Discussion Forum

A Level results

Posted by Christine Bampton-Smith
Sunday, August 20, 2006

Congratulations to all those young people in Calderdale who received their A Level results on Thursday 17th. For many the hard work will be rewarded with a place at University but also a debt of around £21,000 after three years. Current application statistics show what many of us opposed to Tuition Fees predicted, that for some the worry of such debt has stopped them going on to Higher Education.

It is the introduction by this New Labour Government of Tuition Fees, that has added up to £9000 to the debt. In my view free education should be a right, this new system will deny the achievement of their full potential to a number of intelligent young people - and their loss will also be ours - education reaps its rewards for society as well as the individual.

Posted by Joseph
Monday, August 21, 2006

I'm not sure Christine. I think that its right that people who go to University, and go on to earn significantly more than their less educated peers on average should pay for it themselves. It seems perverse for the accountant to expect his or her roadsweeper (no offence intended) neighbour to pay for his or her education.

If we are brutally honest, a few years ago lots of people were going off to further education who would have been better served by going out to work. To expect my roadsweeper (again no offence) neighbour to pay for my education in fashion photography or french filmaking (again no offence intended,) which then leads to a career in nothing particular, and adds not a lot to the fabric of the nation should be a personal choice but not a right paid for by the state.

I do agree that young people today (how old do I sound) have though been stuffed by the the older generations. House prices are now so crazy that they can't afford them. The only winners are older people with houses already who have effectively taken this money from a younger generation. Similarly by errors made with the actuarial tables, many pensioners are taking far more than they ever paid in....paid for by?..again the young bless them. So, big debts, no houses, and no hope of saving for an overpriced pension.

I think blaming New Labour for the rise in tuition fees is a bit narrow in the light of all of this. I think a wider discussion on ways to redistribute wealth, opportunity & influence back from the older generations to our youth is a more interesting discussion.

Posted by Joseph
Monday, August 21, 2006

Joseph, I've always felt that if you find yourself having to say 'sorry, no offence' frequently, you should either stand by what you're saying without apologies or don't say it at all.

As for the main sentiment of your post i.e. that people who go to university will eventually earn more so what's the problem - well, the problem is as follows. There is a fall in applicants this year and my guess would be that this fall has come from potential students who cannot afford to foot a 3 year tuition bill in the first place. This will result in university education becoming once more the right of those who can afford to go. Furthermore, those who can afford to go will then go on to earn the higher saleries. The DfES, universities and other providers have worked extremely hard over the past few years to widen participation and raise achievement amongst all of society. The introduction of fees is setting this progress back and will only serve to widen the gap.

Posted by Adam B
Monday, August 21, 2006

I take your point Joseph but (to stay with the subject of tuition fees for now rather than the wider issue you have mentioned) what if your hypothetical street sweeper neighbour wishes to go to university?

From my own experiences my guess is that he/she would do far better at university than a lot of those who currently attend because he / she would appreciate the opportunity far more. Having done a tough job for so long they may be far more likely to realise the value of the education and of the potential opportunities which having that education would offer.

Unfortunately in this particular hypothetical case they cannot attend university because they cannot realistically afford to (or they do not feel able to afford it).

Posted by Joseph
Monday, August 21, 2006

Sarah- I'm always keen not to offend anyone unecessarily which is which I used the no offence. I apologise if i've offended you by doing so. Your guess is that a fall in admissions is made up of people from poorer backgrounds. I don't know really, but my guess would be that there has been strong interest in vocational degrees that offer a proven link to well paid work, where minority degrees may have suffered. Can anyone offer any objective assessment?

Adam B- I think you are probably right on both counts. I'm not sure the solution is free education though? That seems to benefit everyone from the 200k a year stockbroker to the eponymous roadsweeper. The Winter Fuel Payments made to the over 65's seem to be a similar thing. They create good headlines, but it does not really achieve the key benefit of getting the poorest out of poverty. Surely a targetted system of benefits, is always better, suuporting the roadsweeper but not rewarding the stockbroker? Essentially the old grant system.

Posted by Rev Tony Buglass
Monday, August 21, 2006

I came from a very poor working-class home. If it hadn't been for a full grant, I wouldn't have got to university, despite the potential shown at school. My parents couldn't help me at all. In the intervening 30 years, I have seen the grant diminish, and then replaced by a loan system which means an increasing level of debt in the community.

Loans are said to be necessary, because we can't afford to give grants to everyone who wishes to study, and the aim now is to get 50% of school-leavers into university. Now, I'm all for everyone having a chance, but this is inflationary, and degrades the degree standard - unless a large proportion of those going to university either drop out or fail, which creates a different set of problems.

Life-long education should be the aim, available and affordable to all. It has to be appropriate education. Graduate and post-graduate study is not right for everyone. I would be far happier to see a good system of grants available for a smaller number of university applicants, together with proper support for other vocational courses, and much more emphasis placed on further training and adult education. The current system looks good ("everyone can go to university") but is in fact ideologically-based, short-sighted, and impractical.