down: that they didn't, suggests to me that the argument for these changes is a decent one.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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