New research from the Institute of Stating the Bloody Obvious has found that teenagers from poorer families aren’t going to university as much, what with tuition and top-up fees. Apparently they’re worried about being saddled with debt so they’re not going at all, or going to local universities and colleges so they can live at home.
"Its findings set the government’s fee-charging regime at odds with ministers’ ambitions to "unlock the potential" of children in the poorest areas of the country and boost the number of them attending top universities, student leaders claim."
Well, stone me. You mean to say charging people an extra three grand per year to go to university puts off people who might not have that kind of cash? Why did nobody say this when the fees were introduced? Oh, wait, they did… (and now it’s on the cards for the OU as well).
Higher education minister Bill Rammell says: "We want to ensure that money is not a barrier to higher education… Nobody should be put off considering higher education for financial reasons." Um – has anyone ever explained to Mr. Rammell how ‘words’ can appear piss-poor when juxtaposed with ‘actions’?
If I were going to university now I’d go to Leeds and live at home, no questions asked. Never mind that it would take over an hour to get to the campus, that the course wasn’t ideal, that my social life would be severely hampered by the buses that stop running at 11pm, or that their student radio station isn’t a patch on Nottingham’s (it seemed to be mainly staffed by media students, who are all well and good for a marketing campaign but what do you do when the desk falls apart live on air, eh?).
I grew up with a horror of debt inherited from my parents who, as children growing up on the Leeds council estates, were experts at "shintin" – that moment when the rent man calls and the parents hide behind the sofa, sending the kids to answer the door. The rent man asks "can I talk to your mum?" and the child replies "she i’nt in". Nothing unusual in that for their background. And when you grow up watching people struggling with money you don’t want to voluntarily do that to yourself at 18 years old… you haven’t had the experience of seeing people earning a decent wage and living free of money worries. If you’re a child coming from money, money isn’t an issue – you grow up assuming it’s there, you’ve seen people aquiring it, you know how it’s done. No wonder the middle and upper classes self-perpetuate.
Apparently this is a concept too far for our politicians. I wouldn’t mind if they just said "look, sorry, but we can’t be bothered to fund the universities properly any more. We’re much more interested in maintaining the Saudi slush fund. Some of you are going to get screwed" instead of desperately trying to sustain the lie of 50% in higher education and access for all.
[By the way – anyone paying back their student loans through their wages? Check your SLC statements if you think you’re due to pay it off. The money doesn’t go direct to the SLC, it goes to HMRC – and they’re not very good at talking to each other to work out when you should stop paying.]